The Changing Makeup of Teams
The Changing Makeup of Teams

The Changing Makeup of Teams

4 min read

Teams aren’t just for superheroes and sports. Teams are a crucial component to organizations in getting work done. Forming teams is challenging, but many companies have taken on this challenge and developed methods and procedures for putting together great teams. However, the makeup of teams is always in flux and one recent trend has risen above the rest to change the composition of teams. We’re talking about the Subject Matter Expert.

The Rise of the Subject Matter Expert

To understand why Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) rose in popularity (or rather out of necessity), you first need a little context. According to the Project Management Institute’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession® report, 42% percent of projects were characterized as having “high complexity,” and this represents a growing trend year over year. Project complexity might not seem important to understand SMEs, but consider the manpower required for complex projects. The Project Management Institute found that low-complexity projects require an average of eight core team members, but high-complexity projects required an average of 24 core team members. If the number of complex projects is increasing and these projects demand three times as many team members than simpler projects, you can see there will be a huge demand for workers. Companies do not have unlimited resources, so this rise in demand needs to be met with a “work smarter, not harder” solution. This solution is the SME.

SMEs are not a new invention. In addition to being the subject of numerous works by management theorists and behavioral theorists, SMEs were crucial in both World Wars for developing military strategy and equipment. In today’s business climate, SMEs are heavily relied on for their expertise. But just how much do businesses rely on them? While SMEs were once much more scarce, they now account for 1 out of every 3 workers in a team.

What Is a Subject Matter Expert?

The name says it all. An SME is an individual who has specialized knowledge. They perform a very specific function that most others cannot provide.

How to Best Utilize Subject Matter Experts

SMEs can be extremely valuable to an organization, but only if you know how to use them. To get the most out of your SMEs, you first need to look at your projects. Which of your projects need or would benefit from an SME? You might think this is quick and easy to answer, but that’s not always the case. Consider a development team developing a new application for tracking finances. You know it will require a wide array of coding skills, you may even know it will require some marketing skills (designing the interface, writing the content), but depending on the function of the application you may need legal experts (an SME) to ensure your application follows state and federal regulations for financial information.

Subject Matter Experts

Once you know where and what kinds of SMEs are needed for your projects, it’s time to get to know the SMEs in your organization. Depending on the size of your organization, you may not know exactly what SMEs are available to you. You can send out surveys or talk with team leaders to learn exactly what special skills and certifications are at your disposal when planning projects.

When you know where SMEs are needed on projects and exactly which subject areas your SMEs cover, you can start matching them to projects. While SMEs might perform more general work some of the time, keep in mind that they became SMEs for a reason. They likely enjoy their subject matter and would prefer to use their special knowledge as much as possible. Don’t be shy when assigning SMEs to projects. For every project, ask yourself if this project could be improved with an SME and if you have one available.

Become an SME on SMEs

Meisterplan makes it easy to become your company’s Subject Matter Expert on SMEs. Meisterplan is a resource management and project portfolio management tool which means you can search your resource pool by skill or individual to find an SME and then quickly assign them to projects where they are needed. It’s also easy to spot when an SME is overbooked on projects so you can resolve this bottleneck before it slows down your projects. To see how easy utilizing your SMEs is with Meisterplan, start a free 30 day trial or schedule a free one-on-one demo today.

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