Career as a Business Systems Analyst

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Wyeth CIO Jeffrey Keisling explains how working with the business on IT staffing helps promote IT-business alignment.  He also outlines the two areas of hiring focus: business analysis and business process.

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As budgets tighten and organizations continue trying to achieve return on investment faster, cheaper and with better results, they are trying to create and evolve their overall enterprise architecture.

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In recent years it has become more and more apparent that the job description of Business Analyst has become diluted and distorted. Can this be considered the natural evolution of a profession or is it a profession that no longer has a clear job description? Is this a profession that has moved past the point of clear boundaries or are the boundaries still there but blurred based on the need to adapt to a changing world to meet the needs of people rather than the needs of the business? What can we do to win back the respect that the Business Analyst profession deserves? Exactly whose responsibility is it to maintain a professional and respected image of this profession? Should the recruitment process of Business Analysts be an exercise in requirements gathering?

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If it is allocating your internal resources, making a new hire, or bringing in a consultant; what is the best process to match the right business analyst to the right project? For organizations that truly value the role of the business analyst this is one of the most frequently pondered questions.

Companies that want to have the right people in the right roles need to address four main stages; defining the BA’s roles in the project, attracting the best talent, matching the BA to the project and finally, making the selection and continuing to support.

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If a single word can represent an entire year, then 2008 was the year of change. Of course, the next American president ran an entire campaign on change, but, more specifically, the business world as we know it will simply never be the same. We’ve all learned that no company—no matter how thoroughly it is woven into the fabric of the economy—is isolated from the need for improved efficiency, due diligence and corporate responsibility.

With change having such a profound influence on 2008, 2009 will likely be shaped by the business world’s ability to adapt to that change. And, of all the groups of professionals working today, few will serve a more important role in that adaptation than business analysts. Requirements management and development, which has for so long been the unsung hero of the successful project lifecycle, is poised to begin receiving the prominence it deserves.

Here are 10 key trends to look forward to in business analysis for 2009. They represent the on-going evolution of requirements management and development and the ever-increasing value of the modern business analyst.

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If Agile is to become the next zeitgeist for development, what will become of the traditional Business Analyst?

We all know the traditional waterfall mantra: analyze, design, build then test... underpinned by the common belief that the more you analyze up front the more you save in maintenance later on. This has had a huge impact on the way we organize our teams: separating functions and putting a heavy emphasis on theoretical modeling.

When a project kicks off, the classic Gantt chart dictates that analysts are on-boarded early for a lengthy requirements analysis stage. Once the requirements specification is 'signed off' the analysts are often relieved of their posts for the design crew to take over. The 'sign off' fest continues until eventually the user community is (invariably) force fed a UAT phase and the fledgling product is launched; all the while resources are inhaled and exhaled as the project plan demands. The project then becomes more of a way to co-ordinate a set of individual skill sets and activities.

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Does it ever feel like no one really appreciates what you do as an architect? It doesn’t matter what you’re designing, the consensus seems to be that what you do is just a lot of planning and thinking. No one seems to understand how much time and effort you have put into understanding every nook and cranny of the business so that your projects succeed not only from a physical deployment perspective, but from an organizational perspective as well. Essentially, your main role is to lay the foundation for your entire organization to succeed in business. Whether that’s from an enterprise, application, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), or other architectural design doesn’t matter. Your role is clearly one of the most pivotal in any organization, yet it's also one of the most misunderstood.

I say “one” of the most misunderstood because there is another worker bee in the hive who performs just as many pivotal yet misinterpreted tasks as you: the business analyst. As you work at defining the organization and deployment structures of your design, business analysts work at defining business problems and opportunities and turning them into solutions for customers. In other words, the business analyst is another key role that’s often misunderstood.

The misunderstandings occur because on the surface, it appears that both of you are attempting to do the same job. You—the architect—are undoubtedly the best person to design a practical solution for business requirements that you’re not particularly close to. At the same time that you are designing a solution, the business analyst—arguably the person much closer to those business requirements—is attempting to design a practical solution for them. Ultimately, you both want the same thing: a solution that works for the business and is cost-effective. The problem is that the two of you are coming at that solution from different angles.

Just imagine the possibilities if you and the business analyst learned how to put those angles together to form the perfect square.

Author: S. E Slack

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The U.S. economy is bleeding jobs, but -- at least, so far -- the high-tech industry is something of a safe haven. That's not to say there haven't been tech losses or that it's easy to find an IT job. However, people with the right skill sets and the savvy to sniff out the particular areas of demand are much better positioned than professionals in some of the more-beleaguered industries.

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Demand for IT business analysis is also on the rise right now, according to Rubillo, driven by a couple of different factors. Of particular importance in these recessionary times is the need for analysis that can wring out the most efficiency from a software application.

"Companies are increasingly aware of understanding the real world implications of an IT investment," said Rubillo. "A new software application, for instance, can result in bottlenecks in the supply chain, or a need for new resources -- or the ability to cut back on others. Companies want to get ahead of these developments as they implement their new IT investments."

Companies are also looking for untapped savings from pre-existing systems, he added.

Author: Erika Morphy

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Good business solutions begin with good business analysis. But what's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing?

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the set of skills that go to making a good business analyst. Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook -- Note: subscription required) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst, grouped into categories such as Core Capabilities, Business Knowledge, Job-Specific Skills, Technical Knowledge etc. (I was particularly pleased to see this last category: It is important but not quite obvious that business analysts should also have a rudimentary general understanding of technology environments and architectures… mostly built up through seeing past analysis engagements fructify into delivered solutions).

Although the workbook is obviously intended as an assessment tool, I also found in it good for use as a training tool — for example, to bone up on technology approaches to business needs and to study sample projects, correlating the original business requirement with the type of solution delivered.

Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious (in no particular order)...

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It has been just over a year since I published my book, and that makes it easier for me to measure what has happened since then.

I have spent this year visiting many companies and discussing their business analysis function. In some cases, I have performed an assessment on the business analysts as well as the business analysis function within many large Corporates.

It has now got to the point where I could document the findings before I start the investigation. The reason for this is that the problems are the same. From articles and discussions from other countries it appears the problems are similar the world over. These are the problems I encounter most often:

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Today the term Business Analyst is synonymous with a career in the IT industry but the most successful and valuable analysts are those who understand the 'business' rather than those who understand IT. So what exactly is a Business Analyst? What is the Business Analyst’s role? What is the best background for this job? What skill set is required? What type of person is the best fit? What training is required and available?

Each organisation seems to have its own ideas about the role, skills, responsibilities and expectations of the Business Analyst. Given the importance of the job, a common definition would assist both practitioners and employers. We explore some of the issues here.

Written by Derrick Brown, IRM's Director and instructional designer, it shares first hand observations and experience gained from training thousands of Business Analysts since 1980, first in the UK and since 1984 in Australia.

Author: Derrick Brown

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Here’s a question that often gets asked: What are the benefits of Business Analysis? The depressing but true answer is that the benefits are usually invisible: good Business Analysis ensures that the project implements the right solution, and because it is the right solution no-one ever sees all the cost, time and effort that has been avoided (a project that does not do sufficient Business Analysis has to re-work all the bugs that slipped through the ‘analysis’ stage because the analysis was never done).

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Information is ever more critical to the success of organisations and information professionals should be hot property. But as information discovery begins to be perceived as automated, the power base is shifting to those who can analyse information that is ever more devoid of structure.

The business analyst, once an IT/business hybrid role, is evolving to fill this gap and this role looks set to overlap and overtake the traditional information professional role.

Richard Beveridge, director of library services at Tribal Group, says: “In my opinion a business analyst is not a seeker and discoverer of information, it is a person that actually does something with it. Information professionals would go off for information on someone’s behalf, but now organisations need people who are able to seek information and do something with it. If information professionals don’t evolve they will be under threat from business analysts.”

He adds: “Now you have to be able to make a contribution to the bottom line and that has to be measurable. I am stunned by the number of people in the library service who say, ‘I didn’t join to sell things.’”

Author: Tracey Caldwell

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Whether you’ve never heard of Agile or you just finished your nth Agile project, you need to understand that Agile is here to stay! Are you, the Business Analyst, an extinct species in this new world? Is your career changing? Do you need new skills?

Agile guru and visionary Scott Ambler talked with Adrian Marchis, ModernAnalyst.com's Publishing Editor, and shared his vision on what’s next for Agile and his thoughts on the role of the business analyst in the Agile world.

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As technology stocks waned in the last few months of the 20th century, some analysts worried that technology degrees wouldn't be as valuable as they had been during the "dot-com bubble." They couldn't have been more wrong.

It's not just industry heavyweights like Google and Apple who are acquiring new real estate to house all their new hires. Employers from nearly every market sector imaginable are luring professionals with computer training with competitive salaries, perks, and bonuses. With large companies taking their IT in-house and small businesses relying on outsourced providers, it seems that everyone in the world wants to hire technology professionals.

According to government statistics, these 10 jobs show the most promise over the next decade.

Author: Joe Taylor Jr.

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