Subject: SMEs
From: Lisa Higgins <lisa -at- DRDDO1 -dot- EI -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 13:43:46 +0000

I've worked at lots of companies. How cooperative your SMEs are
depends a lot on how the company in question treats its TWs. If the
company doesn't respect your work, odds are your SMEs won't either.

I've used just about every technique mentioned in this thread, except
for the "telling on them" one. I always try to figure out just what I
need to ask and go to my expert with a minimum of well thought-out,
direct, unambiguous questions. I also pass out candy, praise, and
quarters as necessary.

My absolute worst SME experience was during a contract in which I was
hired to document software and processes for a hostile takeover. My
SMEs were all people who'd been canned by the company that had bought
them out, and I was supposed to document thirty years' worth of
spaghetti code and processes passed down in the oral tradition before
all the old people left, to be replaced by new people from out of
state. (I know. This was a horrible thing, but it was a horrible year
for tech writers, and I needed to feed my kid.)

So I told jokes, I helped people with contacts for future jobs, gave
out hard-earned "how to survive unemployment" advice, went out for
lunch, and yes, drank beer and shot pool (Oh, poor me! The indignities
I've suffered!)

Now, I should say that if I hadn't enjoyed the company of my SMEs, I
wouldn't have gone barhopping with them, but each case is different.
Figure out if they're phone or email people, chatters or strictly
business, etc., then approach them as such to the extent that you're
comfortable doing so.

There's one guy here who's amazingly receptive if you just hand him a
quarter before you ask a question. Once you've told someone's manager
what a great help they were on project x, they're going to be much
more receptive to project y.

Very rarely do you actually have to get your SMEs drunk, but if you
do, make sure you verify your information later, when they're sober.


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