The Power of the Subject Matter Expert (SME)

The knowledge of a Subject Matter Expert, or SME, can make or break any projects of any type. It does not matter if the project is architecture, construction, business strategy, or the one of the many facets of data and information management. To become a SME, a team needs to have lived and worked in the proverbial trenches for the chosen domain. One only becomes a SME by doing. Recite the famous line from The Karate Kid, “wax on – wax off” and anyone who has seen the movie instantly understands the value of repetitive practice.

By simple analogy, you can drive your car into a gas station to investigate the reason for a noise coming from your engine. Let’s say the sound of a bolt rattling inside a tin can. If you have heard this, the sound is unmistakable. Now, a trained mechanic will tell you with high precision by one sound that the problem is likely a bad water pump. He or she just knows this because they are SMEs in their field. Very little time is needed for diagnostics and required action. One sound and they are quoting you a price and ordering the part.

So why does this matter in the world of finance? What does this have to do with the power of a SME? The answer is quite simple. The power of the SME is the ability to deliver a data project on time with the required business functionality. We take pride in the ability to design a Data Warehouse that is rock sold in structure and will not fail at the first sign of a complex transaction. The power of the SME is knowing when and how to integrate data into business process, governance, compliance, reporting and data movement.

We have spent careers doing second surgery on Data Warehousing implementations that have failed to achieve business value. Over the years we have seen data models that simply will not support the business. Textbook implementations that couldn’t support complex transactions such as many-to-many derivative hedges. We have seen business units create spreadsheets to verify an automated report designed to reduce, not increase spreadsheets. We have worked with executives and staff responding to countless regulatory issues regarding data. Like the story of the mechanic or the Karate Kid, we have learned what works and what fails to work well in all aspects of enterprise data management. 

One of the common threads we have seen across so many companies is that large system implementations fail to achieve the objectives of scope, timing, quality, and budget. The power of SMEs can turn around struggling projects, or ensure a new implementation is off and running. Imagine planning with real knowledge about business process, data, interdependence, and control objectives.

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Steve Zagoudis

Steve Zagoudis

Steve Zagoudis is a governance architect and a leading authority on Data Governance, Information Governance and Data Risk Management systems and strategies. He is founder and CEO of MetaGovernance, an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) consulting firm. A veteran to advising multi-national corporations and government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Steve is passionate about helping organizations solve their critical data challenges.

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