The SMEs had a choice between two sets of tables they could use to input key product data. If their part of the project used items from the A list, they were supposed to use table A. If their part of the product used items from the B list, they were supposed to use table B. In almost every case, the SMEs used the wrong table, leaving gaps where their information did not conform to the columns of the tables.
A technical writer will periodically need to interview Subject Matter Experts (SME) to gather information about a technical document. More often that not, and especially within the context of software development, most SMEs are engineers and software developers. But they can also be mechanical, electrical and other types of engineers, hardware installers, network engineers, testers, site foremen, call center engineers, field technicians, sales or marketing people, local dealers, etc. One cardinal rule of interviewing an SME is to do your homework well, in advance.
Some years ago, I used to suffer from developer neglect, or to use a more scientific term, from a kind of information exclusion complex. You know what I’m talking about. Developers make updates to the interface, often at the last minute, and don’t let the tech writer know what changed. As a result, the help is wrong and out of date. It’s a frustrating experience from the writer’s perspective.
Content strategists often rely on the specialized knowledge of subject-matter experts (SMEs) to get the job done. But that job isn’t always straightforward; it’s complicated by different perspectives, communication styles, and project goals. Amanda Costello shows us how people skills—and the right mindset—can lead to better collaboration with SMEs and a smoother process from start to finish.
Almost a decade ago, Walkowski's (1991) study of the interaction between subject-matter experts (SMEs) and technical writers focused on the perceptions of software engineers toward technical writers. Her findings gave technical writers insights on how to improve critical relationships with these organizational colleagues. This study partially replicates Walkowski's (1991) study of technical writer-SME interactions, but instead of collecting data from SMEs, we surveyed technical writers themselves. We report perceptions collected from 31 technical writers and contrast them with Walkowski's original findings, offering interpersonal and organizational recommendations for addressing tensions between these groups. By examining both the SMEs' and the technical writers' perceptions of their relationship, we are able to provide a two-sided view of a dynamic and complex interaction. We also argue that participants in the SME-technical writer interaction cannot fully alter their relationship without the strategic supp
As technical writers, we are often tasked with writing about a subject or product we know almost nothing about. Sometimes we must create quality documentation on this unfamiliar material within an aggressive time frame. This can be a daunting task, so it’s essential that we get the most from our conversations with the project subject matter experts (SMEs).
Sports doesn’t always parallel life, but here’s one that’s relevant for the season. Although penalties in football are usually looked upon as costly mistakes, they can actually be a good thing — they demonstrate aggressiveness. Holding back your players into a passive, milquetoast attitude can be worse than racking up a half a dozen penalties. Aggressiveness also happens to be an important quality for technical writers, even if it also results in a few social penalties.