As we can see that in the modern world, the use of computer has extended to each and every part of business. Different software systems are used at different businesses and different levels in these businesses. There is always a greater need to understand the requirements of the business software users and update or replace the current software systems based on these requirements. So as a business analyst, we have to collect data from the software users about their expectations from the software systems that they are using. In other words we have to identify the problems related to the use of software by the IT staff and then identify feasible solutions in the light of these identified problems. We can safely say that the work of a business analyst is throughout the business development process because he/she has to be in contact with the software users as well the business plan developers to identify the needs of the software users and convey it to the business developers so that they are able to reflect the requirements of the IT staff in the software systems that they acquire or if they update the existing systems. System analyst has to play a greater role in the IT project development.
There are a variety of skills that a business analyst must poses. Most of these skills can be learned at an educational institutions, at least in theory. But a mastery of these skills comes with time and experience. Following is a brief discussion of the variety of skills that a business analyst should strive to master in.
The business analyst should be able to do system analysis and design for business processes. He/she should be able to process different modeling techniques. Visio and Enterprise Architect are two modeling techniques that I know of which are very useful to learn. A system analysis should also be able to know different project management software, MS Project being one example.
Apart from the above technical skills, a system analyst should be trying his/her best to learn and improve the management skills like communication, time management, conflict resolution skills and know-how of the industrial processes. Management skills, like the technical skills can be learned in universities but they improve with time while working as a member of different business teams and groups. Working as a part of a team is not only necessary to improve management skills but also it is important to learn and improve the technical skills necessary for a business analyst.
The function of a system analyst is just like an architect but the system analyst makes designs software instead of designing buildings. A system analyst is a computer expert who designs a computer information system for an organization. This information systems is designed keeping in view the requirements of the different aspects of the business and the staff under consideration. The staff is contacted by a system analyst and they identify different needs and problems that they want to be addressed by the system analyst during the design of the computer information system. The system analyst is then responsible to design a computer information system that has a productive outcome when it is used in different IT related activities in the organization that it has been developed for. The computer analyst might be asked to update or replace a current information system to a new one to be more productive. In this case the system analyst does a thorough analysis of why the current information system is not fulfilling the requirements of the business. From this analysis he/she comes to some conclusions that can be helpful when a decision is made about the kind of updates or replacement that will be performed to the information system of the organization.
Collaboration is when two firms or individuals come together under some terms and condition to combine their resources to achieve a collective defined goal. Usually one party is reached out by the other party to negotiate a deal related to a collaborative effort to achieve higher goals. System analyst use a five step process in the progress of a collaboration. The five steps are as follows.
- A right choice of collaboration is made. The parties look for the type of collaboration like open collaboration, vertical collaboration, forward collaboration or a horizontal collaboration.
- A permission is sought from the higher ups in an organization. The permission is asked from the board of governors or the CEOs. This is very important as the higher administration has to be kept informed about the nature and purpose of the collaboration.
- In order to get the collaboration going in the forward practical direction, a proper process is defines and the steps of the process are kept flexible so that adjustments are possible.
- A good amount of time should be spent on brainstorming the action plan related to the collaboration process. Nothing should be decided between the two parties in a hurry.
- Both parties set together and discuss different aspects of collaboration and how it can be converted into competitive edge.
There are many things that we want to do in our life but we don’t know the exact path to follow and hence we are left behind. Thanks to scientist and researchers in different fields, there are many philosophical and technological tools available that help us on improving our intrinsic management skills related to work place, also the technological skills have made it possible to improve the levels of productivity in any organization. We can take the example of an email. It used to be very difficult to reach out to employs when they were not around in order to provide them with paper documents that they could take a look at before the meeting or a presentation. That excuse has largely been overcome by the email facility. Now anyone can be reached out with any kind of documents with the help of an attachment to the emails.
For my personal improvement I usually do a SWOT analysis of myself. It provides me with an opportunity to brainstorm my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I can then work on all these variables and come up with solutions or ask for guidance from professionals. I could have done the whole brainstorming without SWAT, but it would not be as to the point as it is with the help of SWAT analysis.
I believe that without properly defining a problem it is impossible to find a solution to the problem. The very definition of the problem is in itself a way forward to the solution. A problem can be defined and tackled in the following simple steps.
- There are many symptoms of a problem but our focus should be on the proper identification of the problem. In the first step we collect all the relevant information that are somehow related to causing the problem. Over here we find the relevant thing and fill in the missing gaps.
- Get help from other relevant people. Find out if the problem has occurred in the past and if it did, how it was tackled. If there is anything that is not clear or can be understood by yourself, ask for others to assist.
- Confirm the finding of the above steps. Ask yourself questions about the plausible causes of the problem. It is pertinent to differentiate what the problem actually is from what it is not. This is the key towards the solution of the problem.
Identify the problem, its timing and its magnitude. With this set of information it is easy to understand the problem and plausible solutions.
There are two important aspects of a system design by the business analyst. First is the set of requirements by the users and the second is the relevant information. When the business analyst has both of these data, he/she can successfully design and implement a new design. There are many customers and stakeholders in case of a business. It is important to assess their needs that would lead, coupled with all the necessary information, towards the new system design. The gathering of information is also not an easy task. Information has to be gathered with proper scientific data gathering tools so that it is useful in the design process. We cannot omit the proper understanding of the needs of the customers and the stakeholders. We need to understand their needs and requirements in the light of the information that we have gathered.
The customers and the stakeholders are not always filly aware of what they want. They do have rough ideas but not exact image of their needs. This is the work of the business analyst to understand and identify these hidden needs with the help of the information that has been gathered. This will help in a productive design that will fulfil the organizational need and satisfy the customers and the stakeholders.
A business analyst is driven by the goal of productivity for the organization that he is a part of. It is a tricky question to relate productivity to the overall goals and mission statement of the organization. This sometimes seems unrealistic to follow the goal while not compromising on the quality of service and the mission statement. For example a call center might promise it to be their mission to not keep their customers on hold on longer delays but then they have less staff and they have to keep their customers on delay. In my opinion, business analyst is in a tricky situation as he/she is not in a position to hire more people to the customer assistance desks as it is not in his/her power. So what can be done? I think that the business analyst has to somehow design a system that can keep the customers entertained on the phone when there are longer than expected delays. This is how he/she will be able to not lose the customers and at the same time serve the organizational goals of serving their customers to a certain level of satisfaction. There could be other solutions that can be devised by the business analyst depending on the circumstances the organization is operating in.
System analysis is a complex process. We are not 100$ sure if the analysis made will lead to a perfect solutions. What we can do is predict the durability of the analysis process. To do analysis and then design systems, we need to understand the needs in the form of a problem analysis process. When the problem is analyzed properly then we can go further and work on the analysis of the design itself that will meet all the requirements of the organization, stakeholders and the customers. The analysis process require proper research and information gathering from reliable sources. Proper time should be allocated to this process.
For example we decide to make an iPhone App for our customers that will guide them to live healthy with the help of exercise and proper diet. For this purpose we have to first do a research about what the scientific world say about health living. Then we have to do an analysis of what the potential customer market perceive as healthy living. Only then can we be able to analyze the problem of healthy living and then design an App for it. The design will then incorporate the requirements of the customers and the scientific research about healthy living.
There is always a need to understand the psychology of the end users who will be using the product that is being produced. The end users don’t want to be handed with a product that is difficult to use or to understand. In our daily business activities when we are analyzing different systems and their design, we go on collecting and creating documents. These document end up to be piles of information. The problems is sometimes identified in very complex ways. Hence it leads to unnecessary complex solutions.
What the customers want is reliability and user friendliness. They don’t want to be handed over with solutions that have problems inherited. For example we can see that the main source of the Apple iPhone success was its user friendliness. There were many more established mobile phone companies but Apple came up with the IOS operating system for its users that was easy and fun to use. More and more customers adopted to the use of iPhones because the adaptation process was very easy. In comparison, the other companies were adding more features to their mobile devices but these features were not easy to be managed by an ordinary users. In other words you had to learn to use their new features.
When the software system is designed, a prototype or a beta version is presented to a sample of the customers or the end users to be tested for the functions that the software has been designed. Obviously the whole designing of the software is based on the needs of the people who will use it, keeping in mind the profits it would bring into the company. The end users use the system and keep on noting any bugs that they might encounter during the process. They also inform the analysts about what is missing that was expected of the developed system. The analysts then gather all the information they get from the end users and go back into designing or amending the system to be equipped with the full requirements of the end users and be bug and error free. The feedback from the end users is very necessary. It is them who will be using the system once fully developed. So they have to be contacted to suggest improvements. Their needs have to be addressed for a successful system design. Also it is important to understand their needs in technical terms to come up with plausible solutions. A satisfied customer is what we want.
There are as many opportunities for a business analyst as much there are types of businesses. Gone are the days when businesses had no proper models and defined operational activities. We live in a competitive world and businesses have to reach perfection to remain a player in the competition. A business analyst helps businesses in analyzing its business processes and integrating different business activities with technology. This is a broader utility of the business analyst. So he/she can work in a manufacturing firm analyzing its processes and getting technology involved to address the needs of the end users. The analyst can well be a part of a financial firm and serve as a person who can introduce new software systems or suggest updates to the new systems to improve the business processes of the financial organization. A business analyst can be well part of a marketing agency finding new ways of improve the marketing services up to the level of customer satisfaction. These are just a few examples of how a business analyst can serve in a variety of organizations. The opportunities are endless. But the business analyst must also be theoretically and practically aware of the different functions that are expected of him/her. He/she must have the necessary technical skills to be successful in the competitive market out there.