In-Depth

SharePoint Professionals Must Embrace Modern APIs

As organizations shift from SharePoint on-premises to SaaS applications such as Office 365 SharePoint Online, it's important to embrace the rapidly changing APIs and the shift to DevOps.

For the straight hardcore SharePoint developer who only knows SQL, ASP.NET and MVC, the rapid shift by enterprises to SaaS-based Office 365 SharePoint Online is sure to reduce your work hours at the very least and quite possibly eliminate the need for your job at some point. This transition has been going on for some time as GitHub libraries for JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS are now in the mix when it comes to building SharePoint apps.  Now it's not just about knowing what other technologies are available that's critical but also what SaaS APIs are out there and specifically for Office 365 SharePoint Online. 

Do you want to spend 10 days writing a timesheet system or would you rather connect to a hosted timesheet system in a few hours and pass the project across in the API?
The move to SaaS clearly has huge ramifications for developers and IT pros alike. The nature of a developer is to develop, rather than to find simple and easy routes for the end users. A front-end developer can leverage jQuery libraries and piece together codes that would have taken weeks to build out.

There's still be a need for the SharePoint architect to spec out the memory and process power of the servers but the heavy lifting that takes time will be dramatically reduced and this is good thing.  Why?  Because often IT can't keep up with the business requests and the six-month implementation phase just isn't acceptable any more.

With the SaaS applications API model, it has the consumers' experience in mind.  When a credit card is swiped, no lines of code are written and within two hours you have a public-facing Web site which also has fully functional content management capabilities. This would have been a major project a few years ago in the SharePoint would. Therefore, the SharePoint brander needs additional skill sets of being a UX person along with communication skills. This can be a challenge for some developers and IT pros.

So where does this leave a SharePoint Team?
SharePoint experts will exist and they are still very much needed. But SharePoint developers must broaden their technical skillsets and knowhow and understand which SharePoint blades are sharp enough for the specific job or task at hand. The team must transition to a DevOps model, a shift many organizations are taking to align the tasks of IT pros and developers.

This API genie is out of the bottle and developers are only going to build more APIs to do the work of other software developers and the API developer will be a lucrative career, for the following reasons:

  • This skill isn't being taught in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) schools.
  • The new API integration/SaaS methodology is currently difficult to teach in a classroom partly because things are changing so rapidly.
  • IT management is waking up fast to the API model.

So while SharePoint skills shortage will ease, those who embrace API development skills should have lucrative careers. Enterprise technology delivery will always be costly and will require a good talent pool to deliver it successfully. Hence, SharePoint professionals will still have jobs in the near future.

About the Author

Peter Ward is the co-owner of Soho Dragon, a New York-based Microsoft partner focused on SharePoint, Azure and mobile development and is the organizer-founder of the New York City Enterprise Collaboration Meetup group.

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