SMEs, SM0s and the Deluded Developer Day

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

We all want Subject Matter Experts, but what happens if we get Subject Matter Zeros (SM0s)? How does that impact your schedule, and what about team members who have “other project commitments”? Before you know it, that six-month schedule that looked pretty comfortable is looking like a fairy tale.

I recently attended a great presentation by Lee Lambert at my local PMI conference, and while he was not talking about agile per se, his commentary on SMEs and part-time resources struck a chord--one that I would like to share. The role of the customer, the business and the SME on agile projects is vital. They not only help provide requirements but also clarify details, validate prototypes, perform UAT, tell us about business changes, articulate the goal, prioritize…the list goes on. Great SMEs are like great multi-disciplined developers who can do BA work, architecture, development and QA--they can just make projects happen. It is rare to get these mythical beings, but I have been fortunate to work with a few.

More commonly, we work with SMEs with limited time who have a preference for one or two areas of work--such as providing requirements or testing increments of software. We obviously want the best SMEs we can get, but the best people are always busy since they “get it” and can crank out work--so who wouldn’t want to engage them?

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