A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is a person who is an expert in a particular area. In technical communication environments, the term is used to describe professionals with expertise in the field of application but without documentation, procedural discourse, or project management knowledge. Technical communicators often collaborate with SMEs both prior to and during the editing of technical writing projects.
To get the best possible reviews from subject matter experts (SMEs), we tech writers can prepare, make our expectations clear and help our reviewers excel at their job. Soliciting documentation reviews from SMEs can be tricky: They are usually very busy, juggling dozens of tasks, while putting off several more. The last thing they need is a writer to waltz into their office making a demand on their time. Here’s what I do to get an SME to review a manual of 100 pages or 25,000 words. It doesn’t work always, but it’s worth a try – they are the experts after all.
I have a theory about why we continually see subject matter expertise for review applied to the task of copy-editing, and why that practice is so hard to change. The theory is built around how we: learn to write, learn to review, and ask for review.
The purpose of this workshop is to introduce attendees to Total Quality Management (TQM) techniques and practices. TQM offers common-sense guidance in the quest for quality. Using the example of an out-of-control technical review cycle, the workshop shows attendees how to better manage the technical review process, resulting in accurate, high-quality documents.
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).
At times, though, a writer is a bit overwhelmed at the start-of-work meeting. He becomes passive and takes in everything the client lays out without asking for more. That can result in some information that’s very important to the writer being missed.
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.
As a programmer or developer, the Subject Matter Expert is concerned about developing code that is bug free and serves the client's purpose. They need to have task wise in-depth technical orientation, which often results in having a limited perspective of the user requirement. But those who wish to swap into the technical writing arena are required to have an in-depth overview and analytical outlook of the user perspective and the project in its entirety. As a Technical Writer, the Subject Matter Expert has to understand the user's mindset. Identifying the target audience, producing a document that will answer their questions readily and meeting their expectations is no easy job.