There are a good amount of SharePoint consulting companies as well as SharePoint consultants in the world. What makes one company better than another can be hard to differentiate. eSoftware Associates is unique in that we also specialize in building custom Microsoft Office apps which gives us a whole different perspective on how technologies can best be used for your company. We interviewed our top SharePoint consultants in our company. Below is what they collectively decided are the top 10 attributes of the best SharePoint consulting company.
1. Use of Agile/Quick Approach to Development
Among development approaches, the most popular ones are the Waterfall and Agile. While Waterfall worked pretty well when computers were a new technology, it’s still a very rigid process that follows sequential phases and needs tight management from start to finish. Waterfall is divided in Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification, and Maintenance, and you only move to one phase after you’ve finished the previous one. As such, when need to change something after the phase has been concluded (for instance, change the Design after you’ve moved on to Implementation,) there are heavy consequences to cost, scope, and schedule.
Enter the Agile methodology. Not only is it more efficient than the Waterfall method, it’s also more transparent and easier to navigate. It also goes hand-in-hand with the concept behind SharePoint and Office 365. There are no big upgrades—instead, you build a prototype, get feedback from the client, and act accordingly. Small changes happen all the time while being transparent to the users.
For instance, if your consultant is using Agile, you’ll give them a list of requirements, and they will work to give you what you need. They’ll give you a protype in live production environment, letting you test out the features and pinpoint what’s working and what’s not.
A good consulting company will be using Agile to ensure a quick time-to-market while allowing for refinements to be added later.
2. Asking a lot of questions
Your consultant is bound to know next to nothing about your company or its situation. As such, it’s not only normal to ask questions—it’s highly encouraged. A good SharePoint consultant needs to know the exact point of the situation and what you, the client, wants.
So don’t be deterred if your consultant asks a lot of questions that seem obvious. It’s a good thing that they do, because it’s the only way to ensure you’ll be satisfied with the solution they develop.
3. They don’t confuse you with terms and are good communicators
Another way to know you’re working with a good SharePoint consultant is to look to their language. SharePoint is tricky to get right, and if your consultant doesn’t understand it enough to stick to basic terms, then chances are they’re not a good consultant. It’s also important to note a great deal of a consultant’s time is devoted to presenting business blueprints, training others, and talking to clients—so how they communicate is extremely important.
A good SharePoint company will provide you with a consultant who’s trained to present in front of others, and they will know to stick to the three simple terms that make any SharePoint website: Sites, Lists, and Webparts. Using such terms broadly lets the consultant explain SharePoint to the client without losing them in the details.
4. High Knowledge of 3rd Party Tools
A consulting company is, first and foremost, trying to solve your problems with a SharePoint Solution. And often, to achieve the desired result in a timely and efficient manner, they need to look at third-party tools and web parts. If a tool you need has already been developed by someone else, there is little to no point in doing it again—unless, of course, you’re required to do so.
However, in cases where you aren’t required to develop everything from scratch, knowledge of these external tools is highly valuable, as it can help a consultant achieve what you need faster and at a lesser cost.
5. They can develop custom solutions
Sometimes, a customer’s needs can’t be met using existing SharePoint features or Third-Party applications. To assure they can meet your every expectation, a good consulting company will provide you with experts who are experienced in several sets of APIs, programming languages, Server and Client-Side Object Models, and so on, so as to create those custom solutions for the SharePoint framework that you might need to complete that project.
6. They ask about “Going Live”
Projects don’t truly end after the system has launched, and a good consulting company knows as much. So, they’ll ask you about a number of things—such as what plans you have to keep you have to keep the system engaging, how such engagement is to be measured, and how future users are to be trained to use the system—and prepare for them.
7. They do live SharePoint demos
During either workshop or requirements section, a consulting company will talk about specific SharePoint features. A good consulting company will also live demo it for you as they speak. Not only does this show you SharePoint, but it also sets your expectations right at the beginning and leaves little room for doubt.
8. They provide good documentation
Once again, projects don’t really end after they’re delivered. New users will need to be trained in the developed system, and good documentation is essential for that. Not just that, but it helps clear up any potential confusion in early decisions, as well as avoiding scope creep—changes in a project’s scope that get out of hand, and what tends to happen when a project’s scope isn’t properly defined, documented, or controlled.
9. Knowledge of latest SharePoint trends
This should be a no-brainer. SharePoint is constantly evolving, and a good consulting company will keep up to date with the latest trends.
10. They will have different experts
SharePoint is complex, and one consultant can’t possibly excel in every area. Someone might be great at the small details, but fail at communication, or be great at communication but not have the vision to execute a high-level idea. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a company provides you with different experts for one project. Sometimes it’s what it takes to get the job done right.
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