SME Review Cycle – Scheduling Duration

Recently I tried researching a question for instructional design project planning. After several different types of searches including trying the ERIC database through a student friend, I realized that there was no real research on this subject. I also realized that if I needed this information, someone else might need it too.

I proceeded to research the information on my own – not using a defensible method of statistical sampling. Instead, I created a lengthy survey on Survey Monkey and asked people all over LinkedIn to answer questions. In return for answering my survey, I shared the survey results with participants.

..but, there are plenty of IDs out there that need this information so I’m going to share it with anyone who finds my blog. So – here is the research topic and the results:

Topic 1 (There are more coming.): Scheduling Subject Matter Expert Review of Materials Duration

Why did I need to know this? I had several reasons:

  • What is a legitimate amount of time to put on the project plan?
  • At what point do you need to start pushing your SME to hurry up?
  • How do I explain the timeline to my project champions with real data?


72 respondents answered my survey.


Question 1 – On average, what duration of time do you schedule on your Instructional Design project plan for subject matter expert reviews of your storyboards or finished product?

Now – what do I mean by duration? That is the number of days or hours that I place on the project plan for the subject matter expert to utilize for his or her review. Does that mean that I think they will need each hour of those days? No. That means that’s how long I think it will take the SME to fit the review into their schedule.

Answer: 71 of the 72 respondents answered the question. I grouped the choices so that I could see trends. The overall winner was 3 to 5 days.  This tracked very well with what I normally place on my plans. (See picture below.)

Question 2 – Next, I asked if IDs were varying this duration based on the type of content that was being reviewed. I asked this because I personally have found that certain content types seem to take forever to get reviewed and involve multiple SMEs to sign off on the content. This was a simple yes / no question. The answer was an overwhelming 90.1% yes.

Almost everyone knows to allow different timelines for different types of content. But what types? That leads to my next question…..

Question 3 – Which types of content require more duration for reviews?  I asked this as a “check all that apply”.

Answer: The answers were spread across most of the choices almost evenly with 2 types of content standing out.  Not surprising to me, the winners (or losers) were Legal compliance courses and courses on Technical Information.  See the chart below.

Comments included under the “other” category included: “My experience is that it relates more to the person and deadline than the content; they’ll make the time if their leadership lets them know it’s expected.” And “This is often client-specific. Sometimes it’s the HR folks who are the holdup. Other times it’s because it’s a product launch and marketing stuff isn’t finalized yet. Legal always takes longer.”

Question 4 – I’ve personally noticed over the years that some job roles are slower to review materials than others. Again I wanted to find out if others have experience this. Quite a few of the respondents experienced the same thing:

Question 5 – Of course, next I asked “what roles?”  I gave a number of roles with a “check all that apply” option. I was a little surprised that the answers seem to be spread out evenly. I can only conclude that in different organizations, different groups are slower to perform reviews. Legal and Compliance seem to be groups that give about half of the respondents trouble – which tracks with my experience as well.

Question 6 – I didn’t feel this survey would be complete without a question about media. I wanted to know if different types of media required different durations for reviews. The respondents indicated that yes – they do allow different amounts of times for different media:

Question 7 – So which types of delivery media take more time? eLearning was the big winner with other technology based media following behind.

I hope this research is helpful to a few fellow Instructional Designers. Look for another blog on the actual hours that it takes the SME to do the review soon.

Leigh Anne Lankford is an instructional designer with 20 years’ experience in the field of HRD. She works as a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros in Atlanta, helping Learning Leaders meet their goals through talented contingent staffing. You can reach Leigh Anne at  

7 Responses to “SME Review Cycle – Scheduling Duration”
  1. Interesting poll. Hope you write more on this topic.

  2. vickisandona says:

    Thanks so much for blogging about this subject. It always feels like a stab in the dark, so good to know I’m on course with others in the field!

  3. Sandra says:

    Thanks for doing this survey. We are in the process of developing a policy and procedure handbook for our SME’s and this information will help us with setting timelines for completion of work.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] are going to be useful form y studies in my Instructional Design field are ileighanne’s blog ( ) in which I can find lots of cool tools for instructional designers, professional development and […]

  2. […] of the results of an extensive LinkedIn Survey I conducted on Subject Matter Expert Reviews:  SME Review Cycle – Scheduling Duration.  I conducted this survey because I couldn’t find any real data on the best way to schedule […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: