You must have noticed that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) is dominating the enterprise SaaS market, which makes you wonder if Microsoft 365 skills would be good for your career or not.
So, are Microsoft 365 professionals ( architects / consultants / administrators / developers / support agents) increasingly in high demand or not? in other words: are Microsoft 365 skills in demand? if yes, which ones exactly? and why? and is Microsoft 365 a viable / good career option in the long run?
The demand for Microsoft 365 skills has been increasing now for 5 years straight, following the incredible growth trajectory in sales and adoption rates that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) has known since its launch. The main job openings are for M365 architects / consultants, M365 administrators and M365 developers, as well as Unified Communications (UC) Engineers. And ever since the lock-down, the demand on these skills has shot up to new heights since more companies are seriously considering permanently shifting towards remote work, so rest assured that the demand on these skills will be here for a while.
To explain this in detail, we need to first look at Microsoft 365 growth numbers, what parts of the suite are the main drivers behind that growth, the impact that has on the jobs market’s trends, then we will analyze and compare the M365 skills that are in demand the most, and identify the ones that would be the most resilient for a good career option in the long run.
The Demand For Microsoft 365 Skills
Track Record of Microsoft 365’s Growth
The number of monthly active users on Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) has known a spectacular growth rate, with 3 to 4 million additional active users to the suite each month since its launch back in 2015.
However, the first quarter of 2020 has seen a spike in user growth, due to companies suddenly having to work remotely following the global lock-down, where the total of “paid seats” jumped to 258 million as Satya Nadella announced in the April 29, 2020 earnings call.
Here’s a figure that shows you the exact numbers of active users each 6 months since November 2015 (since Microsoft reports them twice a year):
Growing at nearly three times the usual rate has resulted in some service outages though, so Microsoft has added cloud capacity to deal with the increasing demand across all workloads, and a new data center region (Norway) recently began offering Microsoft 365 services.
And it seems that this spike is driven by a wild increase in Microsoft Teams’ adoption. Teams was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to slack, but has since outgrown any other competitor in the team communication & collaboration space, with a larger feature set and a whopping 75+ million daily active users (up from just around 15 million a year earlier).
Impact on the job market
The demand for Microsoft 365’s professionals has been consistently up for several years now, with a relative void in the market, due to a lack of actual experts with relevant experiences in the solution’s architecture, implementation & configuration, administration, maintenance & support, and development / customization.
So even before the lock-down M365 skills were on high demand, but now with more companies adopting remote work, with some envisioning it as a permanent solution for their workforce, the demand has shot up through the roof.
According to an analysis of ITJobsWatch data conducted by the TeleWare Group (via The HR Director), professionals with Microsoft 365 skills have jumped six positions in a list of the most in-demand IT jobs skills / job titles, and this during just the first six months of 2020, this trend is continuing into 2021.
In addition to that, it seems that the median salary of IT professionals with Microsoft 365 skills has increased by 11% in less than 2 years.
All this is nice and dandy, but which Microsoft 365 skills / jobs are actually the most in demand? and which ones are resilient enough to be a good career option?
Top Microsoft 365 Skills & Jobs
Implementation & Initial Configuration
Microsoft 365 Consultant: Must plan and implement Microsoft 365 solutions, and analyze current on-premise solutions for cloud migration. An understanding of M365 hybrid setup with AD Connect and ADFS for integration and Identity Management is required, as well as of basic M365 services.
In short, a Microsoft 365 consultant acts as a pre-sales and post-sales advisor to his / her clients to support the planning and implementation of their journey to cloud productivity and collaboration, while providing any assessment or training that may be needed.
Microsoft 365 Architect: This is a much more experienced person, and has extensive expertise in translating requirements into an architectural design.
A M365 Architect’s job is centered on driving outcomes with customers through targeted discussions with C-level decision makers, it is NOT a hands-on technical role (unlike a M365 Consultant).
A M365 Architect is responsible for executing the end user’s vision through assessment, planning, and design of technical solutions, by directing M365 Consultants so they can implement those solutions.
Administration, Maintenance & Support
Microsoft 365 Administrator: has top admin rights in Microsoft 365, and takes on any project-based work, and deals with escalations from support teams. The admin will ensure that your Microsoft 365 solution is always up and running efficiently, by installing updates and re-configuring settings to ensure an optimal performance.
Different names may be used to describe this position, depending on the emphasized area of expertise: M365 TeamWork Admin, M365 Security Admin, M365 Messaging Admin… etc, they all have the same core responsibilities, but they specialize in one area or another.
Microsoft 365 Support Agent: a power user who handles the resolution of support tickets from usually non-techie end-users.
Unified Communications Engineer: a UC engineer is in charge of digital workplaces’ communications’ infrastructure, a M365 UC Engineer must have an expertise in Microsoft Exchange, Security (Data Classification, AIP, WIP, ATP … etc.), Hybrid AD and Azure AD environment management, Windows 10 device build (Autopilot / Whiteglove), Intune (MDM / MAM design and deploy), and an expert power-user level of Microsoft 365 productivity skills.
Development & Customization
Microsoft 365 Developer: Works with customers to design and implement custom business solutions that leverage the wide variety of features and functions found in Microsoft 365. This primarily includes, but isn’t limited to: SharePoint Online, Teams, OneDrive for Business (OD4B), Yammer, MS Graph… etc.
Here’s a list of the skills required in a Microsoft 365 developer:
- SPFx: the SharePoint Framework, which allows you to build client-side web parts and SharePoint Framework Extensions using your favorite open-source tooling, for SharePoint and MS Teams.
- PowerShell: a Microsoft 365 developer may have to build some PowerShell scripts to achieve some tasks.
- Microsoft 365 Patterns & Practices (PnP): this is a collection of tools and practices that cover the most common use cases, built by the community to help you achieve your customization / extension of M365 without reinventing the wheel every time you want to do it.
- MS Graph: Microsoft Graph is a unified model that gives you access to the tremendous amount of data in Microsoft 365 & Windows 10, connected to your own data and Azure AI, which allows you to build powerful apps and services for your client organizations.
- REST APIs: there are several APIs available in Microsoft 365, especially in SharePoint Online, that a developer can use to build apps and services.
- MS Azure (AAD, Apps, WebJobs & WebHooks): a knowledge of Azure Active Directory, and the deployment and use of apps, webjobs & webhooks is required in a Microsoft 365 developer.
- Power Apps, Power Automate & Power Bots (Optional): Although these are part of the Power Platform, and it is mostly a different developer that handles customization on it (see the next profile description), but a lot of companies require their Microsoft 365 developers to handle the development of workflows, apps and bots as well, so you might consider combining the two.
Power Platform Developer (separate solution but related to M365): the Power Platform is the suite that contains Power Apps, Power Automate (formerly known as MS Flow), Power Bots and Power BI. This platform sits on top of the Common Data Service, and is usually connected with Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365.
A Power Platform Developer must be able to build custom Workflows (Power Automate), chat bots (Power Bots), responsive and intelligent apps (Power Apps), and be able to generate advanced reports and dashboards (Power BI).
Which Ones Are The Best For Your Career
All the mentioned M365 skills / jobs have known an increase in demand in recent years, so to determine the best Microsoft 365 skills / jobs for you, you need to take into account what background you have coming in to this field.
If you come from a consulting background in IT infrastructure, then perhaps you can target Microsoft 365 administration, or you can get in pre-sales & post-sales M365 consulting and start learning the appropriate skills for it. Eventually with experience, you might become a M365 Architect.
If you have a background in digital workplaces’ communications, then maybe the Unified Communication Engineering is what you should aim for.
If you have a software engineering background, with an emphasis on web development, then Microsoft 365 development is the obvious path for you.
And last but not least, if you are a beginner, and you don’t have any prior experiences, or perhaps you are not even an IT professional, you are just looking for “hot skills” to enhance your resume, and maybe just maybe get a pay bump, then learning Microsoft 365 fundamentals (there is a actual Microsoft Certification for that: MS-900), and trying to become a power-user of the different apps and services included in M365 suite, might actually get you a job as a Microsoft 365 Support Agent.
And you can check my answers to Microsoft 365 general FAQs, for more information.