Glossary Item

Subject Matter Expert

A Subject Matter Expert, or SME, is someone deeply versed in a particular area, process, or field, I.e., the go-to person that others can turn to for trustworthy information about a topic.



Subject Matter Expert

Table of Contents


What is a Subject Matter Expert?

In an office, that might be a team leader or a project manager. In a factory, it might be the safety supervisor. At an elementary school, it might be an experienced teacher or a curriculum coach.

SMEs are usually easy to spot in the workplace. They are the people who are always busy answering questions, giving presentations, and solving problems. Their expertise helps make them a valuable part of the team. The same is true for SMEs who work on online and e-learning course development teams. They are the experts who ensure that the learning materials are high-quality, relevant, accurate and up to date.

Though it may seem like they know just about everything there is to know about their field, true subject matter experts won’t hesitate to acknowledge that there is always room to learn more. They are skilled at in-depth research to uncover new information. SMEs know how to find relevant source materials, and can distill the content into digestible chunks for learners.

Unlike generalists, SMEs offer profound insights and knowledge gained through extensive experience or education. Their expertise is often critical in fine-tuning the strategies that drive businesses forward, enabling organizations to navigate complex challenges with authority.

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How do subject matter experts work?

Subject Matter Experts function as the go-to authorities within their niches. They can be part of your team or external experts. Whether being an SME is part of someone’s full-time position or an aspect of their role, they will be at an expert level of knowledge in their field. 

Subject matter experts help with;

  1. Recommending tech tools: Subject Matter Experts assess and recommend the best technology infrastructure, software, and equipment suited to your business’s specific needs, ensuring you have the most efficient tools at your disposal.

  2. Chronicling specialized processes: They meticulously document and report on specialized business processes, providing a clear blueprint that aids in understanding, training, and potential process optimization.

  3. Boosting efficiency and resource management: SMEs are adept at identifying opportunities to enhance productivity and conserve resources, making operations more sustainable and cost-effective.

  4. Crafting best practices: By developing tailored best practices, they help businesses maintain high standards and consistent quality in their operations.

  5. Demystifying industry speak: They excel at translating complex jargon into accessible language, making technical information understandable for all stakeholders.

  6. The company brand: Often, subject matter experts act as brand ambassadors as they showcase their skills, speak at conferences and become recognized in their field by others.

  7. Developing targeted training materials: They create specialized on-the-job training materials for different teams, fostering an educated and capable workforce that can tackle industry-specific challenges effectively.

In a nutshell, their day-to-day activities are as varied as their areas of expertise, ranging from strategic consulting to operational troubleshooting.

How can having subject matter experts benefit a business?

Invaluable insight and precision

Subject Matter Experts bring a level of depth to their fields that can significantly impact decision-making processes. 

For example, a 2019 survey by Deloitte found that organizations with high knowledge management capabilities, including the use of SMEs, were 3X more likely to be industry leaders in financial performance.

Risk mitigation

With their expertise, SMEs can foresee potential challenges and provide solutions or alternatives that minimize risks. They are often instrumental in compliance and quality assurance roles, ensuring that a business meets regulatory standards and industry best practices.

Enhanced innovation and competitiveness

Having an SME on board encourages innovation by allowing businesses to confidently explore new territories. Their knowledge can foster a culture of learning and adaptation, which is crucial for businesses aiming to stay competitive.

How do you utilize subject matter experts in your business?

If you’re not using your subject matter experts to develop your SOP and process documentation, you’re missing out.

Project development and strategy formulation

Integrate SMEs in the early stages of project development to leverage their expertise for strategic planning and innovative solutions.

Training and development

Use SMEs to train your workforce, enhancing the overall skill set of your employees and aligning them with the latest industry standards.

Marketing and content creation

Leverage the knowledge of SMEs to create documentation and authoritative content that not only attracts but also educates your team and your audience, positioning your business as a thought leader in the industry.

Customer support

Enhance your customer support by involving SMEs in creating detailed FAQs, knowledge bases, and direct support, where they can solve complex issues with authority and precision.

Make sure you follow these best practices when involving your SME’s;

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