Can you briefly explain the differences between a subject matter expert and a business analyst?
The Business Analyst Role
While the Business Analyst role can vary widely from one organization to another, typically the business analyst is responsible for the deliverables of a project – the beginning, middle, and end. The business analyst is also responsible for many areas of the project – the scope assessment, risk assessment, process mapping, business cases, use cases, and business process documentation.
The Subject Matter Expert Role
Most Business Analysts are not working within the business that is asking them for help with change or introduction of a new product. This is where your SMEs or subject matter experts come in.
A Subject Matter Expert (or SME) is typically assigned to a project to provide information about how the business works today, or what changes are being requested as part of a project.
They invaluable for understanding how the change will affect the department, and how to introduce change so that it will be received in the most positive way.
How Business Analysts and Subject Matter Experts Work Together
When I am learning about a change in a company, how a department works, how a process works – I want to talk to the SMEs because they know the inner workings of the department from the bottom up.
Often they have started at an entry level position (not always) and worked their way up so that they fully understand how their team works, how the processes work, what works and what doesn’t and the subtle nuances that we as Business Analysts need to be aware of to ensure we don’t miss requirements.
As a Business Analyst, you’ll work closely with your Subject Matter Experts to discover, analyze, and validate the requirements.
- The Business Analyst will be responsible for leading the business analysis process, preparing requirements documentation, and managing change.
- The Subject Matter Expert will review requirements, and may have a role in validating and approving requirements documentation.
Common Career Path: SME to Business Analyst
Because Subject Matter Experts have a detailed understanding of the current business processes and systems, it’s a common career path for a subject matter expert to move into a formal business analyst role. In fact, many business analysts report “falling in” to business analysis after being assigned as a subject matter expert on a major IT project.
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