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Accepting the Moniker of Subject Matter Expert: The Onus of Expertise

COMMENTARY

By Rebecca Winston, JD, PMI Fellow

Idaho, USA
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Over the years the entitling by others or oneself by the title “Subject Matter Expert” has caused some concern.  The concern was not because the title may not have been deserved in many instances for a range of the subject, but the concern was what the true criteria for such a designation was or should be.

The title seems to be tossed around easily and without much consideration from one forum to another.  Thus another issue arises:  are all forums created equal and thus the designation of “subject matter expert” equal.  The issue is important, since it seems once one has been crowned with such a title, it sticks.

Is there an expiration date that accompanies the title “subject matter expert”?  The issue with this point is that very few areas of knowledge are static.  Individuals are continually striving to study and learn more and more about various aspects in the areas known as the knowledge areas.  If a person deemed to be a subject matter expert does not continue to grow his or her knowledge as it grows within the profession or area of application, how can one continue with the title?

Should one be a “subject matter expert” within a designated sphere such as an industry or a select group of industries or should one be a subject matter expert for a given knowledge area or practice area?  Can one be known broadly as a subject matter expert with knowledge only gathered from one industry, from one organization?

Is there a time requirement for one to acquire knowledge to be considered a subject matter expert?  Does the time requirement apply to each area of expertise claimed?

Who has the duty to review the qualifications for using the moniker of subject matter expert?  Is it the organization applying the moniker; the person using the title, or both who have the duty to review and maintain the qualifications?   What governs such claims or does it fall into the realm of advertising and can such a claim be used for organizations using subject matter experts, self-proclaimed or proclaimed as such by the organization, for producing items such as standards, guides, programs such as seminars, and other productions?

More…

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About the Author

flag-usarebecca-winston-bioREBECCA WINSTON, JD 

Former Vice-Chair, Chair, Fellow – PMI®

P/PM Consultant to US Government

Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA 

Rebecca (Becky) Winston, Esq., JD, PMI Fellow, is a former Chair of the board of the Project Management Institute (PMI®). An experienced expert on the subject of project management (PM) in the fields of research & development (R&D), energy, environmental restoration and national security, she is well known throughout the United States and globally as a leader in the PM professional world.  Rebecca has over 25 years of experience in program and project management, primarily on programs funded by the US government.  She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska’s College of Law, Juris Doctorate (1980), in Lincoln, Nebraska and has a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree in Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University She is a licensed attorney in the states of Iowa and Nebraska, USA. Active in PMI since 1993, Rebecca Winston helped pioneer PMI’s Specific Interest Groups (SIGs) in the nineties, including the Project Earth and Government SIGs, and was a founder and first co-chair of the Women in Project Management SIG. She served two terms on the PMI board of directors as director at large, Secretary Treasurer, Vice Chair (for two years), and Chair (2002). She was elected a PMI Fellow in 2005.  She is also a member of the American Bar Association and the Association of Female Executives in the United States.   Ms. Winston periodically serves as an advisor to organizations such as the National Nuclear Security Administration (USA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on topics ranging from Program and Project Management to project reviews, risk management and vulnerability assessments. She has extensive recent PM experience in the areas of alternative energy, national defense and security, and has worked closely with local, regional and national officials, including Congress and the Pentagon.  Becky can be contacted at [email protected]