The World of the Modern Systems Analyst
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
• Explain the key role of a systems analyst in business
• Describe the various types of systems an analyst might work on
• Explain the importance of technical, people, and business skills for an analyst
• Explain why ethical behavior is crucial for a systems analyst’s career
• Describe the many types of technology an analyst needs to understand
• Describe various job titles and places of employment where analysis and design work is done
• Discuss the analyst’s role in strategic planning for an organization
• Describe the analyst’s role in a systems development project
The analyst as a business problem solver
• How systems solve organizational problems
• The approach to solving problems
Systems that solve business problems
• Information Systems
• Types of Information Systems
Required skills of the systems analyst
• Technical knowledge and skills
• Business knowledge and skills
• People knowledge and skills
• A few words about integrity and ethics
The environment surrounding the analyst
• Types of technology encountered
• Typical job titles and places of employment
The analyst’s role in strategic planning
• Special projects
• Strategic planning processes
• Information systems strategic planning
• Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Rocky Mountain Outfitters and its strategic information systems plan
• Introducing Rocky Mountain Outfitters (RMO)
• RMO strategic issues
• RMO’s organizational structure and locations
• The RMO information systems department
• Existing RMO systems
• The customer support system
The analyst as a system developer (the heart of the course)
• Part 1: The modern systems analyst
• Part 2: Systems analysis tasks
• Part 3: Systems design tasks
• Part 4: Implementation and support
Detailed Lecture Notes
The Analyst as a Business Problem Solver
• Systems analysis: the process of understanding and specifying in detail what the information
system should do.
• Systems design: the process of specifying in detail how the many component parts of the
information system should be physically implemented.
• Systems analyst: a business professional who uses analysis and design techniques to solve
business problems using information technology.
A systems analyst needs to know about computers and programming, but also should know and
have a desire to use computers to solve problems. The solution to the “problem” is generally a
new information system. Systems analysts solve problems for business organizations, such as
• Problems getting orders from customers
• Problems planning production amounts
• Problems causing inventory holding costs
• Problems anticipating customer needs
• Problems limiting complete information about financial position
• Problems limiting employee flexibility in benefits plans
A systems analyst uses a generic problem solving approach. The analyst uses a series of steps in
order to systematically understand and solve the problem. The steps are:
• Research and understand the problem
• Verify that the benefits of solving the problem outweigh the costs
• Define the requirements for solving the problem
• Develop a set of possible solutions (alternatives)
• Decide which solution is the best and make a recommendation
• Define the details of the chosen solution
• Implement the solution
• Monitor to make sure the desired results were obtained
When a new information system is a “solution” to a problem, it is important to understand the
problem the system will solve. This is the essence of systems analysis – understanding and
defining what it takes to solve the problem. A business case must be made for solving the
problem – if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs, then why should the problem be solved at all?
There are always many alternative solutions that will solve the problem. They must be identified
and evaluated. One of the solutions is chosen based on a variety of factors. The chosen solution
is defined in detail and then it is implemented. While the new system is being used, it is
important to monitor it to be sure it is doing what is needed to solve the problem. Over time it
will need to be supported and perhaps modified.
Systems that Solve Business Problems
Although the approach to problem solving presented above can be applied to solving any type of
problem, this text is about problems that are solved with information systems.
Although you are familiar with basic information systems concepts from prior courses, you
should review some concepts:
• System: a collection of interrelated components that function together to achieve some
• Information system: a collection of interrelated components that collect, process, store, and
provide as output the information needed to complete business tasks.
• Subsystem: a system that is part of a larger system.
• Supersystem: a larger system that contains other systems.
• Functional decomposition: dividing a system into components based on subsystems that in
turn are further divided into subsystems.
• System boundary: the separation between a system and its environment that inputs and
outputs must cross.
• Automation boundary: the separation between the automated part of a system and the
manual part of a system.
Types of Information Systems
There are six types of information systems found in business organizations. They are integrated
through the use of shared data. The types of systems include:
• Transaction processing systems (TPS): information systems that capture and record
information about the transactions that affect the organization.
• Management information systems (MIS): information systems that take information
captured by transaction processing systems and produce reports that management needs for
planning and control.
• Executive information systems (EI): information systems that provide information for
executives to use in strategic planning.
• Decision support systems (DSS): support systems that allow a user to explore the impact of
available options or decisions.
• Communication support systems: support systems that allow employees to communicate
with each other and with customers and suppliers.
• Office support systems: support systems that help employees create and share documents,
including reports, proposals, and memos.
Required Skills of the Systems Analyst
Because of the complexity of business problems and the information systems that solve them, a
systems analyst needs a great deal of knowledge and many special skills, including technical,
business, and “people” knowledge and skills.
Technical knowledge and skills
These are the most obvious areas of expertise: computers, peripheral devices, communications
networks, databases, programming languages, and operating systems. Analysts also use tools
and techniques to build systems:
Tools: Software products used to help develop analysis and design specifications and completed
system components, for example development packages like Microsoft Access or Visual Age,
and Powerbuilder, integrated development environments (IDEs), computer-aided system
engineering (CASE) tools, program code generators, documentation generating tools, testing
tools, project management tools, etc.
Techniques: Strategies for completing specific system development activities. These are
covered in detail in this text. Examples include project planning techniques, systems analysis
techniques, systems design techniques, system construction and implementation techniques, and
system support techniques.
Some techniques cover completing smaller parts of systems analysis or systems design, such as
data modeling techniques, process modeling techniques, interviewing techniques, feasibility
studies, interface design techniques, database design techniques, etc.
Business knowledge and skills
Systems analysts need to understand business organizations and how they operate, since they are
solving problems for them. This is why the MIS or CIS majors are typically majors in a business
degree. It is important to understand the business functions performed and how organizations
are structured and managed, including finance, accounting, manufacturing, marketing, and other
It is also important to understand the specific organization involved. What does it do? What
makes it successful? What are its strategies and plans? What are its traditions and values? A
system solution is tailored specifically for the needs of a specific organization.
People knowledge and skills
Analysts work with others to develop systems, including employees from various areas of the
company and with other system developers. Therefore, people knowledge and skills are crucial.
Analysts need to understand how people think, learn, react to change, communicate, and work.
A few words about integrity and ethics
It is also important for systems analysts to recognize the importance of ethical behavior. They
are trusted with private and proprietary information.
The Environment Surrounding the Analyst
Systems analysts work with a variety of technical environments, have many different job titles,
and work in different employment arrangements.
Types of technology encountered
Sometimes students get the idea that all systems are small desktop systems because those are the
projects they do in classes. Large systems are very complex and involve thousands of users at
hundreds of locations using databases with hundreds of tables with millions of rows of data.
Different configurations of information systems technology an analyst might encounter include:
• Desktop systems
• Networked desktop systems that share data
• Client-server systems
• Large scale centralized mainframe systems
• Systems using Internet, intranet, and extranet technology
Typical job titles and places of employment
People doing analysis and design work have many different job titles. Sometimes analysis and
design work is only part of their job responsibilities. Sometimes systems analysts also manage
the project, and are called project leader or project manager. Job titles include:
• Programmer analyst
• Business systems analyst
• System liaison
• End-user analyst
• Business consultant
• Systems consultant
• Systems support analyst
• System designer
• Software engineer
• System architect
• Web developer
Analysis and design work is done at small businesses, medium sized and regional businesses,
national Fortune 500 corporations, and multinational corporations. Some organizations have
centralized information systems departments, and some are decentralized.
Not all analysts work for the company with the problem to solve. There are many different work
arrangements, including independent contractors, outsource providers, consulting firms, software
package development firms, and application service providers (ASP).
Some software development for packages like Microsoft Office XP or operating systems like
Windows XP is more likely done by computer science graduates. This text is about developing
systems that solve specific business problems.
The Analyst’s Role in Strategic Planning
Systems analysts can become involved in strategic issues relatively early in their careers.
An analyst might work closely with executives to develop an executive information system
(EIS). An analyst might also work on projects of interest to executives using business process
reengineering, a technique that seeks to alter the nature of the work done in a business function
with the objective of radically improving performance.
Strategic planning processes
All businesses complete strategic planning, a process in which executives try to answer
questions about the company, such as where they are now, where they want to be, and what they
have to do to get there. Analysts are often involved with issues related to the role of information
Information systems strategic planning
Developing the information systems strategic plan, the plan defining the technology and
applications the information systems function needs to provide to support the organization’s
strategic plan, also might involve analysts. It includes the applications architecture plan, a
description of the integrated information systems needed by the organization to carry out its
business functions, and the technology architecture plan, a description of the hardware,
software, and communications networks required to implement planned information systems.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Organizations are increasingly adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP), a process in
which an organization commits to using an integrated set of software packages for key
information systems. Working on an ERP project requires the analyst to understand the overall
organization, and the decision to adopt an ERP solution is a strategic one.
Rocky Mountain Outfitters and Its Strategic Systems Plan
This text uses a case study to demonstrate important analysis and design techniques. This
chapter introduces the company: Rocky Mountain Outfitters (RMO). RMO has a strategic plan
that requires a comprehensive information systems strategic plan. This text describes one
information systems development project that is included in the plan.
Introducing Rocky Mountain Outfitters (RMO)
RMO began in 1978 by John and Liz Blankens in Park City, Utah. They started manufacturing
and selling winter sports clothing to local ski shops. Then they expanded by offering a more
complete line of clothing through a mail order catalog. RMO is now a large regional sports
clothing manufacturer and distributor in the Rocky Mountain and western states. Interest in
winter and summer sports such as skiing, snow boarding, mountain biking, water skiing, river
running, jogging, hiking, camping, mountain climbing, and rappelling led to rapid growth.
They employ 600 people and produce almost $100 million annual sales. They now offer phone
sales, catalog sales, and retail stores.
RMO strategic issues
RMO wants to upgrade its web site from an informational site to a complete B2C eCommerce
site. The strategy also involves careful supply chain management (SCM - a process that
seamlessly integrates product development, acquisition, manufacturing, and inventory
management) and customer relationship management (CRM - processes that support marketing,
sales, and service operations involving direct and indirect customer interaction).
RMO also completed strategic information systems planning, including an application
architecture plan and a technology architecture plan. The plan focuses on implementing both
SCM and CRM to maximize customer satisfaction
RMO’s organizational structure and locations
RMO is managed by John Blankens (President and CEO) and Liz Blankens (VP Merchandising).
Two other VPs are VP Marketing and Sales and VP Finance and Systems. Under VP Finance
and Systems are Assistant VP Accounting and Finance and Assistant VP Information systems.
The information system is organized into system development and system support departments.
Manufacturing, distribution, and other facilities are located in Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and New
Mexico. Corporate offices are still in Park City, Utah. The Information System Department is
headed by Mac Preston and includes about fifty employees.
Existing RMO systems
Existing systems include:
• Merchandising /Distribution
• Mail Order
• Phone Order
• Retail Store Systems
• Office Systems
• Human Resources
• Accounting Finance
The information systems strategic plan
The current RMO strategic plan was developed with the help of consultants based on the
strategic plans of RMO. The information systems strategic plan defines a technology
architecture plan and an application architecture plan to support the corporate plan.
The technology architecture plan calls for distributing applications across multiple locations
and computer systems, conducting more business processes via the Internet including SCM and
CRM systems, and moving toward intranet applications for business functions such as HR,
accounting, and finance. The application architecture plan includes future use of packages for
accounting/finance and human resources, new system development for a customer support
system and (CSS) supply chain management (SCM), and a package solution for a strategic
information management system (SIMS).
The timeline for the systems plan is as follows:
• 2002-2003: New development of Supply Chain Management (SCM)
• 2003-2004: New development of Customer Support System (CSS) (example in text)
• 2004: Package solution for Strategic Information Management System (SIMS)
• 2004: Replace Retail Stores System with new package
• 2005: Replace the existing Accounting/Finance system with a intranet package
• 2006: Replace Human Resource System with intranet package
The Customer Support System
The information system project followed in this text is the customer support system (CSS)
project, a system development project begun shortly after the SCM system project.
The customer support system (CSS) includes integrating the mail order and phone order
processes plus adding direct customer interaction via the Internet.
The Analyst as a System Developer (The Heart of the Course)
This section provides an overview of the text, which focuses on the system analyst as a system
developer working on a system development project. The parts and chapters include:
• Part 1: The Modern Systems Analyst
1. The World of the Modern Systems Analyst (this chapter)
2. The Analyst as a Project Manager
3. Approaches to System Development
• Part 2: Systems Analysis Tasks
4. Beginning the Analysis: Investigating System Requirements
5. Modeling System Requirements: Events and Things
6. The Traditional Approach to Requirements
7. The Object-Oriented Approach to Requirements
8. Environments, Alternatives, and Decisions
• Part 3: Systems Design Tasks
9. Moving to Design
10. Designing Databases
11. Designing User Interfaces
12. Designing System Interfaces, Controls, and Security
• Part 4: Implementation and Support
13. Rapid Application Development and Component Based Development
14. Packaged Software and Enterprise Resource Planning
15. Making the System Operational