June 17, 2024
June 17, 2024

What Is a Subject Matter Expert? What They Are & How to Find Them

What is a Subject Matter Expert (SME)?

A subject matter expert (SME) is someone who has extensive knowledge and experience in a specialized field or topic area. SMEs develop deep expertise through years of hands-on practice, continual learning, and mastery of both theoretical and practical skills in their domain.

The key traits of effective subject matter experts include:

  • Deep understanding from accumulated experience. SMEs have a nuanced grasp of their field from working through many real-world cases and scenarios over time.
  • Specialized skills and capabilities. SMEs possess niche abilities and technical competencies tailored to their field (or even one particular job) that allow them to perform complex tasks.
  • Up-to-date knowledge. SMEs actively stay on top of the latest advancements, innovations, and best practices in their area of expertise.
  • Ability to solve complex problems. SMEs can leverage their expertise to provide unique insights and recommend solutions for multifaceted issues (e.g. in fields like software development).
  • Recognition as an authority. SMEs are regarded by their peers as credible experts whose knowledge and advice carry significant weight.

A subject matter expert delivers tremendous value to organizations by filling critical knowledge gaps, providing specialized analysis, and enabling more informed decision making.

Subject matter experts' niche expertise allows organizations to enhance operations, identify growth opportunities, mitigate risks, and gain a competitive advantage.

Why Subject Matter Expertise is Critical

Subject matter experts provide crucial insights and knowledge for complex projects and strategic decisions. Their deep domain expertise on a particular subject allows them to analyze problems and spot issues regular employees may miss.

Subject matter experts help fill knowledge gaps within organizations by contributing niche technical skills and experience.

For example, an engineering firm developing a new product would benefit immensely from partnering with subject matter experts in relevant fields.

These experts could provide unique perspectives on technical requirements, potential failure points, and innovations to incorporate. Their specialized know-how helps ensure important factors don't get overlooked.

Likewise, financial institutions rely on subject matter experts to model risks and guide investment decisions.

Their extensive background and honed instincts allow SMEs to make sound judgments in uncertain conditions. They discern patterns and scenarios the average person lacks the context to recognize.

In essence, SMEs offer three key benefits:

  • Laser focus – They dive deep into the details other employees don't have bandwidth for.
  • Big picture thinking – They connect the dots and provide strategic insights.
  • Niche expertise – They contribute knowledge and skills that would be difficult and time-consuming for an organization to build internally.

Subject matter expertise serves as a crucial accelerator and risk mitigator for organizations. It provides the rare air cover necessary to transform vision into reality.

The Traditional Challenges of Working with SMEs

Before the rise of AI, organizations and project managers struggled to fully leverage the expertise of subject matter experts. Some key pain points included:

Finding Qualified SMEs

Manually identifying and recruiting a subject matter expert with the right knowledge was tedious and time-consuming. Hiring managers often lacked visibility into potential candidates across the organization or external networks.

This made it difficult to connect with SMEs that matched project needs.

Facilitating Knowledge Transfer

Extracting insights from a subject matter expert through interviews, surveys, and documentation review required extensive effort. Translating this expertise into training materials, process guides, and other assets was also inefficient without automation.

Organizations struggled to capture subject matter expert knowledge in a scalable way, so that other team members could make use of it.

For instance, a domain expert in one area of software development might be siloed and unable to share their professional experience as the go to person for that particular area.

Manual Inefficiencies

The traditional process of working with a subject matter expert depended heavily on manual tasks like scheduling meetings, compiling notes, and following up on action items.

This introduced delays, miscommunications, and productivity bottlenecks. The lack of automated workflows created extra overhead for both SMEs and project teams, resulting in poor time management.

How Copy.ai Workflows Streamlines SME Engagement

Copy.ai's Workflows offer a revolutionary new way for any project manager to streamline collaboration with subject matter experts that alleviates many of the traditional pain points organizations face.

One of the biggest challenges is identifying and engaging the right SMEs for a given project. This typically requires manually vetting candidates based on their backgrounds and materials, which is hugely time consuming.

With workflows, you can automate this process by specifying keywords and expertise areas you need.

Our AI will instantly analyze the profiles, publications, and content of potential SMEs across your organization or external networks to surface matches. This takes a task that could require weeks of effort down to seconds, using our data enrichment capabilites.

Our workflows could also be used to extract key insights from SME materials like research papers, presentations, or videos automatically. Rather than needing to comb through hours of content, you can instantly see the most relevant summaries, recommendations, and subject matter coverage.

This enables rapidly assembling FAQs, training programs, and other materials without extensive manual reviews. You get all the benefits of SME knowledge sharing with a fraction of the typical overhead.

The end result is accelerated sourcing of top subject matter experts, effortless analysis of their materials, and more efficient collaboration overall.

As the world's first GTM AI platform, Copy.ai is all about helping you move quickly to market, without the GTM Bloat that comes with having a complicated stack of tools. Instead, through hundreds of available integrations, you can seamlessly use Copy.ai as a crucial part of  your GTM tech stack.

Scaling SME Knowledge Sharing with AI

Copy.ai workflows allow organizations to extract key insights from subject matter expert materials and recordings in order for instructional designers to rapidly create training content, knowledge bases, and other assets.

Rather than relying solely on manual note-taking and transcription, our AI can analyze video, audio, and text materials from SMEs to identify important concepts, recommendations, and domain knowledge. These can then be used in-house, for customer service, or even in outbound sales automation.

These extracted insights enable knowledge transfer at scale by streamlining the process of transforming SME materials and specialized knowledge into standardized training content.

For example, AI can review SME interview transcripts and pick out key quotes that exemplify critical concepts. These snippets can then be used as the basis for learning modules, FAQs, and knowledge base articles.

Leveraging AI to synthesize and distill specialized knowledge means organizations can share expertise much faster. This allows new hires to onboard more quickly by accessing training derived from SME insights.

It also reduces the burden on SMEs to manually create documentation or repeat lessons multiple times. The end result is accelerated knowledge sharing across the business so that SME wisdom can benefit many instead of just a few.

Subject Matter Expert Responsibilities

As a subject matter expert within an organization, you'll be expected to:

1. Develop Deep Understanding and Extensive Knowledge

The foundation of SME roles is acquiring extensive hands-on experience in your domain.

There's no shortcut to become a subject matter expert. You need to actively work within your field, encountering diverse scenarios and challenges that build your knowledge base. This gives you the practical expertise to address nuanced issues.

Beyond initial experience, you must commit to ongoing learning. Look for professional development opportunities like training programs and certifications that allow you to expand your capabilities. Attend conferences and events to discover emerging best practices.

2. Hone Communication and Teaching Skills

To become an effective subject matter expert, you need to be able to clearly communicate complex concepts to others. Mastery of a subject is only half the battle – being able to teach that knowledge is equally critical.

Practice explaining intricate topics in simple terms. The hallmark of expertise is making the complicated understandable. Approach it as if teaching someone with minimal prior knowledge. Public speaking is another essential skill.

Creating training materials is also invaluable experience. Volunteer to produce webinars, how-to guides, eLearning modules or other instructional content. The process will strengthen your ability to structure information for optimal learning.

Knowledge alone does not make an subject matter expert – it is their ability to impart that wisdom effectively to others.

3. Stay Current on Industry Trends

Staying on top of the latest developments and innovations in your specific field is crucial for SMEs. Set aside time each week to read industry publications, academic journals, and news sites related to your domain. Attend conferences, seminars, and events whenever possible.

Take detailed notes on new research, technologies, methodologies or best practices you encounter. Consider how you could apply them to improve your own expertise and skills. Set Google Alerts for keywords related to your specialty so you never miss critical updates.

4. Build a Professional Network

Building a robust professional network is key for any subject matter expert. Connecting with fellow experts in your domain allows you to exchange knowledge, learn about emerging trends, and get recognized as a thought leader.

Join relevant professional associations in your field to connect with like-minded experts. These groups provide networking opportunities through conferences, special interest groups, and online forums. You can tap into collective intelligence, find mentors, and raise your personal profile.

Attend industry events, seminars, and user group meetings to meet fellow professionals face-to-face. Conferences let you exchange ideas and build relationships with potential collaborators, clients, and mentors.

5. Seek Out Mentorship Opportunities

Seeking out mentorship opportunities is a critical step for every aspiring subject matter expert. Connecting with experienced SMEs in your field provides invaluable guidance as you work to build up your own expertise. A mentor can offer perspective and share lessons learned from their many years immersed in a domain.

Finding a mentor through your company or professional network opens the door to more rapid knowledge transfer. Under an experienced SME's wing, you gain exposure to real-world projects and collaborations. Observing how seasoned experts operate gives you a template to follow.

The guidance of a veteran SME mentor is invaluable for up-and-coming experts. Whether found through your workplace or industry network, seek out these opportunities to transfer knowledge and elevate your expertise.

Using Copy.ai to Work With Subject Matter Experts

Copy.ai is a powerful GTM AI Platform, but it's also a fantastic tool that lets you draw together the expert knowledge of many SMEs in the specific industries and roles that let you develop your organization's strategy.

If you're looking to solve a specific problem or you want to provide detailed education in a specific area to your employees, subject matter experts are a crucial part of the puzzle.

Using Copy.ai as the AI for sales within your GTM tech stack makes it easy to streamline the resources that the best SMEs bring to the table.

With their in-depth understanding of each particular topic, you can offer a rich learning experience for your marketing team, engage in problem solving, and do away with expensive consultants' fees.

Whether you want to be able to respond to prospects' questions with more detailed and helpful answers, you're looking to build a detailed set of case studies, or you're developing an in-house training course for staff, SMEs understand what you need.

Book your free Copy.ai demo today so we can show you how AI can revolutionize your ability to capture and use subject matter experts' rich knowledge and problem-solving abilities.

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