Technical Writing ToolBox

A Blog on Technical Writing

Technical Writers and Subject Matter Experts (SME)

Can you think of a better way of promoting a product, such as a bulletproof glass, other than by giving it to public and asking them to break it? While screaming “our product is better” does not really sound convincing, “Ok, come on, try to break the glass and get the money” sounds like a better and more3m_securityglass1 interesting proposal.

The company (3M) was so sure of the strength of their glass that they placed a huge amount of cash (three million dollars) between panes of a bus stop and challenged people to break it.

Of course, they only had $500 on stake as only that much worth of real currency was stacked on the top and rest was fake.

People could only use their hand or foot to break the glass and a security guard was on duty to enforce this rule.

In essence, they were saying “If you can break it, you can take it”!

Now replace the word money with information and think about getting information from a SME. A subject-matter expert (SME) or domain expert is a person who is an authority in a particular area or topic.

Isn’t this scenario sounds familiar where the information exists in the mind of a SME and we need to break the virtual glass barrier between a writer and SME to deliver useful and accurate documentation?

Have you ever faced challenges in getting information from introvert SMEs that do not mix well with others? Most engineers (I’m one too) are introverts and do not openly provide information which we, the technical writers, often need. Just curious, how do you overcome this challenge at your work?

 

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3 responses to “Technical Writers and Subject Matter Experts (SME)

  1. hrushikeshbitkar May 3, 2017 at 7:04 am

    So true! Adding to this, I also feel it is alright even if the SME is introvert, he or she should be professionally-matured, what I mean is the SME understands the importance of documenting all the information. Woosh! Introvert and professionally-matured might be a rare combo, yet getting info out of this rare one is always a pleasure.

  2. Tejasvi May 3, 2017 at 11:25 am

    There have been many different analogies regarding distinctive field of work. However, i am of the opinion that the glass barrier clearly does not exist when it comes to a writer and an SME.
    It is only human emotions overtaking the existing realities of the situation. If you could consider yourself to compete and not co-ordinate, then there will be no fruitful outcome in terms of productive assignments.
    Diligent performance of BAU duties, careful understanding of the needs/resources and fulfilment of the same will help overcome indifferences.
    To strive with a positive mindset and unbiased focus with a dedication to deliver excellence is the need of the hour.

  3. Sharon May 27, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    In my opinion, SMEs generally are afraid of sharing info with the thinking that what if after sharing, others know more than they do and that they may no longer be important.
    What I have come to realise is, knowledge is something material which can be attained easily. But experience is something which is hard to document in writing.
    Therefore, SME need not fear of sharing the knowledge they are expert in.

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