Everything you need to know about Subject Matter Experts

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is an individual who exhibits the highest level of expertise in performing a specialized job, task, or skill within an organization.

We all can’t know everything about everything. When in need of knowledge and expertise on a certain topic, a Subject Matter Expert is your go-to to complete a project. He’ll help you make sure the content is accurate, and everything is focused on the correct angle. If you need to create training material they’ll make sure the guides are updated and efficient. However, if you are not really sure of what a subject matter expert is or how they work, let us enlighten you.

What is the role of the SME?

Essentially, to ensure facts and technical knowledge presented on a project are accurate.
As mentioned above, there is a variety of projects, especially educational that tend to require a subject matter expert, like training videos, manuals, courses, assessments, etc…When developing a curse or a training program, the role of the SME is to select the objective the course will stick to, as well as the content. He’ll later on revise the final product to make sure the content sticks to the objectives and the angle the company is trying to provide. However, it is important to mention he does not determine the way in which the information is presented. The other people who work on the project do need to have knowledge on the main topic and subject area, but are probably experts on other fields like graphical design. The SME has the role of giving the team technical accuracy.

For example, in an educational publishing project, the role of the SME might be o ensure that the test questions are accurate. It depends on the project but the SME might have to write the questions, or just review their validity.

What does it mean to be a subject matter expert?

Being a subject matter expert means you achieved the highest level of expertise when it comes to a specialized job, task, or skill within an organization. It means you have developed an expertise on a particular discipline, and have built this expertise over a rather long period of time after being completely immersed in the topic. Most SMEs pursue advanced degrees in their area to further certify their knowledge, as well as expand it.

It also means that you are constantly studying and updating yourself on the matters of your field, many Subject Matter Expert continuously update books and authors. But there are also many who work as teachers in colleges and universities, this in order to maintain the most accurate knowledge on their field as possible.

An SME exists in all disciplines and functions, you can find Subject Matter experts n IT, software development, customer support, marketing, among other business-focused areas.

How do you find a subject matter expert?

In reality, where you find a subject matter expert depends on what your project is going to be focused on. However, there are some places where you can look for, and you are likely to find great ones.

First, there are professional associations, in which you can post an employment listing that will attract and target potential SMEs. The listing has to be well written, targeting the specific needs you require and narrowing the options to only scree qualified candidates for the project. Some organizations will charge you for posting an employment listing, anyhow, you can get a lot of benefits from it, as you narrow your options, which is something that could end up saving you some serious money. Finding professional organizations isn’t really a hard thing to do, you can try and search an extensive list on a directory of Associations, or even Wikipedia.

You also have Niche job boards, which might be a better option considering they tend to have a more focused approach towards SMEs. Also, many niche job boards will offer you free listing.

LinkedIn is a great tool in which you can look for SMEs. The platform offers you the option to pay for a recruiting ad. The ad will appear on the job board of the homepage of potential candidates. It is free; however, it will only reach the members that already follow your organization, which might be a good or bad thing depending from where you look at it. Groups also allow job posting often, however, the reach of this posting might be limited, depending on the group activity.

You can also look in blogs and industry publications. Identify potential bloggers and let them know you are looking for Subject Matter Expert.

Educational Institutions are obviously a must, since a lot of SMEs go to education to maintain their knowledge at its finest. Begin by searching through faculty departments and programs, and reach out to the departments to ask for information.

Why are subject matter experts important?

First of all, an SME can ensure that your organizations workflow and information is all done correctly in organization. They also look for them to be accurate and detailed enough to your businesses specific purposes. Tasks like manual creation, training programs, deadlines they can all be made by SMEs. 

This obviously helps with the matter of content, since they have the higher level of knowledge on a specific area. They have done similar work, they know what challenges might be presented and how to avoid them. They’ll throw a lot of information that will be helpful for your marketing and design team to craft something great. Finally, there is a matter of costs, since an SME can help lower the costs of a project since he or she will deliver tasks in a more efficient way, with higher accuracy than anyone else you may hire.

What are the responsibilities of a subject matter expert?

Depending on the project they are working on they might vary, however, in general, their main responsibility is to provide you with accurate content that serves your specific focus line, and also to make sure that what you are producing, whether it is training programs, manuals, or educational e-books is accurate within the field it belongs to.

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