The Subject Matter Expert (SME) has the knowledge that you will need about the way things are right now, and about the way things could be. You will need to understand both the current world details and the future world details in order to develop the plan for how to get to the vision.
A Subject Matter Expert can be someone internal to the organization, or an expert from outside. You’ll need internal SME’s to give you details about the current world. Future world details may also come from an internal resource, but depending on the kind of change you’re making, you may want to pull someone in from outside.
If the vision you’re trying for has already been implemented successfully somewhere else, this is a great opportunity to bring in an external Subject Matter Expert! This will save you both time and money because you can use that person’s experience to avoid having to reinvent the future world details and to avoid missteps. One caveat about external SME’s — make sure that the person you’re working with understands that they are bringing their background and experience to the table, but that they need to really listen and understand what your organization needs!
An additional way to leverage outside industry expertise is by using published industry best practices and standards as details for your future world. For example, the International Standards Organization (ISO) provides a body of knowledge that can be reviewed for pertinence to what you are trying to do. If part of your future vision includes certification by an external industry body, connect with them early to make sure that you’re getting all the details you need to reach your goal!
Internal SME’s know your organization and can help identify where things are really broken today and where the most future benefit can be achieved! A savvy internal SME will also be able to help you understand where the biggest pitfalls are hiding.
Recognize also, that if you are talking to an internal SME, they are most likely being impacted by the change. They may be totally on board and one of your strongest Change Agents and Champions — these people are invaluable! Or, they may think that everything is fine the way it is, thank you very much, and they may actually be a barrier to change. It’s going to be very important to understand their point of view. As you assess the information they’re providing, you’ll have to determine validity if they are truly against the change.
The Facilitator and Integrator will work very closely with the Subject Matter Experts — they are the source of knowledge that will make the change successful!