How-To Guide for Choosing a Great Subject Matter Expert

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project changes your organization’s platform and processes, procedures, and team responsibilities. A CRM project requires your team to drive a transformational business change in a short amount of time, ultimately shifting how they work every day.


One of the critical team members in effective change management is the Subject Matter Expert (SME)—an individual with deep knowledge or expertise about a particular part of the business or the activity taking place.


The SME plays an essential role in driving change because they are:


  • keenly aware of the impacts, challenges, and obstacles that may arise as a result of the change;
  • experts of their role and processes;
  • experiencing the change first-hand;
  • one of the top influencers that will drive the change; and
  • respected, well-known, and trusted members of the team.


What is the role of an SME?

An SME provides knowledge and expertise about your department’s daily operations, and business needs to the project team. The SME role acts as a representative. They are the person that has been chosen to speak on behalf of the department. They are also a resource and a guide for the duration of the CRM implementation project.


There are four aspects to an influential SME role—all are equally important.


1. Knowledge and Expertise

The SME must be able to explain department operations clearly to the implementation team, answering not only “how” things are done but also “why.” The robots of the department won’t make good subject matter experts. Instead, SMEs are folks that can go a layer deeper, addressing questions like, “why do we do this, what value does it bring?” or “what job responsibility does it address and contribute to the whole of the organization?”


2. Representation

An effective SME will be required to speak on behalf of the department. They act as a guide to other department members, essentially becoming an information resource. In most organizations, there are many members of each department. Therefore, the SME needs to be a reliable information resource—they can’t get caught into the rumor mill or perpetuate gossip.


A subject matter expert is the movement toward change management because they are on the front lines, they’ve got a front-row seat. As a representative, the SME should be comfortable making recommendations considering colleagues and being open to new ways of doing things.


3. Leadership

Additionally, the SME needs to have leadership aspects since they will be leading change management. They will become the go-to person for your CRM project, and team members will look to SME for advice. Since they are a communication channel, the SME should work to limit challenges by bringing issues and concerns back to the project team.


For example, a challenge that may arise would be resolving things within the project team. This challenge can happen if an SME discusses issues with their colleagues who didn’t have the same access to information or ongoing information. This creates a situation where the SME has given the team members a negative view of the project before being fully introduced to it. This creates a one-sided viewpoint and puts the team at a disadvantage. As a result, the team developed a negative impression of the new CRM, even though they didn’t have all the information to formulate their own opinion.


4. Commitment

The SME must be committed—they need to be all in. They can’t head into the project with one foot in and one foot out—this prohibits their ability to be a valuable contributor to your CRM project implementation.


SMEs are a critical success factor for a CRM project. They are instrumental in driving change because of their expertise, personal change experiences, and influencing power. The SME is a valuable contributor to the change management activities of a CRM project which is essential to achieve the desired outcomes and successfully transform the way people work.