Who Makes the Best Systems Analysts
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Systems are logical, programming is physical."
- Bryce's Law
Over the last four decades I have met a lot of Systems Analysts in a lot of
different industries. Some impressed me greatly by their knowledge of their
business and the systems they designed, but I have also met a lot of duds along
the way. When I think about the better ones, I consider the attributes they
share which I can narrow down to three areas:
1. They are in-tune with their business. This doesn't necessarily mean they
graduated with a business degree, although some did, but rather they took the
time to study the business and placed themselves in the shoes of the managers,
clerks, and other workers they were charged to support. In other words, they
took the initiative to assimilate the duties and responsibilities of the end
Conversely, the duds tended to take technical solutions and tried to jam it
down people's throats with little thought of the applicability for solving
specific business problems. As a result, personnel in the user departments
tended to resist such technological solutions, even going so far as to sabotage
efforts for its implementation.
2. They can conceptualize and possess an analytical background. Although they
appreciate the need for detail, they are able to think big and look for
pragmatic solutions. In contrast, the duds tend to get sidetracked easily over
3. They possess strong communication skills, both oral and written, allowing
them to effectively interview people, articulate problems and solutions, and be
very persuasive. The duds have trouble communicating at any level.
You'll notice I didn't include a knowledge of technology as an attribute. The
better analysts understand the need for monitoring technology trends, but are
not driven by it. Basically, they understand technology is physical in nature
and changes dynamically. Instead they are more focused on the logical business
problem and how to solve it. In essence, they realize "there is a million and
one ways to skin a cat."
There is an old argument as to who produces the best Analysts: the Business
Schools or the Computer Science Schools. Although I have seen some good people
from both ends of the spectrum, some of the best Analysts I've met do not come
from either school. Instead, I have seen them come from entirely different
backgrounds including Library Science, Music, Engineering, and Mathematics;
disciplines based on a governing science yet allows for the expression of
Frankly, I haven't met too many successful Analysts who graduated from the
ranks of programming as they typically only see things through the eyes of the
computer. They tend to believe the only valid business problems worth solving
are those that can be addressed using the latest technology; everything else is
considered inconsequential. I refer to this as a "tail wagging the dog"
One of the best Analysts I ever met was a young woman from Wisconsin who
worked for a government agency there. This particular agency was trying to
overhaul a major financial system, an effort that stalled after several months
and using quite a few people on the project. To break the logjam, the Director
assigned the young Analyst to the project, but gave her latitude to operate
autonomously. In three months time she had methodically documented the existing
system, noting its strengths and weaknesses, defined the requirements, and
designed a totally new system which was then turned over to programming for
implementation. In other words, she had been able to accomplish in three months
by herself, what the whole project team hadn't been able to do in twice the
amount of time. She was organized, she could conceptualize, and she was
disciplined. After reviewing her work, I asked her about her background. I was
surprised to learn she possessed a degree in music, something she took quite
seriously and claimed helped her in her work. "What was her instrument?" you
might ask; the piano (with a working knowledge of the harpsichord to boot). Her
forte though was in music composition which she found analogous to system
design; interestingly, she considered playing musical instruments as essentially
no different than programming. In other words, she grasped the significance of
logical and physical design, and the difference between Systems Analysis and
If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not
hesitate to send me an e-mail.
Keep the faith.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant with
M. Bryce & Associates
of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is
available for lecturing, training and consulting on an international basis. He
can be reached at
Comments and questions are welcome.
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-04-02 15:58:08 in Computer Articles