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Systems analyst responsibilities and skills — the ultimate guide

Updated: Jun 16, 2023


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What is a systems analyst?

A systems analyst is a pretty broad role. They are professionals who are mainly tasked with studying an organization's existing computer systems, procedures, and designs, and recommending strategic changes to increase productivity, reduce costs, and achieve other key business objectives.


What does a systems analyst do?

Simply put, systems analysts leverage both technical and business skills to ensure that a business's digital infrastructure aligns seamlessly with its operational needs and strategic goals.


In English, it means that they study the IT infrastructure of a company and then identify how it can be improved and make recommendations. It goes far beyond this, though. They can be tasked to completely transform a company’s IT infrastructure.


The reason that systems analyst roles are becoming popular and highly paid is because they act as a bridge between the company’s IT workforce and the business heads of a company.


So, it follows that systems analysts have to have both, tech and business skills. We’ll go through this in detail shortly.


We’ll also look at what are the responsibilities of systems analysts, all the skills that they need, the sectors where they’re mostly employed, and the educational qualifications and certifications that are needed.


So, let’s get started.


Core Responsibilities of a Systems Analyst

Systems analysis and design

This is the bread and butter of any systems analyst. System analysts have to understand existing computer systems thoroughly. It’s only after this that they can design innovative solutions to enhance their efficacy.


What does this entail, you ask?


Well, it involves conducting detailed reviews of both hardware and software components, assessing how data flows and is processed, and the overall functioning of the system. The analyst leverages this understanding to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or areas of potential risk.


Post evaluation, they design solutions to enhance the system's overall performance, which may range from suggesting software upgrades to implementing entirely new systems that better serve the organization's evolving needs.


Gathering and Documenting Requirements

A big part of being a systems analyst is documentation. Systems analysts can be in charge of processes and tasks that cost tens of millions of dollars.


Before a new system implementation or an existing system upgrade, a systems analyst is responsible for eliciting and documenting the necessary requirements.


This involves thorough discussions with various stakeholders, such as department heads, employees, or external partners, to understand their needs and constraints.


This information is then formalized into a structured document, commonly referred to as a requirements specification. The specification is a comprehensive document that outlines the functional and non-functional requirements of the system, including but not limited to the system's intended capabilities, performance benchmarks, security requirements, and user interface design.


Project Management

A systems analyst often serves as a project manager, overseeing various IT projects' lifecycles from initiation to closure.


This involves planning, scheduling, coordinating teams, managing resources, tracking progress, and mitigating risks to ensure that projects meet their objectives and are delivered on time and within budget.


In addition, the analyst must ensure that any changes introduced are in alignment with the organization's strategic objectives, ensuring the project's overall success.


Software and Hardware Evaluation

No one wants to do things inefficiently. When companies adopt inefficient products or practices, the costs can balloon really quickly.


One of the vital duties of a systems analyst is the continuous evaluation of software and hardware solutions. They need to stay abreast of emerging technologies and tools to determine their potential benefit or impact on the organization's operations.


This requires rigorous testing and comparison against existing systems in terms of performance, security, and cost.


Based on these evaluations, they recommend whether to upgrade current systems or adopt new technologies, ensuring that the organization maintains a competitive edge in its technology usage.


Liaising between Stakeholders and Technical Teams

Talk to any systems analyst and they’ll tell you that this is the most difficult part of the job. Business stakeholders and the IT staff of a company have different priorities and speak different languages, so to say.


Spending $10 million to improve a process by 20% might make sense to a developer but the business heads might not agree.


The systems analyst is there to liaise between both these groups.


Analysts are interpreters, translating complex technical jargon into understandable business terms for stakeholders, and vice versa.


This role is especially crucial during the requirements gathering stage, system design, implementation, and rollout.


Their communication skills and understanding of both the business and technical domains enable the smooth exchange of ideas and requirements, ensuring that the developed solutions align with the business's needs and are technically sound.



Systems analyst skills

Technical skills

Understanding of Information Systems

A deep understanding of information systems is at the core of a systems analyst's skill set. It involves a grasp of how computer systems, software, hardware, and networks interconnect to collect, process, store, and distribute information.


Systems analysts must be able to comprehend how these different components interact with each other within the broader business ecosystem. They need to understand the functionalities and limitations of various technologies, the architecture and design of various systems, and the data flow within these systems.


This skill is crucial when performing systems analysis and design, troubleshooting system problems, and crafting effective technology solutions that meet the organization's needs.


Knowledge of Databases and SQL

Given that data is a fundamental aspect of any information system, systems analysts need a solid understanding of databases and proficiency in SQL (Structured Query Language).


Knowledge of relational databases, NoSQL databases, data modeling, normalization, and database design principles is essential. With SQL, they should be capable of writing and executing queries, modifying data, creating and managing database objects, and optimizing database performance.


This expertise is vital when working with data-intensive applications, ensuring data integrity, and making data-driven decisions.


Proficiency in Various Programming Languages

While systems analysts are not primarily programmers, they must possess proficiency in various programming languages.


Their role may require them to read and understand code, debug, or even write scripts to automate tasks or test functionalities. The specific languages they should know often depend on the organization's technical stack.


Commonly, they should be familiar with languages like Python, Java, and C++, or scripting languages like JavaScript. This skill is necessary for software evaluation, system design, and often when liaising between the technical teams and stakeholders, as it aids in better understanding and communication of technical details.



Knowledge of Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

A systems analyst should have an intimate knowledge of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).


The SDLC is a structured process that outlines the steps involved in the development of a software system, from the initial concept and requirements gathering stage to the system's design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.


Understanding the SDLC is important for systems analysts as it guides them in project planning, managing, and execution. They should be familiar with various SDLC models like Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, or DevOps and know when to apply each model, depending on the project's requirements and constraints.


Analytical Skills

Problem-solving Abilities

Systems analysts encounter a variety of issues ranging from system bugs, inefficient workflows, to larger strategic challenges.


Their problem-solving skill is anchored in their ability to systematically dissect a problem, identify its root cause, and develop practical, efficient solutions.


Their ability to think critically, apply knowledge from past experiences, and adapt to new situations is crucial.


Logical Thinking

Systems analysts need to understand complex systems and processes, identify patterns and relationships, and make logical conclusions.


These skills are essential for systems analysis and design, requirements gathering, and troubleshooting system problems. It helps them construct robust systems, predict potential issues, and create effective solutions.


Data Analysis

The ability to analyze data is a skill that’s hugely in demand. In fact, data scientists are one of the highest-paid tech employees today. Of course, you don’t have to be a data scientist to be a systems analyst. But you do need to understand data and know how to work with it.


You’ll need to be able to gather, review, and interpret data, enabling them to make informed decisions.


From understanding system logs to reviewing performance metrics and user feedback, data analysis helps analysts identify trends, uncover insights, and provide recommendations to enhance system performance and usability.


Communication skills

For anyone who acts as a via media for two or more different groups of people, written and verbal communication is not just a skill, it’s a prerequisite. You will be in constant contact with different groups of people who all communicate differently.


So, the ability to articulate technical concepts clearly and succinctly to non-technical team members and, conversely, relay business needs to the technical team in a language they understand. You’ll need exceptional verbal and written communication skills.


You need to be a good listener, too. Active listening sounds like a term that doesn’t actually mean anything but for a systems analyst, it’s a genuine skill. You need to be able to listen to everyone’s point of view.


Finally, you need presentation skills. You could be presenting a new system design to the technical team, explaining a project plan to stakeholders, or showcasing the impact of a system upgrade to executives — you simply need great presentation skills.



Business and management skills

Knowledge of Business Structures and Processes

A systems analyst must understand how businesses operate, including knowledge of business structures, processes, strategies, and goals.


This business acumen allows them to align technological solutions with business objectives, ensuring that any changes made contribute positively to the business.


Project Management

As mentioned earlier, systems analysts often take on the role of project managers.


So, you’ll need to plan, execute, monitor, and close projects, manage resources, mitigate risks, and ensure that the projects are completed on time and within budget. Knowledge of project management methodologies and tools is important here.


Change Management

This is a skill that is very specific to systems analysts. Change management is the ability to lead people through significant workplace changes.


It’s about having a systemic approach to managing people when the goals, processes, or technologies of a company are being overhauled.


The role of systems analysts in different sectors

Information Technology

In the IT sector, systems analysts are mainly employed to help optimize system performance and enhance productivity.


They oversee the development and deployment of software applications, manage data flows, troubleshoot technical issues, and drive innovations that align with the organization's strategic goals.


They also work closely with developers, network administrators, and other IT professionals to ensure seamless integration of various systems and technologies.


Healthcare

In the healthcare sector, systems analysts help streamline complex processes, ensuring patient data is managed effectively and securely, and that healthcare services are delivered efficiently.


They often work with electronic health record (EHR) systems, medical imaging systems, and other health-related information systems. Their role is crucial in ensuring regulatory compliance, patient privacy, data integrity, and interoperability across various healthcare technologies.


Finance

Within the finance sector, systems analysts have a critical role in ensuring the seamless functioning of various financial systems, including trading platforms, risk management systems, and customer relationship management tools.


They work on integrating various financial systems, maintaining data security, and ensuring compliance with financial regulations. Additionally, they may work on projects involving big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, which are increasingly used in the financial sector for risk analysis, fraud detection, and customer service improvements.


Telecommunications

In telecommunications, systems analysts ensure the efficient and secure transmission of data across various systems and networks.


They might work on projects involving the deployment of new network technologies, the integration of different communication platforms, or the analysis of network data to enhance performance.


They also have a key role in maintaining network security and ensuring compliance with telecommunications regulations.


Retail

In the retail sector, systems analysts work on systems related to e-commerce, inventory management, customer relationship management, and point-of-sale systems.


They play a vital role in ensuring that these systems work cohesively to deliver a smooth customer experience, manage inventory efficiently, and provide valuable customer insights.


Their role can also involve working on data analytics projects, leveraging customer data to improve product offerings, personalize marketing efforts, and enhance overall business performance.



Certifications and Training for Aspiring Systems Analysts

Relevant Degree Paths

A degree in computer science, information systems, or a related field is typically the foundation for a career as a systems analyst.


These programs provide fundamental knowledge and skills in areas such as programming, databases, computer networks, software development, and more.


Additionally, a degree in business or a similar field can be beneficial, especially when coupled with technical experience, as it provides an understanding of business structures and processes.


Professional Certifications

Certifications such as Certified Information Systems Analyst (CISA), Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), and certifications from vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, or Cisco can be advantageous. These certifications can deepen technical knowledge, signal competency to employers, and often lead to higher earning potential.


In particular, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is valuable for those taking on project management responsibilities. For those dealing with sensitive information or working in industries like healthcare or finance, certifications in cybersecurity or data privacy, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), can be beneficial.


Continuous learning

Technology changes constantly and if you have any job in tech, chances are, you will need to upskill yourself quite regularly. System analyst roles aren’t any different.


You’ll have to attend workshops, webinars, and conferences, or take courses or even pursue advanced degrees. Topics of interest might include emerging technologies, new programming languages, project management methodologies, or data analytics tools.


Organizations like the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and the Project Management Institute (PMI) offer resources for ongoing learning and professional development. Additionally, platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy provide courses on a wide range of topics relevant to systems analysts.


Conclusion

If you’re looking for a systems analyst job, check out Simple Job Listings. We only post verified remote jobs. Most jobs that we post pay really well and a huge number of jobs that we post simply aren’t listed on other job boards.


Check out Simple Job Listings and find great Systems Analyst jobs. Good luck!


Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What are the duties of a system analyst?

There are four important duties of a systems analyst:

  1. Systems analysis and design

  2. Gathering and documenting requirements

  3. Project management

  4. Software and hardware evaluation

  5. Liaising between technical teams and business stakeholders


How much do system analysts earn?

Depending on skills and expertise, system analysts can earn anywhere between $80,000 to $150,000. The median salary is $99,000


Do systems analysts code?

Yes, most systems analysts do code. It’s not the main focus of their job and they don’t necessarily spend the majority of their time coding but it is a part of their job description and they do have to code every now and then.


Coding is, in fact, a vital skill for system analysts. Even though they may not code a lot, they need to be able to understand code and make recommendations based on it.


How many hours does a system analyst work?

The systems analyst role is a full-time job and more often than not, they work 40 hours a week. There might be lean periods every now and then but there are times when you’ll have to work well over 40 hours, too.


What is the highest salary of a systems analyst?

Systems analysts can make over $150,000 in the US. Of course, you’ll need quite a bit of experience and a lot of skills that you’ve acquired over time.



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