An IT analyst's line of work

An analyst is a strange animal. Even project leaders don’t always know what to expect from these mysterious creatures. Analysts are contributing to a project, but why they are so essential, that is not always clear. Let’s observe this remarkable being.

People tend to think that business knows its business and knows what it wants from a tool. What people don’t realize is that business information can be hidden in people’s heads or is scattered over different people and even several business units. Moreover a lot of business people don’t have a full picture of what is possible with IT.

So, what an analyst does is to puzzle all information snippets he gets from the business to one coherent whole. This is not as easy as it seems. Because an analyst pushes stakeholders to express their knowledge, ideas and thoughts explicit and in exact wording, it becomes clear early in the process that what people take for granted is not always reality. Analysts search for the greater truth like a detective researches and solves a case. They gather all input, have interviews with a lot of people with different responsibilities and try to make sense of it all. Once they understand the business thoroughly, they make and tell a story for everyone to understand. Each stakeholder should recognize himself in the story and see more clearly what his role is in the bigger picture. IT should have a good understanding of how the business works, how it achieves its goals and which constraints it has to take into account.

But that is not all. While the analyst is puzzling everything together, he listens also to the needs and wishes of the business. He digests these inputs and broods on a solution. How can the business best be helped? What is key in resolving business issues and optimizing the way of working? What activities should be done with a tool and what added value can a tool have for the business?

Once it is clear how the business should work in the future and what is expected of the tool, the analyst even digs deeper! He describes every possible interaction between user and tool and designs the user interfaces of the tool. He verifies with the business experts if that’s also their view on what they want and processes their feedback.

Finally the analyst is satisfied with his work. He has built up a story, assembled a vision and described the wanted solution from business perspective. During this whole research process the analyst has a companion: the architect. While the analyst explores the business, the architect positions the input of the analyst against the technical field. Is integration needed/possible? Are there existing functionalities that can be reused? What is the best underlying technology for the envisioned solution and how to apply it? And much much more.

Together the analyst and the architect give the complete answer to the question: ‘how to optimize the workings of the business?’ And once the answer is to everyone’s satisfaction: over to implementation!

It won’t surprise you that I am one of these strange beings. I’m thriving on discovering an enterprise and its way of working, to provide satisfying solutions with added value. From my 19 years of experience this is the core and the fun of analysis.

Marianne Vanhauwaert