Five types of Small and Medium Enterprises

While SMEs have a wide variety of roles in society at large, in the context of training they play roles that require our attention and emphasis. We categorize them into five groups for our purposes: technical, hybrid, instructional, functional, and sentinel SMEs. Each of these categories has distinctive qualities and makes a particular contribution to our job. The fact that not all SMEs are made equally gives trainers a distinct advantage.

1. Technical SMEs

The technical SME comes first among our SME classifications. This group is mainly concerned with technical material and isn't particularly involved with or worried about other areas of the instructional design process, like execution. Technical SMEs are included in the process to give content understanding and ensure that all content-related details are accurate. These SMEs frequently collaborate in teams, and the bigger the project, the more of these specialists you may anticipate being involved.

Technical SMEs include, among others, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) representatives, engineers, scientists, lawyers, doctors, and skilled tradespeople. This group is anticipated to have shown expertise in the subject matter, and the SMEs in this group typically hold credentials such as certifications, degrees, or others. These SMEs typically have certifications, degrees, or other professional status, and it is expected of them to have demonstrated expertise in the subject matter.

2. Hybrid SMEs 

This particular SME type represents a person who possesses both implementation and content expertise. These SMEs are expected to offer assistance with both the course or program's content and the most effective means to deliver it. Naturally, this implies a high level of documented experience in both fields.

This combination is generally, but not always, a very positive thing, but there are several exceptions that you need to be aware of as you evaluate a SME's credentials. If you are building online college courses, for instance, a college professor who has never taught or created a course for online implementation may not be a good fit for both content and implementation experience.

A SME's combination of in-depth subject knowledge and lack of relevant implementation competence might be a source of conflict while planning implementation because his or her opinions about online course design are likely to differ from those of the more seasoned design team members. In these circumstances, use caution.

3. Instructional SMEs 

The category of instructional subject matter experts also includes the positions of facilitator, mentor, coach, and teacher. Although this group may have some experience in the topic matter, its main responsibility is to improve the instructional components of the training as it is being implemented. A technical course will probably be taught by a person who is not involved in the conception, development, or management of the training. It is frequently beneficial to have this group's opinion on how to implement the lesson plan.

A instructor who has extensive expertise teaching online courses but lacks knowledge of the pertinent subject matter is an example of an instructional SMEs. In addition, there are many competent trades instructors with expertise who can help with course development for classroom and shop-level implementation. These two professionals bring a great deal of value to the course design process.

4. Functional SMEs

Within your design team, you often have experts in areas who are not content or implementation related, but are nonetheless vital to your project. This might include programmers, software designers, photographers, artists, writers, and a wealth of other non-content expertise. In most cases, we don’t consider these valuable assets as SMEs, but they are in every way subject matter experts in their professions. To treat them in the same manner as our content experts will almost always work to the design team’s advantage.

5. Sentinel SMEs

The last category of SMEs is allocated for people in our world who manage and oversee many of our initiatives but may have less current or dated subject matter knowledge. These sentinel SMEs frequently serve on oversight or technical committees, or they may be high-ranking organizational leaders, members of grant committees, or governing boards. They might not be directly adding to the material, but they could nevertheless feel obligated to comment on certain aspects of the technical side of a given topic area.

Sentinel SMEs could assess courses and programs and hope that their expertise would affect the decisions made about the content.

Do not fall into the trap of believing that one person can only fulfill one SME job in your company when you identify the various sorts of SMEs at work. There are a select few gifted people who can make contributions in a variety of ways. To make the most of their abilities, just make sure you have established their duties in each circumstance.