It’s common in business to make the assumption that procurement people (or consultants) are experts. In our experience, organisations regularly hire sourcing specialists or contractors who don’t meet expectations.
Far from introducing rich, in-depth knowledge that enhances internal efforts, too often they don’t know the subject matter, they distract the business and they pass-off responsibility to others as they scramble to deliver.
Subject Matter Experts should come to you with specialist skills and knowledge across, not only the subjects of their direct experience, but with a great command of commerce. When they engage, they should immediately and significantly lift performance and start to get runs on the board.
SME’s should bring insights, demonstrate their experience with real world examples and guide your business through the task at hand with minimum fuss. They should instinctively get to the bottom of complex issues and be known as a savvy, reliable source of truth.
The value of a good SME will be self-evident. Here are some attributes to look out for;
- Challenges everything for the better
- Defines and expresses requirements better than you can
- Aligns best practice with project priorities
- Places ‘optimal commercial outcome’ at the centre of everything
Recognising a Real SME
Many so called SME’s have obvious virtues but in practice have a limited palette of skills when judged against the best. Here’s our recommended pre-engagement checklist;
- Experience. Have they done the work? Where and with whom? Ask for evidence that they’ve been on the tools. Ask what critical projects they’ve managed, ask to see documents, results, testimonials. Probe them until you know that they understand your business imperatives, the reasons behind them and the detail involved. A real SME will have documentary evidence of accomplishments in the areas they are an expert in – and be able to show you.
- Interpretation. SME’s interpret user needs correctly by probing deeply into the ‘current state’. A solution is being designed to meet a need, solve a problem, address a concern, or fulfil a desire of those who will utilise it on a day-to-day basis. Your key stakeholders should be receiving a new perspective on their roles when engaging a subject matter expert. They may even be confronted on some things. Ask them. If their experience is entirely comfortable something probably is wrong. And be warned – SME’s who acquiesce to the demands of everyone they meet will stall progress and lose their way.
- Expediency. SME’s move quickly to expedite savings, lower project costs and operationalise outcomes without compromising accuracy. These people do not get mired in analytics, they use analysis to move towards an outcome. Tasks happen faster and more thoroughly than they would with a business analyst or a cross-functional team.
Good SME’s are rare. They are adept at navigating the complexities of any sourcing project serving equally well as project leaders, client advocates, internal and external negotiators and implementers. They can develop a specification document, prepare a go-to-market stratagem and evaluate external proposals with equal potency. They are not tied to any process except those leading to success.
Reassign is pleased to commend itself as Subject Matter Experts. Our hands are dirty, we like what we do and we can’t wait for the next challenge to prove it all again. We’re confident we can add value to any procurement project.
Contact us for a worthwhile chat.