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Subject Matter Experts: 4 Steps for Sharing Documents with SMEs

One of the biggest struggles that I witness with new learning development teams is how documents and resources are stored, managed, and shared between team members. In most cases it ends up being a steady stream of emails back and forth that become unwieldy. This often results in emails being missed, documents being lost, and everyone being confused. However, there are lots of things that you can do in order to eliminate these kinds of team concerns.

Here are my top four steps for successfully sharing documents with SMEs.

1. Define Roles – In my previous blog, The 5 Keys to SME Onboarding, I shared the importance of making sure that you define clear roles for everyone on the team. It may not be initially obvious, but document storage is a task that really benefits from making sure that everyone has a defined role. Some people will be managers of content and will need access to everything. Designers will also need access to most documentation, but they may not need access to high level budget or timeline information. Subject Matter Experts will also need to access documents, but maybe they only need to be able to view them and not edit them. These are the kinds of things that need to be clearly defined at the beginning of the project. For each role you need to be able to determine:

  • Which documents do they need access to?

  • What should they be able to do with documents? (Create, Edit, View, Upload, etc.)

2. Select a Repository – There are lots of tools out there that can be used as repositories. These may be as simple as online tools such as Box or Google Drive. However, they can be more complex like SharePoint, Teams, or Shared Drives. The tool that you use will most likely be determined by the organization. But I have seen many instances where a company has both Box and SharePoint, and you have to choose which one works best for you. You may want to consider things like ease of creation, ability for all members to access, and security protocols when choosing your tool.

3. Build the Repository – Now that you have a location you will need to build your repository. There are several things that you will need to do here.

  • Build Roles – Remember earlier when I said you need to define roles? This is where it comes into play. If the tool you are using allows roles you will need to set them up. This includes identifying the type of access that each member has.

  • Invite Team – You then need to invite all the team members to the repository and assign them the correct roles or access levels.

  • Create a Structure – I’ll cover this in more depth in a future blog, but this is really important. The structure of the repository will make or break how successful it is. Things like creating file naming conventions and having a defined folder structure is essential to organization of your documents.

4. Do Housecleaning – No, I’m not talking about brooms and mops, but I am talking about keeping your repository neat and tidy. Even with a logical file structure you will have duplicate files or documents that are placed incorrectly. It is important to go in and periodically clean up. Move folders to the correct location and archive old documents that may no longer be needed.

In Summary

As an Instructional Design Consultant, you may not feel like you have much control over how an organization organizes their documents and resources, but I encourage you to go out on a limb and emphasize the importance of having a well-organized document repository. The little effort that it takes to plan and maintain will make life easier for you and your SMEs.

To find out more about the BCR SME Onboarding Approach, email me at

#SME, #SubjectMatterExperts, #Communication, #SMEs, #Collaboration, #Teams

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