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New Post 9/3/2007 4:58 PM
User is offline scmay
1 posts
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Bus. analyst vs Sys. analyst 
Hi all,
I am new here. I was wondering what is the difference between a business analyst vs a systems analyst?
New Post 9/4/2007 3:28 AM
User is offline Craig Brown
560 posts
4th Level Poster

Re: Bus. analyst vs Sys. analyst 
The difference is often said to be just a matter of focus, but it could be more than that.

For example a BA is focused on the business, a systems analyst on the IT systems.  The level of domain knowledge reflects an analyst’s ability to gather and synthesize information.  A business analyst with no technical experience can write business requirements for developers, a system analyst can take those business requirements and layer on non functional requirements and possibly provide advice on a solution design.

Also - a business analyst will probably have a good idea of business structures and processes, where a systems analyst will probably only has that knowledge incidentally beyond the relationships with the systems.

There are a few thoughts for you.

New Post 9/4/2007 4:10 PM
User is offline Chris Adams
323 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: Bus. analyst vs Sys. analyst 
 scmay wrote
Hi all,
I am new here. I was wondering what is the difference between a business analyst vs a systems analyst?

I largely agree with Craig’s reply.

Consider IIBA’s definition of business analysis. “Business Analysis is the set of tasks, knowledge, and techniques required to identify business needs and determine solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement or organizational change.”

The IIBA goes on to say that “Those performing business analysis are today known by a number of titles such as
business analyst, business systems analyst, systems analyst and others.”

While I agree with the IIBA that many people with many different titles perform the function of a business analyst, I think this is more a byproduct of a single worker wearing multiple hats. The term business analyst can be used when speaking generically about a broad range of tasks and roles, but if we want to be more specific this single title could be specialized into many more roles that mean very different things such as:

  • Business Strategy Analyst
  • Business Process Engineer
  • Requirements Analyst
  • IT Business Analyst
  • IT Business Systems Analyst
  • IT Systems Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • System Designer

Note: not all of these roles are necessarily at the same level of granularity.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to differentiate between business analysts and systems analysts, further propagating the ambiguity of the terms. Business analysts are often involved in process improvement tasks that do not involve any kind of IT system. Additionally, the title systems analyst suggests that some kind of IT system is involved. We certainly don’t want to label an analyst that focuses on business process analysis a systems analyst if it does not involve some kind of IT system.

Of course, IT business analysts and IT systems analysts both do analysis for IT systems. This is, in fact, where I would like to focus this response in order to differentiate between the two roles and give greater detail beyond what we know from the IIBA definition.

Let’s take a look at a very generic analysis process. Let’s start with the assumption that some preliminary business analysis has been performed and it appears that new system would be cost effective.

Analysis Process for IT systems (only representative, not an exhaustive list)

  • Analyze and document the current business process that the new system is intended to replace, enhance, or interface with. This may or may not include the following:
    • Create business process flows
    • Create a business entity model that outlines the “things” that define the business (exclude attributes and operations for now)
    • Context Diagram (Level-0 Data Flow Diagram)
    • Create a business use case model (diagram, actors, and use cases)
    • Create business user centric data flow diagrams

  • Analyze and document the requirements of the new system at a logical level (avoid specifying aspects of the physical implementation of the system)
    • Functional and non-functional requirements list
    • Create a system use case model (diagram, actors, and use cases)
    • Create system process flows
    • Further define the business entity model with attributes and operations

  • Create UI mockups with storyboard based on system use cases
  • Create functional specifications that associate functional requirements and logical system behavior with physical UI design
    • Define screen variations under specific conditions
    • Define control behavior (on click, on change, etc)
    • Define how controls are populated with data and how the data captured is manipulated and stored
    • Create sequence diagrams (logical design only) to define interaction between entities

  • Document the design of the system
    • Create class diagrams (physical design)
    • Create sequence diagrams (physical design)
    • Create other physical level diagrams

Most IT business analysts analyze and document the current business process, analyze and document the requirements of the new system and sometimes create UI Mockups of the new system. They rarely take things further than this.

Most IT systems analysts may complete some of the tasks of analyzing and documenting the new system requirements, and then focus even more on creating UI mockups, creating functional specs and sometimes even getting into the physical system design. Though, often the physical design is reserved for the system designers or programmers.

The term business systems analyst is often used to describe someone who does both roles.

As you can see there is quite a bit of overlap, but the difference between the two roles really comes down to the worker’s primary focus; a business analyst being business process and requirements centric and a systems analyst being functional specification centric.


Chris Adams
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