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It’s a weird phrase isn’t it; subject matter expert?

It’s a phrase I see regularly on social media, in emails and on LinkedIn but what are they exactly?

According to Christopher Pappas; founder of eLearning Industry’s Network a Subject Matter Expert has the potential to become a valued member of your team and will have the most in-depth knowledge of the content in their subject matter. They should be someone who has a deep understanding of a function, process, technology, machine, material, or equipment in your particular field of work or enterprise.

Now if you look online and in any social media platform you will find that there are numerous of so called SME’s from every walk of life and work such as those who promote lifestyle and fitness, weight-loss, social media ‘guru’s’, to businesses mentors such as the famous Warren Buffett and property industry experts such as or Christopher Watkin who actually are what I would could call SME’s as they know and understand their field and actively promote and share the knowledge base they have spent years building.

In our world of inventory reporting an SME needs to be someone who can contribute to your business either as a key member of your team or on a consultancy type basis but is able to work in a group or team environment. An SME needs to not only talk about the role of the inventory provider but will have the an in-depth knowledge of the role and the content in this subject matter.

They will have done the work, know and understand the challenges that both you as the business owner and your clerks face on a day to day basis so they can apply real life solutions to the problems we as providers face especially in this time of change with the constant changes to legislation, the tenant fee ban and challenges of the proposed removing of Section 21.

You may feel that the majority of this legislation will not directly impact the inventory provider but in reality any downward pressure from the client base will impact in one way or another which is why we need to be aware of and remain up to date to ensure we are prepared for any changes.

However; with all that said there is no point in your SME just throwing loads of information and ‘bumf’ at you if it bares no resemblance to your work or addresses your pain points so they need to add real value and be beneficial and relatable to the issues at hand.

So how do you find your SME?

Christopher Pappas has developed a 7 stage approach to help you find a provider but you can also use the questions as prompts to find your ‘inner SME’.

1. Hands-On Approach

A Subject Matter Expert should be fully prepared to deep dive into your business in order to gain and understanding of the pressures and issues and be proactive and ready to offer input when the need arises.

Q: Ask yourself; is this something you do and know already or do you need someone to help define the business for you?

2. Quantity & Quality Of Experience

You should always consider the length of their experience, but the breadth of that experience is of the utmost importance. Both the quantity and quality must factor into your decision-making process, as it gives you a good indication of whether the Subject Matter Expert has relevant expertise. They may know everything there is to know about inventories and the associated reports and processes but do they have the hands on experience needed to convert knowledge into practical steps for you and your clerks to follow and implement?

Q: What other experience do you have outside of inventory reporting that can enhance your knowledge and skill base so that you can provide a more rounded ‘view of the business’ and are you able to look at it impartially?

3. Work Process

Truly experienced and knowledgeable Subject Matter Experts should be able to outline every step of the inventory process and explain it to you and your team.

Q: Are you saying to yourself ‘I can do that!’ or do you need the help of someone more experienced?

4. Verify Credentials

It’s perfectly acceptable to verify a Subject Matter Expert’s references and credentials before making your final decision to use their services. Check out their website, read any articles or blogs they write; is it line with your own thinking or does it challenge the concepts of your own understanding? View a video or webinar that they’ve hosted. The goal here is to learn as much as possible about who they are, on a professional level, and what they can bring to your business.

5. Test Communication Skills

An open line of communication is a great start to understanding and working with your Subject Matter Expert. From the very outset you should have clear lines of communication with options for video calling, emails, conference calls and times when they might not be available especially during weekends and peak periods when your need for advice and support may be at its highest.

Q: Ask yourself if your communication skills are up to the task or do you need help or support?

6. Team Meetings

Its advisable to meet with and interview your Subject Matter Expert; ask them about themselves so you can get an idea of their experience level and knowledge base.

Q: When was the last time you had a team meeting and was it structured with clear points to cover and address or was it more of a coffee break and a chance for a quick chat?

7. Articulate The Subject Matter

Knowing the information is one thing, but being able to convey it clearly is quite another. When all is said and done, your Subject Matter Expert must articulate all of the core concepts and ideas so that you can pass them onto your team members and clerks and above all else, the information must be in a format that anyone can understand and then implement.

Ultimately, the Subject Matter Expert you choose should have all the traits you are looking for, such as patience, empathy, and determination. They must be able to respect the opinions and thoughts of others, and have problem-solving skills that can help overcome obstacles you face.

Being honest with yourself about your abilities is key to working out whether you need an SME or if you are better served by investing in your own training to enhance your knowledge and skills base to better understand your business needs and wants and become your own SME.

Also consider that the more you know the more you can impart to your staff, clerks and of course your clients so that you become their ‘go to’ for advice and guidance and effectively cement your position as an industry SME #foodforthought

If you would like to talk about this subject or any aspect of inventory reporting and management visit: Meet InventoryBase Academy or email