Qualifying Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

A lot of training development happens when we get the right people in the right room at the right time. In my experience doing this can be difficult. As the workforce continues to migrate to virtual offices, finding qualified people to be in the right room, physically or virtually, may become increasingly problematic.

Dangers of the Wrong Subject Matter Expert

Not having the right people in the right room not only has the potential to stifle the analysis phase of training development, it can derail

timelines during reviews. Missing important content from the right subject matter experts, or SMEs, during analysis and development only to be discovered in a later phase affects all roles of training. Designers, developers, and project leads are left incorporating late revisions and more time is demanded of the SME to ensure revisions are accurate.

Finding the Right Person to be the SME

To get the right people in the right room, qualified subject matter experts need to be identified early in the training development process. The key word here is qualified – several people may be able to give you content, but an SME is much more than a person familiar with the content. Characteristics of a good SME vary depending on the project, but they do all have a few things in common.

subject matter experts - qualification sheetEndurance Learning developed an SME Qualification Checklist to help identify quality SMEs to aid in successful training development. Along with SME qualities, clarifying questions have been added to identify the best person for this role. There is an opportunity at the bottom of the worksheet to fill in project-specific qualities.

As you work through this sheet, you may find that one person does not meet all of the qualifications. Often, more than one person is needed to check all the boxes on that sheet. In other situations, several SMEs are needed based on the scope of the project. When possible, work to put together a team of SMEs with a dynamic of collaboration. Culture and dynamics during training development can be critical to project success.

Feel free to download the checklist for your own use.

How do you qualify your subject matter experts? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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