A subject matter expert (SME) is the definitive source of knowledge, technique, or expertise in a specific subject area, such as business management, information technology, software development, process engineering, plus others. The SME functions as the organizational ambassador for their knowledge area, and applies their expertise to support an organisation's vision and strategic direction.
Main Duties and Responsibilities
A subject matter expert understands, articulates, and implements best practices related to their area of expertise. Depending on the work environment, the subject matter expert may lead or be an active participant of a work-group with the need for specialised knowledge. The subject matter expert provides guidance on how their area of capability can resolve an organizational need, and actively participates in all phases of the software development life cycle.
During software development assignments, the subject matter expert is responsible for defining business requirements and recommending a technical approach to meet those needs. He also generates design specifications for software development, which typically involves translating business requirements into detailed algorithms for coding.
The SME oversees the development, testing, and implementation of the technical solution, and validates the final product satisfies the defined requirements. He reviews technical documentation, such as user guides, training manuals, and system specifications, prior to distribution to end-users, and ensures their subject area is accurately represented.
Business Relationship Management
A subject matter expert must cultivate and maintain effective working relationships with a variety of stakeholders, including end-users, project managers, engineers, and senior staff members. The nature of the position involves actively participating in multiple work-groups at one time, and disseminating information across all levels of the organisation.
The subject matter expert is articulate and communicates information effectively to diverse audiences. She translates subject matter terminology into business terms, and recommends alternatives to both senior management and software developers. The SME also performs product demonstrations in a variety of settings, including internal meetings, training sessions, and trade shows.
Employers generally require candidates to have completed a bachelor's degree program; individuals with a bachelor's degree in business, or an MBA/advanced degree are preferred. In addition to certification(s) in the individual's area of expertise, Six Sigma Black Belt or Green Belt professional certifications are highly desired credentials.
Individuals interested in pursuing the position of subject matter expert must have a minimum of ten years of directly related work experience in their area of expertise. Related knowledge and experience in business management, core system configuration, software development life cycle (SDLC), RICEF (Reports, Interface, Conversion, Enhancement & Forms) development, systems testing, and business process re-engineering are considered beneficial. Individuals who have worked in a global, highly matrixed business environment are especially effective in this position.
According to salary data from Glassdoor.com, the median expected salary for a subject matter expert in the United States is £50,414 as of 2010, while the average salary of jobs with related titles, including intelligence specialist, program manager, and systems/applications developer, ranges from £37,700 to £87,100. Factors such as employer, industry, experience and benefits can dramatically affect a subject matter expert's compensation.