Posts tagged ‘sports’

Becoming best friends with Subject Matter Experts

A subject matter expert or SME (commonly said ‘smee’) is a person who has expert knowledge on a particular topic. This is normally due to the topic being the job they do or system they use every day. When on project as a technical writer, a SME is your best friend. In fact, SMEs tend to be the ones who will be using what you’re working on when you’re finished, so not only do you have to extract the information from them, you have to present it in a way they like too. You basically have to be their best friend.

Establishing this relationship with SMEs can sometimes be the most challenging part of the project. They’re often still doing their normal job while the project runs, so straight away you’re coming in from an annoying angle. But if you do the work well, and get them involved early, you’ll find it’s far easier.

The best way, both professionally and personally, to get SMEs on board with a project and its aim, is to get them involved as soon as possible. And by involved I mean with the project purpose, direction and expected outcomes, not just with the piece of work they can help with. If they know where their piece fits in the project puzzle they’ll naturally want to have more of an input.

It also helps if you explain your involvement to a SME. Like why you’re there, what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it. A useful approach when explaining this is to have already got stuck into the work and created what I call a ‘skeleton draft’ (or two). Having something to put in front of the SME is always helpful. The drafts make it easy to identify gaps and ask good questions, and show the SME straight away the style of work you are going to produce. If you’ve got time you can also work with the SME to scribble all over it touching up content, removing things that don’t work and highlighting the things that do. Then after a bit of a touch up you not only have a template, your SME has been involved in its creation from the get-go.

When a project changes from an interruption to being interesting, meetings are suddenly accepted and new records are set for turnaround times. Without any work tension you’ll often find that the SME is a really cool person too, while some even have an opinion on sport (a good thing)! I’ll admit that there are occasions where this isn’t foolproof, like if you’re developing something that will remove someone’s job, and that someone is the SME… but ideally, knowing how to do the job well leads to good SME relationships.

Do you have any pointers for building a good relationship with SMEs? Have you worked on any projects where your relationship with them was particularly good, or particularly awful? I’d love to hear your examples.



June 29, 2011 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is defined as the structures and behaviours by which a company is directed and managed. It influences all company decisions, and guides how directors and managers meet expectations, ensuring they are responsible and accountable in their respective roles.

The companies that maintain good corporate governance are the ones that are transparent, and nowadays transparent means having a user-friendly intranet system. The ideal is that any employee can look up your company’s structures, processes, procedures, systems etc. and readily describe how the organisation works. Oh, and perform their jobs productively.

Companies looking to assess their corporate governance generally need to start by looking at how well defined their processes are. When high level processes are in order, and are visible to employees (transparent), everything else starts to fit into place. Divisions know who they work with and if/when they deal with other divisions, and instructions for individual procedures (such as loading an item into a computer) are accessed through the main process diagram.

Once transparency is obtained, the key is maintaining, reviewing and improving the content.

A comparison I like is one to the rules for a professional sport. Whatever sport it is it will be at its best when everyone knows how to play and there are no contentious issues. When a referee blows the whistle, it must be clear cut why, and spelt out in the rules in a manner that avoids all confusion. Then when something starts to become an issue, the rules are reviewed and adjusted as appropriate.

Technically professional sport is a business though, so that may be why it is governed in much the same way.

June 17, 2010 at 3:10 am Leave a comment

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