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Making Your SME Smile

The first elicitation session on a new project, in unchartered territory with a new Subject Matter Expert (SME), can be challenging. You must ask questions and facilitate conversation to chip away at the business problem.  Seven weeks ago, I began a series of “elicitation sessions” in a brand new topic- motherhood. Unfortunately, my little SME couldn’t verbally articulate his needs. And so, I had to present him with a selection of options to make him happy. You cannot elicit any response- positive or negative- without a solution.

Beginning a new project as an analyst and determining the ultimate goal of the SME and stakeholder successfully begins by presenting strawman documents. “Does this approach and solution seem correct?” You enter the conversation with a solution, even if it is the incorrect one.

When I approach my son to solve a crying fit, I don’t go empty handed. The first approach is typically a bottle. When he rejects this solution, I know it’s time to change the approach. His continued crying tells me that my suggestion does not appease him.

Similarly, with a SME, you- the analyst- must get the conversation flowing. A lack of initial documents and questions can lead to a long, drawn out elicitation session. I would be wasting valuable time if I walked up to my son and waited for him to tell me what he wants. Saving a SME’s time and cutting scope begins with the analyst’s strawman documents.

Now in our seventh week of “elicitation and facilitation,” my son and I have an easier method of communication. Because we ran the gamut of solutions during his first weeks of intensive crying fits, I have streamlined my approach to him and recognize what he is asking for. In conversing with your SME, take the first trial and error elicitation sessions and apply your new understanding to the ultimate solution. While sometimes all my son needs is a pacifier, a SME may just need a few first draft models to satiate any confusion and jumpstart a calming solution.

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