A system analyst is responsible for analyzing, designing and implementing systems to fulfill organizational needs. He/she plays a vital role in making operational the management information system. The role of the system analyst has however changed.
The role of the analyst has however changed with time. Now a system analyst is seen more as a change agent responsible for delivering value to an organization on its investments in management information systems (that includes a heavy dose of information communication technology investment). A dictionary definition of a system analyst (as per Random House Dictionary) defines it as, ‘a person who conducts a methodical study and evaluation of an activity such as business to identify its desired objectives in order to determine procedures by which these objectives can be gained.
An organization requires system analysts as line managers normally do not have an understanding of the kind of information-based solutions that are possible for their business problems. A system analysts bridges this gap as he/she is has a thorough knowledge of both the business systems and business processes. A system analyst is therefore in a position to provide information system based solutions to organizations after having studied the problem that the organization is facing. They understand both business and technology. They study a business problem or opportunity and devise an information system enabled solution for it by detailing the information system specifications. This set of specification that the analyst delivers is in a technical format which is easily understandable to a technical (IT) specialist. The technical specialist might not understand the business issue, if it comes directly from the line managers as he has very little knowledge of business processes. The system analyst then bridges the gap between the two by translating and transforming the business problem/opportunity into a information systems solution and supplying the specification of such a system to the technologist who can then take up the task and build the actual system.
This may sound very easy but it is actually not an easy task. In most cases, the analyst works as a change agent. When devising a solution, the analyst does not restrict him/ her to the immediate problem/opportunity at hand but also focuses on the future. This requires that an analyst suggest some changes in the process of doing business to bring in greater efficiency in future. Inevitably, the process of creating an information systems enabled solution is coupled with the activity of business process reengineering through which change is brought in. The analyst uses the opportunity of devising a solution to bring in change and make the organization more efficient. Thus, a system analyst may also be considered as a change agent.
As we have pointed out in the previous section, the role of the analyst encompasses both the business and technology domain. In addition, the analyst also works, as a change agent hence the work of an analyst not only requires very good understanding of technical knowledge but also of business and interpersonal skills.
The interpersonal skills required by a system analyst are:
- Communication: The analyst needs to be a very good communicator to understand and communicate to the user group as well as to the1echnical specialists. Sometimes the users may not be able to communicate their needs fully to the analyst, but the analyst must be able to understand their needs from incomplete communication of the users.
- Foresightedness and vision: The analyst must have foresight and vision, so that they can factor in the future requirement of the users even if they have not factored that in the design. The analyst must also have vision with regard to the technological changes. He/she must be able to predict where the business needs and technological capabilities/constraints will be in the future. They should also clearly communicate that the design holds good not only for the short term but also the long term.
- Adaptability and flexibility skills: The analyst may be new to the environment of the particular business but he/she has to be quick on the uptake and adapt fast to the culture and environment of the organization. Some flexibility in the understanding of problems is also required along with the flexibility to come up with alternative solutions.
- Selling: The analyst needs to have flair to sell their ideas and solutions to the users. Sometimes this may be difficult as the users and clients might not know what solution will serve them best. The analyst needs to employ his selling skills to convince the users on the suitability of a solution.
- Patience and rationality: The analyst needs to be patient and rational so that he/she do not rush to a solution. If they make haste then they might miss critical information about the problem/opportunity and end up promoting a wrong solution for the users. Rationality is also a virtue for the system analyst, as this will help them in analyzing the problem/opportunity with a clear mind without prejudice.
- Sound temperament: The analyst needs to remain calm in the face of adverse situations. Most of the time the critical data that the analyst seeks is hard to come by and may be late in coming. The analyst will have to put up with all this and be clam in such situations. Thus, the temperament that he exhibits will help him in devising an appropriate solution for the client.
- Management skills: These skills are an absolute necessity for any analyst. The system analyst has to deliver in spite of several constraints hence they must have good management skills to manage time and resources at their disposal. The particular management skills that they need to have are:
- Time management skills. This will help them adhere to the strict schedules of the task.
- Project management skills. This will help them manage the project within the boundaries of time and cost.
- Man management skills. The analyst will need human resource skills so that they can manage people working under him. This skill will also help them to connect to people in the client organization so that there is greater acceptability for their solutions.
- Team management skills. The analyst must be a team player. They have to work in a team and they should ensure smooth team functioning.
- Organizing and directing skills. These are basic managerial skills that the analyst must have to conduct the analysis properly.
- Negotiation skills. The analyst should be a good negotiator to get his way around for the purposes of selling his solution and to get the relevant data from the client.
- Leadership quality: The analyst must exhibit leadership and take initiative to understand issues pertaining to the organization and its line of business in a proactive manner so that they are well aware of the associated issues of the problem/opportunity as well.
- Training and documentation capability: The analyst needs to be a good trainer as they may be called upon to enhance the capacities of the users. Their documentation skills will also have to be good, as without those skills the communication with the technical team will remain incomplete.
- Presentation skills: The analyst must have good presentation skills that will help him to communicate better.
- The technical skills required by the system analyst are:
- Creativity: This skill will ensure that the analyst can give the users novel technical solutions for the same problem.
- Problem solving: This skill will help the analyst form a systems approach to problem solving so that they are able to structure a problem even when there is none.
- Technical knowledge: The analyst needs to have concrete knowledge in the technical domain so that they are able to generate alternative solutions to problem. Without the technical know how they will not be able to develop the solution. The analyst must also have a broad knowledge of the entire technical domain. The broad spectrum of knowledge will help them be flexible in their solution approach and will ensure that they have a better understanding of the future of technologies.