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What does it take to be a good SharePoint developer? A lot of people might answer this question with reference to technical ability – proficiency in ASP.net and XML, knowledge of jQuery and other web development techniques, and so on. When it comes to the crunch, though, it's often softer skills that set a candidate apart from the pack.

This is because SharePoint, at its core, is a tool for business. A budding developer might be the world's strongest coder, but that counts for nothing without an equal understanding of people, processes and governance. A good SharePoint implementation isn't about technical wizardry, but about delivering on business strategy with user-friendly technology.

Here are five of the qualities that separate merely good SharePoint developers from truly great ones. Would you find them in the members of your in-house team?

1. Understanding of business goals

A best-of-breed SharePoint developer doesn't set out to deliver discrete features, but to achieve business goals. This means learning business processes inside and out, mapping these to SharePoint's abilities, and measuring the impact of the platform on the bottom line.

2. Knowledge of out-of-the-box features and when to use them

Much as it's handy to have a crack team of coders at your disposal, custom SharePoint development should ideally only be a last resort – you run the risk of bugs, as well as creating difficulties for yourself when the time comes to upgrade or migrate. It's the sign of an inexperienced SharePoint developer to jump straight into Visual Studio at the start of a project – a genuine guru looks into solving business problems with out-of-the-box features first.

3. User experience skills

A great SharePoint developer puts themselves in their users' shoes every step of the way. It's a classic hallmark of a failed SharePoint implementation for the development work to take place in a silo or behind closed doors, with little thought given to what people actually want or how they're likely to interact with the finished product.

4. Awareness that launching isn't the end of the project

It might sound obvious, but launching SharePoint shouldn't be seen as licence for the development team to wash their hands of it. It's critical to train people to use the platform, maintain up-to-date documentation, and listen and respond to user feedback.

5. Constant communication with users

Finally, and along the same lines, a good SharePoint developer understands the importance of constant communication with users from the beginning of the project through to its conclusion. If they don't capture employees' needs at the outset, they won't deliver the right functionality. If they don't provide training and documentation, employees won't use the functionality they deliver. And if they don't respond to feedback, SharePoint won't stay up to date with the needs of the business.

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