In this day and age when we have access to endless information through the internet, there are still people who choose to focus on a single topic or subject area, becoming experts in it. These individuals are called subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs are a valuable resource when it comes to project management, providing input and guidance during estimation processes or whenever you need a highly qualified opinion on a high impact initiative.

Whether an in-house employee or a consultant, SMEs provide expertise and knowledge in the specific area of the project that is outside their normal job duties. Typically, they work with the project manager and other team members to develop effective strategies and mitigate risk. They also have the ability to translate complex technical processes and concepts into understandable terms for team members who don’t have as much experience in the field.

When bringing in SMEs, be sure to clearly communicate expectations and ensure that everyone is on the same page about what their roles and responsibilities are. SMEs are temporary participants in a project and, without clear communication, the issues they address may come back up after they’re gone.

Another challenge is that SMEs can have tunnel vision and may be less able to see the big picture or why certain things are done. For this reason, partnering them with other team members who are good at asking broad questions and challenging results can help them be more inclusive in their approach.