Bringing in the subject experts: a guide

A harmonious team of knowledgeable experts is integral to a project’s success. Each individual will have an array of skills and knowledge to bring to the table. This includes subject-matter experts.

Many project managers and their teams are experienced in working across several different sectors. They are flexible, methodical and they know how to get the job done. However, projects will all have their own technical or informational nuances.

So why bring them in?

Having an expert in the field can significantly reduce the number of problems that crop up, and the time it takes to implement solutions. Subject-matter experts are familiar with the ins and outs of their specific field, and may never have stepped outside it for their entire career. They bring a wealth of ideas to the table, but they will often have a set belief of the best way to get the job done.

For this reason, project managers can be wary of ‘bringing in the experts’. Their inherent bias can often affect the project, as well-oiled process systems are interrupted when an expert objects to the process. But, with some mutual understanding and patience, teams can work together to integrate an expert into the fold.

Respect their knowledge

Nobody likes to have their methods questioned, so joining a new project with an unfamiliar team can be a daunting experience. Even more so when your new team rejects your suggestions off-hand due to a lack of efficiency or a high cost point. While these may be legitimate concerns, it is important to work together to achieve the project aims, and that requires a mutual respect of what your subject-matter expert knows and their background.

By fostering a collaborative relationship from the start of your project, you will quite often experience greater productivity, quality and heightened team morale.

Ask the right questions

While you may be collaborating from the beginning, often subject-matter experts are called in to a project mid-way through, to help with a specific aspect of a broader project. Either way, effective project managers and team members will have done their research and be aware of the potential issues for which they may need expert advice.

The ability to craft clear and succinct questions will diminish the potential for conflict, as the parameters of involvement are clearly marked, and both your team and your expert are fully aware of how you can contribute.

Become equally invested

An expert who comes into an already established team can easily feel alienated, especially if there is tension surrounding their ideas. Project managers should work to make their experts feel like valued team members, and encourage a healthy collaboration process wherever possible.

As Ellen de Vries notes, ‘personal investment from subject-matter experts and building their trust in your adaptation of their subject matter is a crucial’. It will save much time in the review process, as your expert is just as invested in the project’s success.

Effective experts

Incorporating a subject-matter expert into your team can be a rough process. When done effectively, it can boost your chances of success, as your project has expert opinion supporting it. A Graduate Diploma in Project Management can empower you with the skills to create a cohesive and high performing team. Learn more about this program by reaching out to one of RMIT’s Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 701 171. We also offer a graduate certificate in project management