There is an old saying that “Work flows to those who do it,” and it often seems that individuals branded as subject matter experts end up at the receiving end of this aphorism. And yet, while having to deal with additional work is definitely a burden, SMEs rarely reject the additional work outright. They may complain, but they still get the additional work done. There seems to be a rather complex psychology at work within most SMEs. They become SME’s because they genuinely make an effort to master some area of knowledge or practice, and they recognize that they are valued to the extent others find this useful and come to them for help. This generates respect for SMEs, as well as some degree of power, job security and sometimes fear. Despite the complaints from SMEs, they seem to enjoy these psychological rewards and are content to play their role for years, perhaps decades.
However, it is worth exploring whether this low maturity arrangement is efficient and effective when it comes to data management, and IT in general. While there is a good deal of literature about expertise management, there is not much about the ways in which business analysts and data analysts interact with SMEs. Also, being an SME is a personal matter, based upon an individual’s choices in widely divergent business settings. Being an SME is not a role. For instance, there is no professional organization of SMEs in the way that DAMA exists for data professionals or IIBA exists for business analysts. Thus, SMEs do not organize in any way, even within an enterprise, and they have no collective voice. Perhaps because of this there has never been an industry-wide effort to figure out the rules of the road for how BAs and DAs engage with SMEs. Yet such an effort is worth considering because it could reduce the burden on SMEs and make the enterprise less dependent on particular individuals.
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