I’ve often espoused here about the importance of a strong business analyst on your project. And this is still a vital component to being successful, but behind a strong business analyst sits a group of subject matter experts.
The Roles of SME’s
Subject Matter Experts are typically empowered decision makers when it comes to requirements definition and solution design needs. They are the ones who your business analyst (or even your design team) will leverage to extract what is the system needs to do. Your perfect SME will have years of industry experience as well as the authority to dictate the needs of their organization to your business analyst.
Other key aspects to the SME role is to provide ongoing guidance and feedback to your project team as you go down the path of creating your deliverables, whether it’s a requirements document or a full-blown solution. You want to be assured that your team is on the right track and the best (cheapest, quickest, easiest) way to do this is to get constant feedback from your SME. They will tell you if expectations are being met, if deliverables reflect what they indicated during requirements workshops and if there are any additions or changes to the deliverables that need to be implemented to meet any missed or evolving requirements.
Keeping SME’s Accountable
Not all SME’s are created equal. A lot of the time your project is not their primary concern (although it’s such a treat when it is). When meeting with SME’s a lot of times they are given homework – things like coming back to the team with answers from other business groups or maybe getting a consensus decision on a key design point. It’s important as a project team that SME’s are held just as accountable to their action items as your project team. Without them actively participating it makes your jobs much more difficult to complete. Don’t be afraid to call SME’s out when they are not delivering – they have just as much of a vested interest in the success of your project as you do.
Subject matter experts are often an overlooked key to project success. The strongest project teams will still falter if the client does not furnish good SME’s to provide the project team the information they need to design and build a great solution.