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What Is a Subject Matter Expert?

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A subject matter expert is an individual with a deep understanding of a particular job, process, department, function, technology, machine, material or type of equipment.

Learn more about what they do and when they’re needed.

What Is a Subject Matter Expert?

Individuals designated as subject matter experts are typically sought out by others interested in leveraging their unique expertise to solve specific problems or help meet challenges. Subject matter experts in some fields often serve as expert witnesses in lawsuits and other legal actions.

While it is common to find them in technical disciplines, subject matter experts can exist in all disciplines and functions. It is common to find them in information technology, software development, marketing, and customer support and all other areas in a business.

Acronym: SME

How Subject Matter Experts Work

It’s common to draw upon a subject matter expert when attempting to navigate challenges. While many professionals are cross-trained in their particular functions, some situations call for highly specialized knowledge.

    • Information technology professionals will call upon various subject matter experts for insights into integrating new software applications or, fixing bugs or anomalies discovered during testing.
    • Architects and engineers will call upon experts when considering new building technologies or design approaches.
    • Project teams engage subject matter experts when their more generalized knowledge of a topic is insufficient for the problem in front of them.
    • In the legal industry, expert witnesses are typically highly specialized subject matter experts called upon to testify in court cases, especially liability lawsuits.
  • Innovators striving to apply new technologies or advancements will often draw upon the originators or external specialists to help them solve specific technical or business challenges.

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