There is no doubt that information system analyst is playing an increasingly important role in most of the successful system project development. To achieve this, information system analyst must possess a wide range of qualities which involves appropriate skills and abilities as well as sufficient knowledge in the implementing system of users supports and functioning of business. It has to be considered that information system analyst carries responsibilities to analyse and understands the complex needs of human resources, people skills, technical understanding and process facilitation and it is basically applied from the first day of the system project’s existence. It is crucial for every information system analyst to have dynamic project teams which are not static and unchanging as to ensure that they are able to articulate the needs that are associated with the key problem to be solved or opportunity to be realized. There are also several barriers exist in gathering and interpreting of project information that needs to be concerned by information system analyst as this will affect the results of the project and the effectiveness of system development. This paper is critically emphasized on the skills and knowledge of an information system analysts and how these skills and knowledge have impacted in the successful in system project development. The structure of the paper will begin with the introduction, terminologies section, most important skills and competencies for a system analyst, other important requirements as well as a conclusion as the summarization of the whole topic.
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Initially, information system analyst is highly necessary to run a system project. Without information system knowledge and appropriate skill set, it is hardly to achieve project’s goals. There are various formal and informal roles that system analyst play in creating successful. In short, every system analyst in project has their own responsibilities that carry both formal and informal task and sometimes they are also assigned to run in big or small project concurrently based on the project requirements to achieve project successfulness. Essentially, system analyst plays an important role in the process of system development life cycle tasks which involved project planning, analysis, design, implementation and support process. Each process requires system analyst to perform different task and they must possess a wide range of skills with sufficient knowledge. This is important as system development is very difficult activity that needs very careful planning, control and execution.
With the emergence of information technology, system has become increasingly role in most of the organization. In fact, a good system becomes the solely sustainable advantage for organizations to gain a winning position in today’s highly competitive world. Parallel with that, the task of system analyst becomes more difficult because they have to deal with different organization with different requirements. According to Misic and Graf (2004), system analyst perform their job is characterized by constant change where the change of the environment and uncertainty places forces the system analyst to regularly and consistently update their task and activities. Meaning here, the system analyst should be able to adapt to the environmental changes. For that, a system analyst has to learn the culture or environment for every organization that they assigned to develop a system in order for them to effectively perform their job and meet the project’s goals. In addition, they also need to have full understanding of system development and try to apply it within the organization with the support of knowledge and skills as it is very important and necessary to ensure the organization gain value and outperform rivals.
Numerous articles have been written about system analyst skills and knowledge by many authors. Various authors have expressed different opinions on the skills that should be possessed by a system analyst such as analytical, technical, managerial and interpersonal or communication skills. There are two key skills that are needed to perform system analysis task, fact-finding for the investigation of system requirements and modelling of business process based on the system requirements (Satzinger, Jackson and Burd, 2009). Therefore, the purpose of this article is to provide thorough information on the aspects of tasks, knowledge and important skills of today’s system analyst as well as to identify the impact of these aspects towards the effectiveness of system development.
2.0 DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS: SYSTEM ANALYST, KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS
There are several of definition of a system analyst have been identified by many professionals. The meaning of the terms may vary from various authors depending to business process, workflow and discipline where it is used; however, the concept of a system analyst remains the same. According to Dennis and Wixom (2003), system analyst can be defined as the individuals who generate ideas and suggestions for how information technology can improve business processes, define new processes with the help of a business analyst, design a new information system and ensure that all the standard information systems maintained. In contrast, Whitten and Bentley (2007) have defined system analyst as a specialist who are responsible in identifying and study the organization problems and needs as to determine how people, data, processes and information technology can contributes to the business developments.
Some people get confused the meaning between system analyst and computer programmer. Basically, system analyst is not a computer programmer; he or she is individuals that decided what form of information technology to be used in the development of a system, whereas a computer programmer is individuals which are responsible in putting appropriate instructions with specific code into computer system. However, both Information System professionals have a similar skills needed in system development, which is emphasized on technical skills (Patrick Chang Boon Lee, 2002). Systems analyst and computer programmer are related in some way or another, but they are not exactly the same. Systems analyst requires different skills. Instead, computer programmer is focused on a particular emphasis of the study. Systems analyst and computer programmer like other professions were forced to have a sense of ethics. As viewed by Kagan and Sobolo (1987), systems analyst job involves analysis of the problem or need information on the organization and resolve the problem through the design of an efficient pattern of information flow from the source data into the computer. In different point of views by Green (1989), system analysts are service providers who are work closely with users as to define, develop and implement computer based system in order to meet business and other requirements. The involvement of users is required to help the system analyst to do analysis and synthesis tasks on a particular system. Almost similar with Misic and Graf (2002) views, system analyst acts as problem solver where they work closely with users and management in collecting and analyzing information on current and/or future computer-based system.
Information system knowledge and appropriate skills for effective tasks and duties is needed to be an excellent system analyst. Several authors reviewed knowledge as an actionable or relevant information available in the right format at the right time and at the right place for decision making. In other words, people seek knowledge because it assists them to improve performance and succeed in their work. Knowledge also is the most precious therapy for complexity and uncertainty. Further, the process of system development depends heavily on knowledge so that, by having right knowledge, organization can produce a good decision making with producing good product and services to ensure meet the business requirements. In the case of information systems, knowledge can be referred to as content or technical information needed to do an adequate job and is usually acquired through formal education, on job training and information media such as the manuals (Cheney, Hale and Kasper, 1990).
Meanwhile, skills are referred to the specific psychomotor processes necessary to meet the current requirements of job a specific job. Skills also include facilities to choose from between the repertoire of action that may be most appropriate for their specific actions (Cheney, Hale and Kasper, 1990). Environmental projects may differ from organization to organization and project to project, however, some skills will help in almost any environmental project. These skills include understanding the changes and understand how the organization works within the social, political and physical. Important to realize, understanding the importance of system analyst activities and the related skills and knowledge may be critical in successful of system development.
3.0 MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS AND COMPETENCIES FOR SYSTEM ANALYST
The system analyst needs certain skills to conduct system development. They need the skills to do systems analysis and design, where they have to understand what stakeholders (users, clients and technical staffs) need as to analyze the flow of data or enter data in a systematic, process or transform data, store data, and output information in the specific context of the business (Kendell and Kendell, 2010). Systems analysts aim to improve and develop information systems and information technology to get the best benefits for business especially in solving the business problems. Essentially, job skills support the core information system capabilities to determine the effective exploitation of technology innovation for IT organizations (Lerogue, Newton and Blanton, 2005). There are number of opinions that describe the skills that system analyst should possessed to be successful. Following is the most important skills and competencies for system analyst as pointed by various authors.
According to Misic and Graf (2002) in their article entitled “System analyst and skills in the millennium”, analytical skills were considered the most important skills in the system development. Analytical skills can be defined as the ability to examine things critically and/or minutely, to separate the clear picture into its individual components (Misic and Graf, 2002). As indicated by Misic and Graf (2002), these skills provide the primary basis for an individual to adapt to changes in technology and by focusing on the development of their current employees and / or recruiting new employees that strong analytical skills of focusing mainly on a technical background, management information system will form a team development to be successful today and also in the face of the next wave of inevitable change and stress in their technological procedures. They also indicated that, this skill is applied in defining and analyzing requirements and insuring the fit within the organizations information system environment. In other hand, analytical skills were involved in the analysis process where it is the task to understand the whole of something by breaking it down into important components. By understanding its components and how they fit together in a larger whole, it leads to understand the whole better.
Analytical skill requires a system analyst to precisely in defining the problems. It is a fact that, knowing how to define a problem is a tough part. They have to find a way to break things into elements and utilize those elements to understand the real situations. The system analyst tasks might involve visualizing, articulating, and solving complex problems and concepts, and making sensible decisions based on information available. Analytical skills assist the system analyst to figure out the needs of the organizations and then try to satisfy those needs with a new system development.
The growing use of technology has become a major part of the organization around the world. This led to the making the task of properly defines the problem ever more difficult. The system analyst has to be more precise in defining the problem besides determining the scope of a new system. This is the task where, system analysts have to properly define the possible problem and the target where they aim to hit. Important to know that, if the problem is wrongly identified it may impact on the system development, such as the new system will not well known, more time needed to do some research on a new system and many possible issues might be occurred. In contrast, if the problems are well identified with the analytical skill is applied to do this; the solutions to the particular problem are usually straightforward. Furthermore, to ensure the problem is precisely identified, systems analysts need to analyze and address the available information, to know what information sources are good, to be able to access and to make effective use in developing a new system. Identifying very clearly defined and specific problem is an important step to successfully implement the first solution.
Interpersonal skills and communication skills
Interpersonal and communication skills are other skills that required by every system analyst. Such skills are required at various stages of the development process for interacting with the users and try to identify their requirements in order to find out possible solutions to that particular problem. Interpersonal skills are related with individual skills needed to interact with individuals that associated with an IS project. In other words, interpersonal skills also can be referred as a behaviour and attitudes of individual, interpersonal communication and group behaviour in the IS context (Lerouge, Newton and Blanton, 2005). According to Lerouge, Newton and Blanton, (2005) in their study, IS managers have viewed these skills as the most important set skills for a system analyst in affecting IS success, whereas, for CIOs and end users indicated that technical skills were the most vital skills in successful of system development. Several authors indicated that behavioural, social, communication and soft skills are sometimes referred to interpersonal skills as its characteristic represents individual behaviours such as articulating and speaking skills to interact with the users, ability to work in team such as programmers, analysts and other system professionals, personal motivation and working independently, good listener, ability to write and many more. Based on Odini (1991), interpersonal skills are term use to describe variety of social and communicative skills that involve two way communication skills, styles of positive behavior, leadership and teamwork and understanding of human behavior and interpersonal relationships in terms of interaction with relevant individuals. In contrast, Misic and Graf (2004) have distinguished interpersonal and communication skills into two different categories. Interpersonal skills are the ability to interact with other workers including end users, other system analyst, managers and outside vendors, meanwhile, communication skills is referred to the ability of people to effectively write and speak clearly, able to summarize document and that document must be understandable to the users.
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Most of company IT based found that interpersonal skills or communication skills in both speaking and writing and ability to work in team are very important and necessary to carry out their task. System analyst need to have communication skills as they are required to write users requirements into technical specifications. It is a fact that, good communication skill is significance to help the system analyst to interact with users in order to identify their needs, to interact with system designers to assist them in developing of system interface as well as to communicate with the system developer as to keep track of system development. According to Green (1989), “system analysts believe that they must rely on behavioral skills to effectively interact with user during the crucial stages of problem definition and analysis”. As indicated by Misic and Graf (2004), if system analyst is able to interact well with users, it shows that he or she has ability to work with members of project team. Moreover, system analyst should spend time getting close to the diverse stakeholders such as users, client and technical staffs in order to obtain information as they are the group of people who will use a new system and will benefit most from it. Generally, interpersonal skill is a significant factor in the success of system analyst in developing system. The excellent system analyst is involved in every aspect of the system development process, and is actively involved in the interaction design for the system. They have an understanding of the various ways the stakeholder need to interact with the system, understand the different needs and to identify the different aspects of design that will work for different stakeholders.
Based on Green (1989), management must recognize that successful system development depends on both behavioral and technical skills. He added that, training to improve behavioral skills such as interviewing and listening is needed. This is because they have to interact with many groups of people in various businesses where this group of people provides valuable insights to ensure the system satisfies the business needs. Besides, systems analysts also liaise with almost every department of the business that is involved in solving the system problem. In addition, management must also provide an orientation program for the users involved in new projects. This program is mainly about the specific activities of system development and related skills needs for analysis. This program may facilitate the improvement of interaction skills and promoting greater consumer awareness of the importance of behavioral skills for systems development functions (Green, 1989).
There is no doubt that technical skills are areas commonly considered major to the computer related profession including system analyst. According to Misic and Graf (2004) technical skills are the ability to use techniques such as the development of systems of functional decomposition, data flow diagrams, process specifications, object-oriented analysis, data modeling, computer programming, hardware and software knowledge and other tools that are recognized to help in the development of system.
In different point of views, Gallagher et. al (2010) indicated that technical skills can be divided into three major categories, foundational skills, operational skills and essential skills. Table 1, shows some of the technical skills that need to be possessed by every IT professionals.
Table 1: Technical Skills
- Foundational Skills
- Operational Skills
- Essential Skills
- System testing
- Desktop Support/ Helpdesk
- Database Design / Management
- Operating Systems
- Voice / Data Telecommunications
- Service Hosting
- Continuity / Discovery Planning
- Mainframe / Legacy
- Systems Analysis
- Systems Design
- IT Architectures / Standard
Source: Adapted from Gallagher et. al (2010)
Based on the above table, it can be assumed that system analyst requires all three technical skills as to stay competitive with today’s dynamic environment especially in the emergence of internet and intranet technologies. This rapid change in technology forced the system analyst to prepare and focuses on the system analysis and development of system by mastering all relevant technical skills. Foundation skills are skills to be obtained in advance by system analysts for their basic knowledge before they can further develop to a higher level of skills. Whereas as indicated by Gallagher et. al (2010), “operational skills often in particular, but they are usually not firm-specific. Though, they may be specific to technology providers such as, IBM mainframes or Microsoft server products”. These skills are important to solve problems that are related to the computers and both hardware and software. Meanwhile, essential skills are the most important skills in assisting system analyst to perform in analyzing and designing of system development.
There are changes in the system analyst technical skill set due to the development of technology. Haga et. al (2007), have defined technical skills set that are listed in the job bank into three major categories, there are, database skills, operating system skills and other miscellaneous skills. Table 2, summarizes the technical skills required for a system analyst listed in the job bank. All these skills are crucial for them to operate and
Table 1: Technical skills required for system analyst listed in the job bank.
- Database Skills
- Operating System Skills
- Other Miscellaneous Skills
- SQL & PL/SQL
- SQL Server
- Data Mining/ Data Warehousing
- Win NT
- Win 95/98/2000
- AS400/ OS400
- Sun Solaris
- MAC OS
- MS Office
- Internet/ Intranet Development
- Accounting (pay-roll, etc)
- Tech Support/ Help Desk
- Lotus Notes
- Crystal Reports
Source: Adapted from Haga et. al (2007)
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