Fundamentals of business systems analysis
Business systems analysis is the nexus between the needs of a business, usually its senior stakeholders, and technological gatekeepers such as web admins, programmers and information systems analysts. Whereas proto-business analysts did exist in the early 80s and 90s – as systems analysts who were primarily programmers but served a dual function – nowadays the role is very much a specialised one. Currently, a business analyst needs a thorough understanding of the business model of an organisation and its technology solutions simultaneously.
What is a System?
Before you can delve into the intricacies of being a business systems analyst, you should fully understand what a system is and how it operates. Simply put: a system is several interrelated objects, action or other phenomena which tend towards a common goal. These interrelations also mean that these components also affect each other as they all move towards the shared goal.
Now that you understand what a system is, you can then understand how to break down a business into departments, processes, people etc. The more detailed aspect of each: people’s roles in the departments, how processes are followed and people’s names, are not usually required of you to know in order to make the operational decisions the organisation expects of you, as a business systems analyst. In actual fact, understanding the operation of the whole is much more important than its discrete parts seeing as roles change, people get promoted or undertake new and varied responsibilities; processes change as well depending on regulations and other governance structures; and at best, people will remain with the company for a year or two; some will go on maternity leave etc. The actual components of the system are always changing. And although this will affect the system, it is what is known as punctuated equilibria.
What this refers to is the theory that an organisation will undergo generally long periods of stability in basic patterns and behaviours, punctuated by relatively short bursts of fundamental change. The advent of certain web-based entities is a good example in recent times. When Web 2.0 allowed for social media to flourish, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and a few forgotten others came to the fore. Then Instagram followed. And most recently TikTok seems like another key player in the landscape. However, from a top-level perspective, the social media ecosystem has remained relatively stable since those pioneering days of what we now consider the top social media sites in the world. People made their votes and the sites remain relevant even today. But in all, there is no disruption in terms of social media. You can count the biggest sites on the fingers of one hand.
As you can see, systems thinking can be applied to anything in our world that can be analysed from both a component perspective and a high-level perspective.
Role of a Business Systems Analyst
In an organisation, a business systems analyst will be expected to process a lot of top-level documentation and not only make recommendations on how to maximise efficiency etc but most often the business systems analyst will be expected to liaise with business strategists, HR and R&D departments on how to implement those changes. The business strategists will analyse market-related risks and the company’s financial standing to ascertain if the company will be able to afford the proposed recommendations. HR will see if the human capital and skillset is present in the company to genuinely enact those recommendations, if not people may need to be hired. And finally, R&D will have the latest technological and industry-specific solutions to help make those recommendations a reality.
So the business systems analyst not only needs to think in a specific manner but also needs hard skills like the ability to use business intelligence software; compile reports with enough details to satisfy both managerial staff and shareholders (where applicable); and the ability to present any recommendations in the most concise and understandable way possible.
If this sounds at all like something which could be of interest to you, either you want to become a business systems analyst, or you are an executive who values the skillset; there are online short courses in business systems analysis that can help you expand your knowledge. These usually follow a hierarchy and you can progress from novice to expert in due time.