4 Key Learnings as a System Analyst
Five years back, I transitioned from Software Development Lead to System Analyst position at large North American Telecom account.
At the onset, my focus was to mainly on capturing functional requirements to help deliver projects on time without any design gaps. This invariably meant my attention was focused on documents, checklists, and procedures. Interestingly, it was only later after collaborating with some excellent peer analysts and observing their behavior did the finer aspects of the role became clear to me.
Here are some of my highlights and personal learnings about the world of Analysis.
Beyond Liaison role
The analyst role is often mistaken to be purely liaison role that acts as a link to assist communication or cooperation between groups of people. This may result in analysts focusing on packaging set of Requirements and delivering to IT and vice versa. An analogy to real world could be mail delivery person delivering package from source to destination. Often with faint idea what’s inside the package. There is little to be motivated about such role and it ends up limiting breadth & depth of influence of an analyst.
On the other hand, some of extraordinary peer analysts I have worked with instead, routinely go beyond liaison role. They are not shy to open the “package”, try to understand contents, ask some questions and gain deeper understanding. They take effort to translate contents to audience-appropriate language and then deliver to recipients. Other times they re-arrange the set of ideas in way that makes the subject clearer. Thereby such analysts add value to chain.
By stepping outside the role of liaison analysts can bring lot of value to project and discover the real essence of the profile.
Power of questions
This is an area where I consistently struggled to adapt during my journey into analysis world from development. Each time I heard of requirement, my mind would immediately have jumped ahead to try to solution. I was more focused on solutioning part and was missing critical piece of stage in the analysis and that is the questioning part.
Interestingly some of peer analysts were doing it bit differently and it was interesting to observe and learn from them. They took the time to ask probing questions to understand the needs better or simply to ask thoughtful relevant questions. Questions like “Can you elaborate this further with a business use case?” or simply to understand “What is the business benefit in implementing this?” A lot of times this not only clarified ask for technology teams but also brought to discussion some finer aspects of requirements.
Author Andrew Sobel elaborates this concept clearly in book Power Questions – “Good questions challenge your thinking. They reframe and redefine the problem. They throw cold water on our most dearly held assumptions, and force us out of our traditional thinking.”
The analyst need not have all answers, yet the art of asking probing questions is the one to be learned.
The analyst must have an innate ability to work across large group of stakeholders and effectively lead and manage the relationships. These range from several of the business stakeholders from marketing, legal, accounting, customer experience and over to the technology world comprising of development teams, architects and delivery managers.
Age old attributes in relationship building like trust, straightforwardness and honesty never go out of fashion. The peer analysts in my team who were always pursued out for most high visibility projects were highly trusted individuals and their personal characteristics flowed into their work.
System analysts also have perfect opportunity to recognize the behind the scenes technology team and share the due credits with the team. Thus at the outset the analysis role may not appear to be managerial, however some of thriving analysts on our team were the ones who exhibited leadership and team building skills.
Adjusting the Lens
Finally, the analysts that were highly successful were the ones who could balance the level of detail. The critical ability of system analyst continues to be able to deep dive into functional area and come up with scenarios, clarifications, user stories that capture and cover the business needs. Yet there are several instances when teams are involved in details and lose sight of the big picture.
That is where some of excellent analysts stand out in their ability to balance their attention and level of detail. During discussions with developers, such analysts delve deep into the topic and come up with various scenarios that help supplement the analysis. And on the other hand, while discussing with business and leadership, they have ability to summarize it appropriately to communicate the gist.
The skill of analyst to be able to fine tune the lens and clarify the picture to the audience is always highly appreciated.
Thus to conclude, the role of System Analysis lies at the very cusp of dynamic Business needs and ever evolving Technology layer. It’s exciting to realize that the boundaries and influence of the Analyst are limitless on the project. I wish you luck on your journey and learnings on this path!