Managing Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is both a science and an art, as many battle-scarred project managers, instructional designers, and SMEs themselves will attest to. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts that SMEs wish eLearning teams would remember.
- Do your homework before we meet. Please: In all probability, you already have access to the raw content mailed across earlier. Going through the source content for the first time during the meeting is going to make meetings longer-drawn than necessary. It would be great if you come prepared with a basic outline, broad objectives and a list of questions on the content that you’d like me to answer in our first meeting. If for some reason, inputs from my side are delayed, any background research you could do on the subject will be of great help in giving you some broad context.
- Set clear expectations: Double-check with me on the level of experience and expertise you expect. If there is a mismatch between your expectations and my background, you might want to request for a SME who is closer to your expectation. Also, clarify my role upfront. Is it just to give you content? Or do reviews? Or both? How many rounds of reviews can I expect? And when? What about signoffs? Who else is in the loop?
- Respect my time and commitment: Right at the beginning, be aware of my unavailable time. I may be out of town attending a seminar or may be on my annual vacation. Ask for my schedule in case I forget to share it with you. Also, do add adequate buffer time – this will help both of us avoid sleepless nights.
- Get buy-in for the process: Don’t assume that I will understand your process intuitively. Let me know what are the broad milestones, what is your process for communication and so on. Let me also know how much of communication is through which mode (Weekly meetings? Quick status calldaily? )
- Share the project plan and walk me through it: I know I’m supposed to go through the plan, but please go one extra mile and share it with me. Do highlight points on the schedule where a deliverable is due from me. Also, make me aware of the risk of delayed inputs or the ripple effect of changing content direction mid-way. Theoretically I know all of this, but a reminder will ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Send me material for review in one go: At least as far as possible. If you are sending me content for review for a given module, send it all together. I really wouldn’t like to review Parts I to V for a single module, unless of its length and complexity warrants breaking it up into chunks.
- Establish acceptable Turn Around Time (TAT): 24 hours is a reasonable time for an email reply to questions or information. Don’t in the meanwhile leave frantic messages on my voicemail. Give me a chance to respond first.
- Please don’t surprise me – I have enough going on in my work life right now. Though it is my job to be the SME on this project, I need to take time out from my regular responsibilities to be available for reviews and stuff. I would appreciate it if there are no surprises sprung on me. I have enough excitement at work. Trust me on this one.