Your knowledge stars or SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) are your most important assets when it comes to getting the information you need to fulfill your requirements documents or any other documents that are being written. They will supply you with all the information needed to understand the product or processes, and teach you to be knowledgeable about everything from its functions to its drawbacks so that you may be able to write and convey its benefits, values, requirements, constraints, limitations, etc.
A good Technical Communicator /Writer is able to interact with and question the SME’s involved and will always take the initiative to perform some research as well to seek out more knowledge about the items that were discussed at meetings and to ensure validity and execution.
But where do you find your SMEs?
- For resources – ask at the meetings. Ask specifically who will be the Developers, DBAs, Testers, Lead Project Manager, Sub-Contractors, etc. Also double check the requirements. If incorrect requirements exist, then the wrong resources may be selected
- For product information – you can begin to investigate on your own about the product and when asking questions, you will find more knowledge stars to assist you.
- For timelines – seek out all stakeholders to find out specific dates and confirm that each stakeholder is aware of what the dates are; coordinate with them to ensure accuracy of timelines.
- For the scope of the project and the path that it will take to be completed; ask and confirm this in writing to all stakeholders; specifically managers, and clients. They will notify you with any inaccuracies.
- For maintaining accuracy – the Technical Communicator has to be flexible enough to stay on top of all changes. Set up a system to track changes. Changes include and are not limited to updates to the application/product, The Technical Communicator also has to stay close to and be aware of changes regarding SMEs, management, resources, timelines, etc.
- For security issues – check with your managers and IT personnel and question them about confidentiality, maintenance, issues, protocols, archives, contingency plans, etc.
- For marketing – seek out all marketing stakeholders and ask about any training or documentation (user’s guide, training manuals, advertising material) needed or previously used.
- For Policies and Procedures – seek out your HR personnel and also include these as questions when gathering your information from other employees involved in ensuring control over processes, giving directions, setting standards and following them. In other words, maintaining compliance or preserving requirements. Make sure all the rules or guidelines are uniform and consistent. Also check the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) guide. It’s possible that what you seek has already been written in an existing document.
- For day-to-day information – a really good resource is your Customer service personnel. They are directly involved with the customer and have dealt with problems and resolutions. A lot can be learned from them.
The approach I like best is to create your own brain-storming sessions. How have you been able to seek out your knowledge holders? Please leave a comment.