RE: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts

Subject: RE: Interviewing Subject Matter Experts
From: david -dot- locke -at- amd -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 12:56:44 -0500

Sean Brierley said in regards to a conversation with another TW:

> In the case I mention, I think the TW was relying on the SME for pretty
> everything and when I asked why not run the software (and offered to
> it) I was told there was no time to and why bother since the SME approved
> everything.

SMEs only approve the factual accuracy of what is said. If you let the SME
approve more than that you will find your entire department slated for a
layoff, because you are not adding any value. I've always taken the tact
that if I don't improve the document so much that it is obviously better to
the SMEs than they could do themselves, I haven't done my job. They should
be able to see their facts, but not necessarily their content in the
document based on their source.

You should be able to run the software and answer most of the questions you
might have. It's wonderful if you have UMl diagrams and requirements
documents, but ultimately the application itself is a better source than the
design documents, or what a programmer might think the application does.
Sometimes there are bugs they don't know about, and at other times, the
responsibility is distributed and diffuse, so the application's behavior is

In addition, a user will build a conceptual model based on what they find in
the application's interface. This model can diverge wildly from the model
the developers used to build the application. In one application we had, a
user would query a database. But, there was no database. It didn't matter
really. The database provided a good metaphorical basis for describing how
to use the application. It helped that the developers saw the metaphor as
being useful. Still, we would get the occasional comment that there was no
database in the system. We never responded to those comments.



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