If you’re a designer or PM developing products in a specialized domain (e.g. healthcare, gov, science...), working effectively with internal subject matter experts is an essential skill. Some key principles I teach my clients & teams: 1/
If a SME is also a user, their job is to help the team understand key concepts good practices, NOT to solely “represent” users. Their proximity to the product & (usually greater) expertise make them a little weird. 2/
If a SME feels their influence is threatened by user research, it often helps to point out their unusual level of knowledge & also invite them along to observe & help you get more nuance from interviews. 3/
Sometimes an app is trying to replicate what a SME does for end users, e.g. medical treatment or IT troubleshooting. Those SMEs can’t really tell you how to design the app. Focus on understanding what they do, how they do it, and why. 4/
These SMEs can feel threatened by being “replaced.” Help them see that software is good at the repetitive parts, which frees them up to do the interesting bits. 5/
Don’t rely on SMEs to give you useful. Extracting the most useful information is your job. 6/
Always talk with multiple SMEs, because one may be quirky. Talk to them together, because their disagreements are good at illuminating where good system behavior depends on circumstances. 7/
It’s important to ask SMEs why things are done <this> way vs. <that> way so you can understand what assumptions are made, but at a certain point you need to trust their knowledge; trying to understand every detail is a waste of their time & yours. 8/
When SMEs suggest product solutions, treat these as opportunities to dig deeper. What user problem does that solve? Under what conditions is that useful...or not useful? 9/
No doubt there are more—feel free to add your own! SMEs are incredibly valuable team members. You (and they) will benefit if you make the best use of their time. /end (I think)
Also: SMEs get *really* distracted by bad fake data in sketches. Use just enough detail to get the point across, so you don’t have a lengthy discussion about how the patient should be dead or the airplane would have crashed.

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More from @kimgoodwin

20 Apr 20
I’ve been coaching lots of folks on updating their resumes these days. A few tips from a hiring manager’s perspective: (1) Lead with what impact you had in each job. Increased revenue 5%? Saved 4 months of effort? This tells me you’re able to get things done. (1/?)
2. Describe the skills you used to accomplish that, starting with what’s generalizable. Don’t tell me you adhered to FDA process XYZ; tell me you figured out and addressed exacting regulatory requirements (such as FDA XYZ). If I’m not in your industry, that means more. (2/?)
3. Focus your CV on showing you have the skills to do the job you want; don’t just list every irrelevant responsibility you’ve ever had. Your aim is to help me imagine you filling the open positions I have. (3/?)
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