A subject matter expert (SME) is typically an expert on a division of a process, such as a specific tool, technology, or set of process steps. A process may have multiple subject matter experts associated with it, each with varying degrees of understanding of the over-arching process.
SMEs should have depth in their subject area. A great way to identify them is to look for individuals who have a proven track record as formal or informal mentors. To be effective, the SME must be approachable and able to show others the “how” and “why” behind their work. Building expertise, and thus building SMEs, is a fundamental part of a learning organization.
The archetype SMEs has the following attributes:
- Are really, really smart and know more about their subjects than anybody else in your universe
- Are willing, able, and looking forward to serving as experts
- Can tell you what they know in a logical way
- Understand why it is important for other people to know what they know
- Are approachable and often fun to work with
- Love to teach their subjects and make great presenters or facilitators
- Stay current in their areas of expertise
- Know when to refer you to someone else
- Possess situational awareness
Subject matter experts are a huge part of knowledge capture.
SME’s help drive Innovation through their strong knowledge of what-was and what-is in order to provide a solid foundation to comprehend what-could-be.