How Do a Business Analyst and a Subject-Matter Expert Interact during Different Phases of a Healthcare Project?

Maria Boyarko

Maria Boyarko

Head of the BA Department at Andersen

Business Analysis
Feb 8, 2022
11 minutes to read
  1. Who is an SME?
  2. Peculiarities of direct and remote interaction with an SME
  3. Peculiarities of working with SMEs at different phases of the project
  4. Interaction from the BA’s perspective
  5. Interaction from the SME’s perspective
  6. Conclusion

There are some highly-complex domains, working in which requires an IT Business Analyst (BA) to intensively collaborate with various subject-matter experts (SMEs). What influences the quality of communication (and hence the comprehensiveness of requirements gathering) is the availability of the SME, their involvement in the project, and the project implementation phase. In this article, we will reveal the possible algorithms of interaction between a BA and an SME on a custom software development project by using the example of the Healthcare domain. Despite the references to the medical field, the considered suggestions are also relevant for FinTech, eLearning, Insurance, and Telecommunications.

Who is an SME?

A company’s expertise in the customer's domain is often the determining condition for choosing it as a project executor. A portfolio of delivered IT solutions only helps the customer to understand whether the contractor is able to fulfill their order. The project may require an SME’s help in order to accommodate the specifics of a particular business process.

Requirements for the contractor’s expertise differ depending on the domain and are most often determined by the company's experience in the implementation of certain projects. Speaking about the Healthcare domain, we can roughly divide it into the following three areas:

  • Clinical Medicine
  • Clinical Research
  • Pharma

While looking for a Healthcare Business Analyst or an SME, you can easily find an expert covering the first two areas, but it’s almost impossible to find someone specializing in all the areas. A competent consultation in Clinical Medicine and Clinical Research can be provided by a professional with 5+ years of clinical practice (inpatient practice with oncology, intensive care, and surgery, which are the most saturated with technologies) and participation experience in scientific research.

It is considered an advantage if an SME was a member of scientific circles when studying at university, wrote a thesis, completed postgraduate studies, and has scientific publications. A good candidate speaks English and did internships in advanced countries - without this, their knowledge of modern medicine is not deep enough. It is also an advantage if an SME conducts various first aid courses, gives lectures, writes popular articles, or popularizes medicine on social media.

There may be variations in the requirements for a candidate depending on the project complexity and the SME’s experience.

Peculiarities of direct and remote interaction with an SME

Possible scenario options determine the approaches to solving the challenge under consideration. The narrow focus of a particular company’s business processes may require the involvement of additional specialists to find a suitable IT solution. This creates another challenge - no universal interaction algorithm for various project phases, which requires considering each situation from the standpoint of the existing request.

Remote interaction with an SME. Quite often, a development company faces a situation where the customer, due to the narrow specialization of their business, provides their in-house specialists in order to ensure the comprehensiveness of data gathering. They can act as stakeholders or SMEs, but the guide for interacting with them remains the same:

  • Estimate the SME’s competence. You may deal with a business representative who was previously the end-user of the system. This person might have some idea of user needs, but disconnection from current activities can lead to an insufficient understanding of what is going