Every project management team consists of people who are experts in their domains, and play a key role in the progress of a project. What is it that they do, you ask? Why do we even need them in project management?
In this blog, you will get the answers to your rather pointed questions. We will talk about subject matter experts (SMEs) in detail, outlining their responsibilities in a project management team. You will also get an idea about the skills required to be a subject matter expert, and the importance of SMEs in project management.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs):
Subject matter experts, as the name suggests, are individuals who have specialized knowledge and skills in a particular domain, preferably also boasting some experience. They have a deep understanding of the technical or industry-specific aspects of the project, and thus contribute valuable insights to guide decision making throughout the project.
Let’s take an example to have a better idea of what we are talking about here. Suppose you are assigned a project that has the aim of launching a new product in the market. In order to bear this project to fruition, you will need a marketing strategist as a subject matter expert (SME) with a track record of successful launches and market positioning. Their role would be to guide the project team in creating an effective marketing plan, identifying target audiences and leveraging competitive analysis. Thus, they will ideally contribute to a well-executed launch strategy and market penetration.
Skills and Responsibilities of SMEs:
Deep Domain Knowledge:
Subject matter experts must have an in-depth knowledge of their specific domain, which includes technical details, industry trends and best practices. Experience in the field and an open-to-learning attitude will aid the expertise of a subject matter expert.
Great SMEs excel at identifying problems and generating effective solutions. This is generally a reflection of their deep understanding of the field, and the more complex the problem, the more handy they are in recommending appropriate action.
Adaptability is a key skill to have in a subject matter expert. Since the industry is continuously evolving, SMEs must be up-to-date with the latest developments. This is the only way their expertise can remain relevant.
Subject matter experts always work in tandem with a project management team headed by the project manager. Communication is vital to them, so that they can convey complex concepts to non-experts, thus facilitating collaboration.
SMEs are responsible for providing specialized insights and recommendations to guide projects, and for making sure that the decisions are well-informed.
Subject matter experts are required to design solutions or strategies, based on their expertise, that can help project management deal with complex challenges.
They are also responsible for identifying any potential risks related to their domain that can threaten the project, and can help form strategies with their project team to mitigate them.
Communicate with Stakeholders:
SMEs are responsible for communicating with stakeholders the technical parts of the project in a non-technical way, thus making sure that everyone is on the same page. They also have to keep up communication with the project manager throughout the project.
Importance of SMEs in Project Management:
Subject matter experts are generally well aware of the tools and technologies that could be used to make progress on the project. Thus, they help to maximize project efficiency by recommending only optimal resources for its execution.
SMEs generally excel at analyzing complex issues, dismantling them into smaller components, and reassembling them with innovative solutions. Their innovative approach based on their expertise and experience can drive project innovation.
Better Planning and Strategies:
Subject matter experts can help the project manager to have a better idea of the time required for the execution of the project, by filling in details on the technical side of it. This can help the project team to plan more effectively and employ strategies that work.
Also Read: Project Management Tools and Technologies
Learn with DT Evolve:
If you are assigned the role of a project manager to work with a subject matter expert and other team members on a project, you will require razor sharp decision-making skills. If you want to work on those skills, DT Evolve has a course for you. In this course, you will learn how to use critical thinking and creative problem-solving to make better decisions, develop emotional intelligence, and discover new methods of listening, leading, responding, and innovating by moving beyond familiar ways of viewing the world. Here’s the link to the course, Decision Making and Problem Solving.
Now that you know what SMEs are and why they are so important in project management, we can review what we have learned so far. We first described subject matter experts in project management with the help of an example. We then looked at the key skills and responsibilities of a SME, where skills included problem solving, adaptability, communication and responsibilities included providing insights, designing solutions and communication with stakeholders among others. We finally turned to the benefits of having a subject matter expert in a project management team, which included resource optimization, enhanced innovation and better planning.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Subject matter experts are individuals who have specialized knowledge and skills in a particular domain, ideally with some experience. They have a deep understanding of the technical or industry-specific aspects of the project, and thus contribute valuable insights to guide decision making throughout the project.
It is not necessarily the case. SMEs can come from various domains, which includes technical, legal, regulatory, marketing, and so on. Thus whatever specialized knowledge the project demands, is valuable.
Effective collaboration involves clarity in communication, active listening, mutual respect, and the proper involvement of SMEs in project planning, execution, and decision-making processes.
SMEs help in resource optimization, enhanced innovation during a project, and to provide plans and strategies to help in the successful execution of the project.
Their responsibilities include providing insights, designing solutions, risk management and communicating with stakeholders to make sure everyone is on the same page.
They can either be internal employees or external consultants/partners, depending on the project’s requirements and the availability of relevant expertise.