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Systems analyst/business analyst

Looks after the complete life-cycle of a new/modified IT system.

Job description

There is quite a fuzzy boundary between these two jobs. Systems analysts are also known as systems designers. Systems analysts are responsible for defining, developing, configuring and supporting computer applications with the aim of improving business efficiency and productivity. Working as part of a team of IT professionals, either in-house for an organisation or as part of an external specialist company, they investigate and analyse problems or requirements from a business perspective and design and specify suitable systems.

The business analyst’s work is generally the same as the systems analyst. However the focus is on processes and activities within the business environment. Business analysts will often have a background in business and IT, either through a combined degree or an add-on IT qualification.

Analysts are involved in all aspects of a project from initial specification to coding, testing and final implementation. They need to be fluent and comfortable in the technical and non-technical aspects of the job, interacting within a team of both non-technical end-users and programmers.

Systems analysts/business analysts generally need to have a few years’ experience before moving into this area. Ideally they would have spent a couple of years cutting their teeth in a programming role to equip themselves for the job. Systems analysis encompasses far more than programming; however, a solid background in programming is a valuable foundation.

Systems analysts/business analysts can find themselves moving towards the more technical side of the job or focusing on the interface with clients – it really depends on personal gravitation, opportunity and interest. As experience is accumulated, an analyst may find that they are happier in the more sociable role of communication with clients than in working on operational solutions at a technical level. Promotion in this area means the role can become more defined.

Work activities

  • Working closely with management to prioritise business goals and information needs
  • Interpreting a project and the client’s requirements and evaluating all the options to identify potential solutions
  • Examining existing business models and flows of data, discussing findings with the client, and evaluating system specifications for business requirements
  • Designing and implementing the most efficient and cost-effective solutions
  • Implementing, supporting and controlling an inventory of applications used
  • Assisting in the development of, and migration to, new platforms.

Work conditions

Travel: not a regular feature of the job but it depends on the organisation.
Working hours: mainly 9.00 am to 5.00 pm but deadlines may require additional hours to be worked.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country, though freelancers can work from home.
Opportunities for self-employment: freelance work is possible.

Typical employers

  • Financial institutions
  • Manufacturing firms
  • Educational institutions
  • Banks
  • Specialist software development houses
  • Consulting firms
  • Telecommunications firms
  • Public sector organisations.

Career development

Rapid progression is possible in the first five to ten years after which it tends to plateau. Upward progression into consultancy work is common, particularly if in possession of specialist knowledge. Systems analysts can find themselves moving towards the more technical side of the job or focusing on the interface with clients – it really depends on personal gravitation, opportunity and interest.

Salaries

Pay can rise considerably with experience and responsibility. Sometimes there is a shortage of specific software skills and salaries can rise according to supply and demand. There are no set pay scales so salaries vary according to employer, location and type of business.

Entry requirements

While entry is open to non-graduates preference will more than likely be given to those with relevant degrees or training.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Business information systems
  • Computer science/programming
  • Electrical/electronic engineering
  • Information technology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Software development
  • Software engineering.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed though it may allow entry at a higher salary level.

Conversion courses are available for non-cognate IT graduates. A range of industry relevant taught postgraduate programmes are on offer across colleges that offer similar programmes at undergraduate level.

Specific entry requirements

High level of mathematical ability expected.

Pre-entry experience is normally essential though there may be some flexibility in this depending on ability. Systems analysts generally need to have a few years’ experience before moving into this area. Ideally they would have spent a couple of years cutting their teeth in a programming role to equip themselves for the job.

Training

Mainly in-house.

Tips for applications

Internships, graduate training programmes or a focused speculative approach to an organisation can assist in acquiring an initial position with a company after which progression into this position can be sought. Experience in programming is very important and any software development experience would be beneficial. Gain relevant experience particularly during summer vacations. Become familiar with relevant industry software.

Skills and qualities

  • Excellent IT and programming skills
  • High level of mathematical aptitude and strong problem-solving skills.
  • Logical, analytical and investigative mind, together with creative abilities.
  • Excellent organisational, time and project management skills.
  • Ability to handle complex information with accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Self-development skills to keep up-to-date with fast-changing trends and their role in a commercial environment.
  • Professional approach to time, costs and deadlines.
  • Good team working and interpersonal skills required to enable working closely with staff at all levels throughout an organisation, including managers and IT specialists.
  • Good report writing skills and the ability to to communicate technical information and ideas clearly and concisely to non-technical people.