Question: What is the differences between a subject matter expert (SME) and a business analyst (BA)?
A business analyst is responsible for the deliverables of a project – the beginning, middle, and end. She/he is also responsible for many areas of the project – the scope assessment, risk assessment, mapping, business cases, use cases, and business process documentation. 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.
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 BAs miss.
SMEs are invaluable resources 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. I often include SMEs in my weekly meetings so that they are current in where we are, and then one-on-one sessions to validate documentation and answer questions.