Craftsmanship In Business Systems Analysis
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Recently I wrote a paper on the general state of craftsmanship which was
geared more for public consumption as opposed to any specific industry. To my
way of thinking, craftsmanship is a universal concept that touches all
industries, regardless if they are product or service related. This resulted in
a flurry of e-mails to me questioning how it pertains to specific types of work,
including Business Systems Analysis (BSA) which, of course, is applicable but I
question whether we have truly realized craftsmanship in this field.
From the outset, let me say unequivocally that BSA is not a new concept and has
been with us for a long time, actually predating the modern computer era of the
20th century. Prior to this, companies had formal "Systems & Procedures"
departments with analysts focusing on streamlining business processes and
primarily using paper and manual procedures. As tabulating and other office
equipment emerged, they were responsible for their integration into the
business. But as computers were introduced, a new function was devised that
greatly impacted the future of analysts, namely programmers. Slowly but surely
analysts were replaced by programmers. By the end of the Structured
Programming/CASE mania of the 1980's and 90's, BSA was phased out almost to the
point of extinction. In other words, companies were more concerned with
programming as opposed to grappling with enterprise-wide systems. Consequently,
systems were attacked in piecemeal, usually one program at a time, which
resulted in fragmented and disjointed systems, erroneous information, and
redundancy in terms of data resources and work effort. Slowly, companies began
to realize that a higher level person was needed who understood the business and
could engineer integrated systems to serve it. Hence, the rebirth of the
Business Systems Analyst as we understand it today.
Several of today's BSA's came up through the ranks of programming and are
actually programmers in sheep's clothing, and tend to see things only from a
computing point of view. However, there are many others whose roots can be
traced to today's business schools. I view a true Business Systems Analyst as
the intermediary between the end-users and the programming staff. This means
they have the ability to understand both business and technical concepts and
communicate them effectively with both the end-users and the programmers. In
other words, one of the key roles the analyst plays is that of translator.
THE ROLE OF CRAFTSMANSHIP
In my article, I defined craftsmanship as...
"The practice and pursuit of excellence in building/delivering superior work
products by workers."
By this definition, craftsmanship and quality are not synonymous. Whereas
quality is primarily concerned with zero defects, craftsmanship implies a human
trait in "pursuit of excellence." To better describe the concept, I came up with
the following formula:
"Craftsmanship = (Knowledge + Experience + Attitude) X Success"
This itemizes the variables associated with craftsmanship. Before we discuss
"Knowledge," let's consider the others first. "Experience" means the worker has
been able to apply the knowledge he/she has learned, not just once, but
repetitively. "Attitude" addresses the person's sense of professionalism and
dedication to his/her craft, that they possess an intellectual curiosity and
continually strives for improvement. And "Success" means the worker has
demonstrated he/she can produce products to the satisfaction of both the client
and the company he/she works for, not just once but routinely. Regardless of the
person's knowledge, experience and attitude, if the worker cannot successfully
deliver the work product, it is for naught.
To me, the "knowledge" variable is the Achilles' heel to craftsmanship in
Business Systems Analysis. As mentioned earlier, BSA is not a new concept, but
was almost made extinct. Fortunately, it is beginning to rebound and, as part of
its resurrection, the industry is reinventing systems theory with programming
muddying the waters. For example, how BSA is taught at the college level is
certainly not uniform. Sometimes it is taught in the business schools and others
in the computer science schools. Further, how one professor may teach it will
not be the same as the next. I have seen this not just in this country but
overseas as well. In other words, BSA is not yet a teachable science. To qualify
as a science, there needs to be a governing body of knowledge consisting of
proven and accepted concepts and principles. This includes a standardization of
terms in order to avoid a "Tower of Babel" effect. Unfortunately, uniform
standards are few and far between in the BSA field. To illustrate, there are
numerous interpretations of what a system is, or what information is, or even
There are two parts to the "knowledge" variable: initial education/training, and
continuous improvement. In terms of initial education/training, you can either
learn BSA through the "School of Hard Knocks" or from an accredited institution.
I will not digress into the specifics of what a BSA curriculum should include
other than to highlight general areas:
* History of BSA.
* General business courses, including such things as general management,
organizational analysis, work simplification, industrial engineering, industrial
psychology, corporate law, statistics, etc.
* Communications courses; e.g., speech, persuasion, negotiation, corporate and
technical writing, interviewing, etc.
* Basic math to calculate such things as return on investment and cost/benefit
* Project Management.
* Introduction to computer technology (including operations and networking).
* Principles of software design.
* Principles of data base deign.
Aside from the initial education/training, the "Knowledge" variable requires a
program of continuous improvement. This can be done by attending supplemental
training, by reading and researching articles and books, and active
participation in trade groups, such as the International Institute of Business
As an aside, the forerunner of the IIBA was the Association for Systems
Management (ASM) which went defunct back in the 1990's (another indicator of how
BSA almost became extinct).
Certification in a chosen profession is also useful for continuous improvement,
but without an industry accepted body of knowledge it is pointless. And being
certified does not automatically make you a craftsman, but rather it is
indicative of your desire to seek further knowledge and improve yourself.
IMPLEMENTING BSA CRAFTSMANSHIP
In my earlier craftsmanship article, I described how a company should devise a
suitable corporate culture to embrace craftsmanship; to summarize:
* EMPOWERMENT OF THE WORKER to make certain decisions regarding
development of the work product. This involves less micromanagement and more
participation by workers in the planning process. In other words, managing from
the "bottom-up" as opposed to "top-down."
* CREATION OF A MORE DISCIPLINED AND ORGANIZED WORK ENVIRONMENT promoting
a more professional attitude amongst the workers. This includes a corporate
position of zero tolerance in defects and inferior workmanship and the adoption
of standard methodologies thereby defining best practices for
building/delivering work products.
* PROMOTE A PROGRAM OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT to sharpen worker skills.
* ESTABLISHMENT OF THREE CLASSES OF WORKERS to denote the level of
expertise, such as "Apprentices" (novices requiring training), "Intermediate"
(educated and experienced, but not yet expert), and "Master" (expert craftsman).
* ESTABLISH A LINK BETWEEN WORKERS-PRODUCTS-CUSTOMERS to establish a
feedback loop to judge satisfaction with a specific product and to the exact
worker(s) who produced it.
This approach to implementation is just as applicable to BSA as it is to any
There are undoubtedly craftsmen in the BSA industry; people whose companies and
clients have supreme confidence in their ability and trust their expertise
unquestioningly. These are people who should be recognized by the industry in
order to become models for others to emulate.
But the biggest problem with craftsmanship in this industry is the lack of
uniform standards by which we can teach others in a consistent manner. Without
such governing standards, BSA will continue to be viewed more as an art as
opposed to a science, and true craftsmanship in this field will not be realized.
If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate
to send me an e-mail.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm
Harbor, Florida, a management consulting firm specializing in Information
Resource Management (IRM). Mr. Bryce has over 30 years of experience in the
field. He is available for lecturing, training and consulting on an
international basis. His corporate web page is at:
He can be contacted at:
Copyright © 2008 Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-03-06 00:05:11 in Computer Articles