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I have begun to wonder recently if it’s time for folks in the technical
communications world to let go of a long and commonly held belief that
technical writers and subject matter experts (SMEs) are mutually exclusive
and always adversarial. I admit I often resort to jabs at this somewhat
nebulous group of people who often appear contrarian in a very Dilbert sort
of way. But I think it’s a stereotype that not only has outlived its
usefulness but also holds professionals back in pursuing an active role in
the top echelons of a business organization.
One of several recent threads on the email discussion
this for me. Kevin McLaughlin’s “The magic tool that everyone
can use without stepping on toes” is somewhat tangential to the question of
what makes a SME, but it did make me realize that as collaboration becomes
more of the corporate norm, and cloud tools actually make this easier, that
a totally separation between SME and technical communicator is a
counterproductive notion. During the course of my career I have become a
SME on a number of different areas (other than communications, mind you),
because of my role as the technical communicator on the project.
It’s a matter of debate as to whether becoming a SME as a result of the
projects you participate in is actually a good idea. Once you know the
product, how it functions, or how it’s supposed to be used, can you really
stand in the user’s shoes effectively? On the other hand, understanding
the role every stakeholder has in product development and delivery presents
strategic opportunities that should not be ignored.
Please feel free to share your own experiences on the SME or not-to-be-SME
issue, or any other technical communication topic: drop us a note via a
comment on this post, or a direct email, or start a new thread on the email
discussion list <http://www.techwr-l.com/rules-expectations.html>.
Enjoy your weekend!
-The gang at TechWhirl
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