You could make a case for a number of resources being the most important to a project. Off hand I could name five valid reasons why both project managers and portal architects are the most important. Frankly, you can’t deliver a complex project without a team of people committed to the same goal. That said, here are my reasons why a Portal Administrator is the most important person on the project:
A portal won’t launch without him or her
First off, let me state one key assumption: we are talking about a competent portal admin here. We are not talking about a smart person who has never had training and is still learning the tooling for the portal, the underlying application server (Java, Windows, etc.) The portal admin will be the one who configured the portal correctly. The portal admin moves code and configuration parameters from environment to environment. He or she will tune it so it performs well and you are confident in launching. So in many ways, you can’t launch without the portal admin doing this right.
They solve thorny and complicated problems
Many of you have been there before. You develop something that works just fine on your workstation but fails miserably in Dev. At that point you can waste time getting the log files and trudging through it or you can talk to the sys admin who will get you access to the log files and work through where the issue occured. If the issue is related to an environment variable or setting then he can work with you on that without a log of finger pointing and without a lot of wasted time.
I was on a project once where the Enterprise Architect stood outside the Portal Admin’s cubicle and regulated traffic. That’s how popular he was because he saved so much time and knew so much about some of the underlying systems. I wish every project had someone like him.
They can save a ton of time
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OK, This is related to the one above but the time savings extends to more than just helping a developer out. Here’s a couple of points:
- By automating builds and automating portal exports to other environments, you can get a new set of code or portal configuration to your Test or Prod environment quickly. Those who don’t know what they are doing will do it all manually and get back to you after at least 4 hours of delay
- They setup a standard policy on server reboot, code upload, and other things. Developers know what world they live in.
- They work with the development to solve issues.
- They work with the development team to proactively address potential issues
If they do installation, it was probably done right
I have seen bad portal installations with many vendors. A bad portal installation and configuration invites comments like, “SharePoint can’t scale” or “WebSphere Portal is flaky”. Typically, that has nothing to do with the product but a lot to do with how it was installed and configured. I saw a DBA on one project who was handed the install files and told to get the portal up and running…………………….six months later the portal was running but it was sure painful.
So yes, everyone should consider what they can do to either get a great portal admin or to train a great portal admin.