I’m often asked about the difference between business analyst and systems analyst roles. In reviewing job profiles, the roles can seem very similar. In this quick video, I describe how both roles are defined so you can decide what career path you want to pursue.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Hello, my name is Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. Today, I want to talk to you about the difference between business analyst roles and systems analyst roles because we get a lot of questions about this at Bridging the Gap about whether they’re really the same, or are they different, or how those titles in those job roles are used within the profession. I want to empower you to understand the nuances within the profession and the path that you might, personally, want to take as you form your career plan for your business analysis career.
First, just a note about business analyst job titles. They are used extremely inconsistently within our profession.
What I’m going to share with you in this video is about the roles and the standard definition of those roles. How you see a specific job title in your local market and the job postings on your job board, even within your company, might be different from what I share with you today. You always want to look at the responsibilities below the job titles to make sure that you’re understanding the role that a specific organization or employer is looking for you to fill.
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
First, let’s just talk about what a business analyst does, somebody in a business analyst role. Typically, that role is defined as someone who is enabling change, who is responsible for the requirements, the development of the understanding of the business needs to help create a solution, envision a solution to solve a business problem, or to add more value to the business.
Most typically, a business analyst will analyze the process and also analyze the software that’s going to help us improve or implement that process.
In the software, we look at both functional requirements and data requirements. What does the software do, how does the software store information? It involves the heavy relationship with the business and the technology teams, and it’s what Bridging the Gap between business and IT to make sure all those stakeholders have a common shared understanding of what the software solution will be to address a specific business process or business problem.
What Does a Systems Analyst Do?
What does a systems analyst do? How is that a little bit different? What we typically see is that the systems analyst role focuses more on the technology aspect of the solution. You wouldn’t have a systems analyst on just a business process change.
Where a business analyst might work on something that doesn’t actually involve a software change because they just might fix the business process, systems analysts only come in when there is a software change. They’re probably going to go a couple of layers deeper into the software requirements and not just considering the what of the software of how the software needs to function from an end user perspective, but also looking into how that software is built, how the software is configured, potentially, how multiple systems are going to work together to accomplish a specific objective or meet a specific functional requirement.
They’re going to be peeling away the layers of that system and that technology to make sure that the solution, again, meets the business need, but they’re focused more in on the software aspect of the solution, probably not on the business process side. They might be doing more data modeling, more data design, how does data move between systems, how are the systems connected, working and integrated together to meet a feature.
Sometimes, even doing some level of technical coding or programming; sometimes the job title is used in that way, but they are definitely understanding how the code is written, how the code works, and, potentially, just collaborating with other professionals who are actually doing the coding itself.
That’s the difference between the two roles. That business analyst role being more business focused on the business process side, and the systems analyst role being more technically focused on the technical side.
Many Business Analysts Are Also Systems Analysts
Now, many of us play both roles. In my first job as a business analyst, I also had a lot of those systems analysis responsibilities. I wasn’t spec’ing the integrations between the systems, but we had heavy data modeling requirements that required us to understand how that database was built, how the application cleared the database in order to build some specifications that were more technical specifications. You can have a blend of both.
We started with, “What does the product need to do?” “What are the end features that the product needs to do?” In some organizations, you will see a combination of the roles, and that requires a lot of business and technical acumen.
In other organizations, you will see two roles where you have a business analyst and a systems analyst. What’s important, then, that there are tight connection and collaboration between those two individuals. What tends to happen is the business analyst, then, has their requirements, and the systems analyst create their requirements, and there’s an extra layer of requirements documentation in between those two roles as part of that hand-off.
You need to make sure the translation process of what the business wants and what the end problem that’s being solved is making its way through to the more technical specification documents. There should be a lot of connection and collaboration between those two individuals.
Where Do You Want To Go with Your Career?
Where do you want to go with your career? It’s up to you.
- If you like the business side more and you want to be more in connection with business users and solving business problems, you might want to gravitate more towards the business focused role.
- If you like the technology, even if you don’t want to code anymore, you have a deep technology background, that you want to leverage that technical understanding without having to write the code, systems analysis could provide a great career path for you.
I always like to say you get to create the career that you want and business analysis, as a profession, just creates tons of opportunities for you.
If you’d like to learn more about starting your career as a business analyst, go ahead and click below. There’s a link to a free training on your Quick Start to Success as a Business Analyst. There are additional resources about what a business analyst does, what process to use to be effective, and what are some of the key skills that you need to be successful in today’s competitive job environment.
I hope that you will join us. I’d love to help you take the next step in your business analyst career.
Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg, from Bridging the Gap. We help make career professionals start business analyst careers.