Over the past few years, the process of custom content development has changed drastically. In its early years, content development was a simple process primarily because most of the information that was needed for developing learning or training content was available on the Internet. Content developers just had to conduct a simple search on the Internet, download all the relevant content, run it through a make-over process, package it neatly, and ship it to the customer on time. Subject matter experts (SMEs) played a marginal role in this process. In contrast, content developers today have to depend heavily on SMEs as the specialized information that they seek is no longer easy to procure. The growing need for customized learning or training content has made the developer’s task rather difficult. More and more organizations are now looking for training programs that are “customized” in every sense of the word. Developers therefore have to be in constant touch with SMEs to tailor training content to the needs of specific groups of employees, keeping in mind the niche areas where employees need to be up-skilled,..
The high dependency on SMEs has posed a new challenge for organizations involved in developing custom content for their customers. Extracting relevant information from SMEs is both arduous and time-consuming. It usually delays the release of training programs, which may have serious repercussions for the organization. Such delays may carry financial penalties or may cause customer dissatisfaction.
This article focuses on the two most common issues that development teams normally face while interacting with SMEs. It also provides a few suggestions on how these issues can be resolved.
The suggestions proposed here are based on the author’s experience and may not be applicable to all scenarios.
Problem No. 1: The SME does not have time
More often than not, delays in releasing learning or training content are attributed to the inability of the SME to devote sufficient time to the issues faced by content developers. To resolve this problem, it is imperative to know what is meant by “sufficient” time. The required amount of SME time should be communicated to the customer stakeholders as early as possible, that is, while proposing the engagement model. This measure will help gauge management commitment to providing SME time. It will also enable the organization to appropriately plan for project commercials. In addition, the SME turn-around-time (TAT) must be incorporated in the project plan to ensure that all timelines and delays are tracked.
Insufficient SME time may well be the key reason why organizations decide to hire vendors to develop training programs. In this scenario, it would be advisable to place a resource at the customer location who could “steal” additional windows of time from the SME so that the project is completed on time. Alternately, an internal SME can be hired and trained at the beginning of the project. This step will take some burden off the customer SME and reduce review iterations.
Problem No. 2: I am doing what I am paid to do
In some cases, SME time may not be the real issue. The problem may be related to the degree of willingness of SMEs to share information with content developers. In such cases, the question “What’s in it for me?” has to be answered precisely and carefully.
In such a scenario, the vendor organization needs to understand the perspective of both the customer management and the SME. For the management, leveraging SME’s knowledge in developing training programs is a way to creating a knowledge repository and building redundancy in the system. For the SME, it is additional work.
It is advisable to keep both the parties happy by giving brownie points to SMEs in their appraisal process for assisting in the development of training programs.
In today’s era of rapid technological change, the demand for specialists who can operate and manage new emerging technologies is increasing in leaps and bounds. Needless to say, this demand can be met only with efficient and timely training, and to create effective training programs, we need sufficient SME time. Are we back to square one?