Advice to Subject Matter Experts, Part II

Tips for Working with Your Content Developer

Note: While this blog specifically addresses working with instructional designers, this applies to subject matter experts who work with writers and content developers for any purpose – marketing, sales, you-name-it.

Last week, we discussed a few ways you can prepare your instructional designer or writer for creating materials in your area of expertise before you start the writing process. This week, let’s discuss a few good practices to keep the process on track.

While it is an instructional designer’s job – or his manager’s job – to assemble questions, propose an interview and review schedule that process may not always happen flawlessly. Even if it does, it helps for you to be aware that you can make contributions to the successful completion of a training program by keeping a few simple rules in mind.

Tips for Working with Your Training Designer

  1. Organization of the Material – If there are steps or a process to your information, put them in a logical sequence. Nobody understands the context of the material better than you and that includes the ID.
  2. Timeliness – Be available for interviews and do reviews on time.
  3. Scheduling Conflicts – Anticipate and avoid scheduling conflicts. This seems obvious, but you will find that sometimes your regular work may directly conflict with meeting your SME obligation. If you are in a job where this can occur, plan for this contingency. For example, ask the ID if you can work ahead on your deadline for your review, comments and sign-offs. The ID, and probably also a graphic designer, computer programmer, project manager and an editor – at the very least – have their work scheduled around your deadline, too. Time is money all the way around.
  4. Accuracy – Provide the information requested and double-check to make sure it is correct when you get drafts of the program (and yes, you may receive more than one!). This seems simple enough and may even seem insulting to mention, but it wouldn’t be here if failure to check information didn’t happen.
  5. Sign-Offs – Sign off at pre-agreed checkpoints, and make sure you have checked the accuracy of the information when you do. If you are working with a contract ID from outside your company, there is probably a contract in place between the training organization and your company that makes your company responsible for content after you affix your signature to it. It will cost your company if a project goes into overruns for corrections at which time you will meet the infamous Scope Creep.
  6. Blind Spots – We all have them. Frequently, we develop blind spots as a result of our success; failures are more likely to call us up short and require us to be careful and thorough. Because you are the SME, let’s assume you’ve met with a lot of success in your life, and that makes you vulnerable to blind spots. Think through the eyes of a novice when you are explaining details to your ID. It is obvious to you to click “enter” after an entry, but it may not be so obvious to the new kid.


What are some other best practices you have found for working with content developers?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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