The terms Business Analyst (BA) and System Analyst (SA) are often used interchangeably to describe the same job. Actually the two are completely different roles with distinct descriptions and duties. Let me try to explain the differences between BAs and SAs, and also list a few commonalities shared by these positions.
Roles of a Systems Analyst?
SAs utilize an organization’s IT systems to help achieve strategic business goals. They may design and develop new systems by configuring new hardware and software, or use existing systems in new ways to accomplish additional or different outcomes.
Typical tasks performed by SAs include:
- Consulting with management and users to determine the needs of the system.
- Designing a system to meet the business goals.
- Specifying inputs and formatting outputs to meet users’ needs.
- Using techniques such as sampling, model building and structured analysis, along with accounting principles, to ensure the solution is efficient, cost-effective and financially feasible.
- Developing specifications, diagrams and flowcharts for programmers to follow.
- Overseeing implementation, coordinating tests and observing initiation of the system to validate performance.
Skill Sets for a Systems Analyst
Generally a bachelor’s degree when hiring SAs, typically in a technical field such as computer science, information technology, engineering or information systems. However, preferred are the one that possesses business background combined with computer skills. Others seek industry-related experience, such as finance, telecommunications or healthcare, along with technical skills.
In general, the SA job requires more in-depth technical knowledge, while the BA position requires a better understanding of the complexities of business problems and using technology to solve them.
Roles of a Business Analyst?
BAs generally possess technical knowledge as well. Their main focus is to identify opportunities for improving a business’s processes and using technology to eliminate problems that affect productivity, output, distribution and ultimately, the bottom line. So, knowing how technology can solve business problems is vital to a BA’s success. BAs require a high degree of specialized skills in order to solve business problems through a variety of duties that includes:
- Analyzing the business processes in an organization for inefficiencies.
- Making recommendations for solutions or improvements that can be accomplished through new technology or alternative uses of existing technology.
- Acting as liaison between business stakeholders, such as management, customers or end users, and the software development or information technology team.
- Analyzing and communicating stakeholder needs by translating business requirements into software functional requirements.
- Documenting and evaluating required data and information.
- Using modeling, testing and data models to improve the flow of information through an organization to enhance project success.
Skill Sets for a Business Analyst
Becoming a successful BA requires a blend of technical skill and business acumen, along with a high degree of confidence – usually acquired as a result of proper education, business analysis training and experience. Many professional BAs break into the field by earning a degree in information technology, business administration, finance or a related area, or by work experience, and then pursuing specialized training. Industry certifications are becoming more valuable, as employers increasingly demand these respected credentials.
Attributes of Both Business Analysts and Systems Analysts
Strong problem-solving and analytical skills, communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to focus with close attention to detail are required for both the BA and SA. A BA needs a broad knowledgebase of business and sharply honed essential skills, while the SA’s skill set is more technical.
Systems Analyst ≠ Business Analyst
While there are some common skills and knowledge requirements between SAs and BAs, the BA profession requires an entirely different set of core specialty skills involving eliciting, analyzing, communicating, testing and verifying requirements, plus the ability to identify opportunities to solve business problems and improve processes. BAs are functional experts who work for change and improvement, helping organizations reach their strategic goals through continual, successful technological improvements.