People working in the IT industry often hear the question „What do you actually do?”. The world of IT does not consist of programmers, testers, or devops only. The role of an analyst – business, system or hybrid – is becoming a more and more popular position in the market. Most of us imagine that the role of an analyst is limited to writing down the requirements provided by a client. Some people say that an analyst is a translator – they translate business language into a more technical one, understandable to a developer. And what does it look like in practice?
We asked three Comarch specialists who usually work or manage analytical teams creating products for industries such as public administration or finance and insurance for their opinions.
We asked three Comarch specialists who usually work or manage analytical teams creating products for industries such as public administration or finance and insurance for their opinions.
Michał Gallina – Chief System Analyst and Product Management Director at Comarch:
A business analyst is responsible for gathering the user’s business needs, describing business processes or information processed in these processes. They should be a substantive expert in the field being analysed.
On the other hand, a system analyst deals with the analysis of an existing or planned IT system, describes how business requirements will be implemented in the system. A system analyst should know the features of the architecture and technology in which the IT system is implemented.
Magdalena Jarosz – Production Centre Director – Comarch Asset Management:
In my team, these two roles are combined and it is one specialist. Their duties include, among others, supporting business areas and gathering business requirements, as well as proposing a solution directly in the system, based on the requirements already gathered.
Sebastian Czechowski – Production Department Director:
I believe that a system analyst is a person with technical background, including IT-related educational background, and familiar with such technology as: Web Services, RESTand SOAP API, able to navigate a database smoothly using SQL. The general insight in the function of information systems and user interfaces means skills helpful for the system analyst in their everyday work.
However, does it happen that in practice the differences between these roles are significantly blurred? First of all, probably due to the fact that people often just use these names interchangeably, without thinking about their definition. Do you meet with such situations?
Yes, and this happens at Comarch. Certainly, this applies to teams working on the production of systems that support very narrow, difficult and specific areas.
Then, when gathering business requirements, people immediately analyse how to solve it in the system.
At the end of the day, the person sought for the job must have specific competences verified during recruitment. For one manager, the analyst will be a purely business person, designing advanced processes, with a more strategic approach. For another manager, the analyst must also have technical competence and be able to communicate with the customer. It is impossible to say that one or the other person is worse or better as each of them has certain competences and skills required for a given project and the role, and this is how it should be perceived.
And I think it slightly depends on the context. If an analyst’s task is to analyse needs as part of a consulting project, then an experienced business analyst will handle the whole analysis. Similarly, if an analyst is responsible for implementing an off-the-shelf solution, then the skills of a system analyst may be sufficient.
On the other hand, when we have a team responsible for building or developing new IT solutions, these roles are actually blurred. In this case, an analyst or designer should combine the tasks of a business analyst and a system analyst. They should know the business, but also the limitations and opportunities of the technology used. Even if we separate these skills, we cannot draw a sharp line between these roles – in my opinion, such a rigid limit is a recipe for trouble.
Now that we know what the differences or similarities of these positions are, let us focus on the daily duties. What does a business analyst do on a daily basis and what skills do they need to do their job, and what does it look like from the perspective of a system analyst as well?
In a nutshell, both communicate with the customer, learn their requirements, translate them into system functionalities and document them. When describing processes, the business analyst focuses more on functional and high-level aspects. On a daily basis, they have frequent contacts with the so-called “business”, i.e. the project manager and consultants. However, the system analyst emphasizes the technical specifications of solutions which is why they often cooperate with an architect. They also analyse the relations and impact of various systems regarding their interfaces. However, it is worth stressing that it does not mean that the business analyst will not be able to analyse processes in technical terms or that the system analyst will not be able to take a more holistic approach to any problems. They are often people with numerous competences.
A business analyst should be a person who has substantive knowledge, knows the legislation on the analysed problem, is able to describe a business process, identify its critical points, identify data, describe their logical structure. They are able to identify the user’s needs, not a method to implement them. The result of a business analyst’s work is business specifications which describe what the system is supposed to deliver and how it is supposed to affect the business. Such a specification is created as a result of cooperation with a client, an end user.
On the other hand, a system analyst must have the detailed knowledge of the functionality of the system they are dealing with. They need to know the limitations of the technology in which the system is implemented. A system analyst creates system specifications which describe what the system is supposed to do and how it is supposed to do it. And they create system specifications in cooperation with programmers and architects.
On the other hand, the innate skills, working methods and tools used by analysts in both cases are very similar.
In my opinion, a business analyst should know very well the functional scope of the system, know the way the client’s business operates and functions as well as the substantive issues of a given area. In terms of soft skills it is mainly communication, understanding of needs, i.e. empathy, and being proactive.
The same applies to a system analyst.
Has the work in the field of analytics always been in your area of interest? What were your beginnings in the IT industry like?
When I started my adventure with IT, the concept of an analyst was not really used. There was the concept of a consultant who was to deal with everything except programming.
In IT, I started as a programmer. Over time, I developed and extended my skills using the technical expertise gathered during my university studies and before them. During the initial years of my employment, the concept of the analyst was not highly popular and the role was not well defined. Actually, my analytical skills became visible only in practice, during project implementation. However, my ambition and company competence-related needs led me to want and try to do many different tasks, including analysis. Today, the analyst’s role is better defined and used in many different contexts. We differentiate between a business analyst, system analyst, data analyst and other types of analysts, each of them being a separate role in the organisation which was not the case in the past. Coming back to the core of this question, I must admit that I was not interested in the analysis when selecting the university course. Only as I developed and gained experience, did I discover that it was a highly interesting job.
I started my adventure with working in IT during my IT studies, 30 years ago. It was a completely different time, I was an analyst, programmer, tester, project manager, salesman, implementation consultant back then. But the experience I gained convinced me that one starts building the quality and functionality of solutions at the analysis stage, and even if there was no such stage named directly in the project, someone still acted as an analyst and created the analysis. Today, we have agile methodologies and specialisation: business analyst, system analyst, UX designer, architect, tester, developer, devops and this is probably a good thing, but what I miss are people who can look at building IT solutions in a very broad manner and combine various skills in one person. On the other hand, I realise that the technological intricacy and complexity of the solutions built today require such specialisation and cooperation.
The job market for analysts seems to be permanently on an upward trend. The growing awareness of employers about the need to create new IT solutions involves a need for the presence of an analyst. So, from your perspective, what does the job market for analysts look like?
I can see a growing interest in the analyst’s job also among people who have not worked in the IT sector before. Such people often want to use the analysis as a way to enter this world with no previous experience in the sector or technical skills. The truth is, however, that almost every job in IT companies requires at least being technology-oriented. Those more “technically-minded” choose a programmers’ path, those less “technically-minded” look for opportunities in the field of analysis, sometimes completing courses enriching their theoretical knowledge. At the end of the day, this may be insufficient. The analyst must be a person who wants to work with people, who likes customer interactions, but also knows how systems work, what databases are and what an interface is. They must be inquisitive, meticulous and, importantly, assertive. People with such skills stand high chances of succeeding as analysts, fulfilling themselves in the sector interesting for them.
Currently, I am looking for two analysts to join my team, I have participated in several dozens of recruitment meetings. I think a lot of people do not understand at all what the responsibilities of such a person are.
I often meet with a situation where a business analyst with several years of experience thinks that without knowing the substantive aspects of a given field, they will very quickly obtain business requirements from a client. And this is not true, since clients very often transfer to the supplier and their team of analysts a list of requirements, which they will eventually confirm and accept.
I also agree that not everyone can become an analyst. What is needed first and foremost is the ability to think analytically and furthermore – an innate curiosity about the world. This is to be complemented with technical expertise that is necessary if we are to use these innate skills. Indeed, the awareness of the importance of experienced analysts in the process of creating IT solutions is growing. However, the number of senior-level analysts looking for a job is considerably limited, so, despite a large number of offers, it is not so easy for an inexperienced person to find a job. And this is a kind of paradox, as experience is gained only at work, training courses do not guarantee any experience, and if we are to gain experience, we need someone to employ us and give us a chance to develop. In my opinion, it is worth creating such a chance, because it is a great satisfaction to observe the development of a person turning from a junior into an experienced analyst.
And does the work of an analyst look different in other companies? Or maybe the differences are not in a company itself, but in the area in which you work (finance, public administration, ERP systems)?
It all depends on the project and process arrangement and often also on the customers’ requirements. Analysts in large companies most frequently specialise in smaller system or requirement area. In smaller companies, the spectrum of their activities grows. Every sector in which you work requires understanding the customer and their needs, processes in a given sector and its environment to a certain extent. This is particularly important for the job of an analyst. To understand the customer’s requirements well, the analyst needs a combination of the expertise concerning the sector, technology used by it and processes functioning in it, as well as the environment and legal requirements.
Certainly, it looks different. Companies operate in various industries, build systems in various technologies, have their own culture and organisation of work, the element of which is the work of an analyst. Admittedly, I have been working for one company for 30 years, but I meet employees who joined my projects from other companies or Comarch departments and I can say that I always learn something new from each of them. This is due to the fact that we work differently.
The way an analyst works depends on the needs, however, as I said at the beginning, it is the ability to think analytically and innate curiosity that are essential. Then, analysis becomes a method of learning about the world and the environment
Correct me, please, but it seems to me that the biggest stereotype as regards an analyst’s job is that an analyst should know each industry very well when they want to start working in it. Do you think there is some truth to that?
It does not matter. You need to have skills of adaptation, quick absorption of knowledge and good cognitive skills.
Surely, neither the analyst nor a person with any other role is able to know “every” sector very well. You get to know the sector thoroughly after you have worked many years in it. I believe that the most important attributes of the analyst are cognitive skills and adaptation to the new environment and the new customer on the one hand and to the changing project conditions on the other. The ability to learn fast, openness to learning new knowledge areas and listening to the customer’s needs carefully open up the opportunity to get to know every sector in a way enabling effective analysis.
In my opinion, there is some truth in this, an analyst should know the industry and the field in which they operate and if they do not know it, they should quickly get to know it very well – a good analyst is able to do it. We cannot learn about everything from the user with whom we conduct the analysis, as the user looks at the business through their own eyes, in the world in which they are and operate. They look through the prism of problems they will encounter. And a good analyst does not limit themselves to listening to the user, but when creating a business or system specification, they should be able to suggest changes and know what consequences they will entail in a specific example. And this is hard to achieve without a good knowledge of the problem. If you have seen a lot, it is easier to predict the consequence of the suggested solutions.
There are many positions in the IT industry. New ones are constantly created, thus resulting in even greater opportunities to choose own career path. What is important for some, is development, for others – the team, and for others – earnings. Do you think it is worth focusing our career strictly on analysis?
I do not just live on analysis, I live and breathe analysis, which means I would not trade it for anything else. I like designing architecture, I like programming, but the most interesting thing about my job is to learn about the world around me, and this is what analysis provides me with.
Yes, it is a very interesting job. Continuous learning and improving my skills is what keeps me going. Moreover, working with different people in the project and generally working on various solutions gives a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day.
There will be ongoing demand for good analysis specialists. There has been continuous shortage of good analysts meaning this is certainly a good direction for those passionate about this field who have the above-mentioned traits. The “visibility” of such a person in the organisation improves in the context of development. This is highly important from the perspective of continued project implementation. Cooperation with customers improves the prominence and prestige of this job, consequently offering opportunities for development and promotion in the organisation structure.
Finally, let us assume for a while that you go back in time and redefine your career path in the field of analysis. What would you pay attention to when restarting your adventure?
I do not deal with analysis myself but I manage a team including, among others, analysts. However, based on the previous statements, I will summarise what I pay attention to e.g. during recruitment which may be helpful for people entering the IT analysis world. Our candidates are expected primarily to have the ability to collect customers’ requirements, and reasoning skills, pro-active approach, self-assurance, and assertiveness. Furthermore, you must not forget about the familiarity with technology and the willingness to work with people. You must not be afraid of working with customers. Such people will be satisfied with the agency of their work and objectives achieved.
My adventure started quite a long time ago, working as an analyst was a hooray and plunging into all the tasks that were to lead to the positive implementation of the client’s system.
I would definitely pay attention to the techniques of preparing documentation and the ability to write good system documentation.
All in all, I would not change a thing and the path I went from programmer to analyst and architect taught me a lot and, taking into account the development of the IT industry itself, it was optimal for me.
Definitely, I recommend reading a lot of books. Recently, I read a book by Sam Newman entitled: „Monolith to Microservices. Evolutionary Patterns to Transform Your Monolith”, and if someone is interested in distributed architecture, it is worth reading this publication.
I always recommend the book „The Spirit of Computing” by David Harel. It is not about analysis, but it shows what computer science and algorithmics are and it is worth reading, as it turns out that all interesting problems to be solved are still waiting to be solved.
As you can see, the job market for IT employees is growing at an exceptional rate. If you want to join our analytical teams and develop in the area of new technologies see what specialists we are currently looking for.