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Who are the Subject Matter Experts and Super Experts in your company? (FAQ #18)

Every company has Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). But great companies also have what I call Super Experts.

Everyone knows who the Super Experts are: They are the people that even the Subject Matter Experts call when they need help making a decision. They are the people that lead executives to seriously wonder, "what do we do if Peter gets hit by a truck?". Super Experts are the "brains" behind key, complex, and high-value decisions.

Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts are the people who make a lot of decisions in a little bit of time. These are microdecisions. SMEs seem to know a lot about a few topics.

SMEs could easily make hundreds or thousands of microdecisions in a day. Yet each decision is a crucial step in a larger process, such as building a product, making a sale, or taking a reservation. And each microdecision is crucial: A mistake at any point in the process will make the entire entire product, service or process defective.

Microdecisions are things like:
  • Is this customer eligible for this particular product?
  • What discounts is this customer entitled to for this particular transaction?
  • What is the commission for this booking?
  • What should I up-sell to this customer?
  • What should I cross-sell to this customer?
  • Do I have all the information I need to save this record in the system?
  • How do I work-around the bug or limitation in the system?
  • Who should we assign as the company contact person for this sale?
  • Does the customer want window or aisle?
  • Does the customer want a double bed or king bed?
  • What credit card does the customer want to use?
Super Experts

Super Experts are the rare individuals who solve the toughest problems in the company. They routinely make complex decisions, and they make it look easy. Their phone is constantly ringing. A Super Expert is the only one in the company who has the knowledge, experience, and expertise to make the right decision every time. Instead of making a hundred microdecisions a day, the Super Expert worries about making one big decision. Super Experts seem to know everything about lots of topics.

Super Experts may only make one decision a day. They may take a few days, or even weeks, to make an final decision. But each decision can save the company millions of dollars. Each decision can determine how thousands of transactions will be handled, and how millions or dollars will recorded in the books.

I'm talking about bottom line decisions... million dollar decisions like:
  • How do we solve this customer's mission critical problem right now?
  • What is our underwiting strategy and policy?
  • How do we design this plant so as to prevent and contain fires?
  • How do we clean up this oil spill?
  • Where should we build the plant?
  • Where should we build the product?
  • Where should we hire the employees?
  • What will our price program structure look like next year?
  • What will our discount policy be next year?
  • What promotions should we run?
  • What do we do to improve improve yields and revenue?
  • Should we create a new legal entity for this deal?
  • What Legal Entity structure should we use for this company?
  • What is the best way to structure this deal?
  • How do we minimize tax and maximize revenue for this contract?
  • What Legal Entity should we use for this contract?
  • How should we record these types of accounting transactions?
  • How do we calculate this quarter's tax provision?
  • What is the best product or right product that we should recommend for this customer situation?
  • How do we troubleshoot this problem?
Who are the Subject Matter Experts and Super Experts in your company?

If you are going to work on a business rules management project, one of the first things you need to do is identify who the true Subject Matter Experts and Super Experts are. You need to work with and elicit knowledge from both types of experts in order to succeed.

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