A systems analyst uses computers and related systems to design new IT solutions, modify, enhance or adapt existing systems and integrate new features or improvements, all with the aim of improving business efficiency and productivity.
They must possess a high level of technical expertise and clear insights into current business practices. Depending on the employer, clients may be internal, e.g. departments within the same organisation, or external.
- examine existing IT systems and business models;
- analyse systems requirements;
- undertake product development;
- implement, configure and test feasible solutions.
They liaise and report to internal and external clients and stakeholders, including colleagues and developers.
An increasingly integrated approach is being adopted as the role evolves, where the client is involved throughout the development process. The analyst acts as liaison between the client and the developers.
They conduct a cost analysis and agree the timeframe to implement the proposed solution. They specify and shape the system requirements and operations, the user interface and output and present the proposal to the client. They work closely with the client team, including commercial managers and software developers, during both the report and implementation phase.
Job titles in the IT sector are fluid, changing with advances in technology, and also varying between organisations.
It is vital to look closely at job descriptions rather than job titles e.g. analysts may be known as systems or business analysts and the trend is currently towards including the term 'solutions' in the job title.
Fourth generation languages (4GL) and object-orientated programming simplify technological language resulting in less of a need for detailed or formalised specification requirements, so traditional boundaries between systems or business analysis and programming have eroded. Overlap with project management is also common.
Analysts work with their organisation's particular IT system but also with a client's legacy environment so need to be able to adapt to different programming languages.
Work activities also depend on the size and nature of the employer organisation and the focus of clients' business demands, but typically involve:
- liaising extensively with external or internal clients;
- analysing clients' existing systems and business models;
- mapping and documenting interfaces between legacy and new systems;
- understanding software development lifecycle;
- translating client requirements into highly specified project briefs;
- identifying options for potential solutions and assessing them for both technical and business suitability;
- conducting requirements analysis and preparing specific proposals for modified or replacement systems;
- developing solutions and related products;
- producing project feasibility and costings report;
- presenting proposals to clients;
- working closely with colleagues, developers, testers and a variety of end users to ensure technical compatibility and user satisfaction;
- ensuring that budgets are adhered to and deadlines met;
- drawing up, supervising and documenting testing schedule for complete system;
- overseeing implementation of a new system including data migration;
- planning and working flexibly to deadlines;
- supporting users on change control and system updates;
- providing training and user manuals to users of a new system;
- keeping up to date with technical and industry developments.
- Typical salaries for junior analysts range between the £20,000 to £25,000 mark, while more experienced analysts earn in excess of £40,000 a year, on average.
- Salaries are higher in some sectors, especially the financial sector and in London, the South East and the Midlands. Analysts with good business skills who move into more strategic business development roles will also enjoy higher pay.
Income data from IT Jobs Watch. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are typically 37 to 40 hours a week. Overtime, including at the weekend, is possible in order to meet deadlines and deal with any technical issues. Longer working hours may be the norm in the financial sector and consultancy.
What to expect
- The role is largely office-based, with much communication via phone and email. Some time may be spent outside the department or office, particularly in the early stages of a project when working in a variety of offices or business areas.
- Flexible working patterns and some home-working may be possible. It is also common for organisations to outsource, often abroad, systems/business analysis and IT development work to firms of IT consultants.
- Many experienced analysts choose to set up as independent consultants.
- Jobs are available in many large towns and cities in the UK, but most large employers are based in London and the South East of England.
- There are more men than women working in the industry. However, opportunities for women to enter employment in the IT sector have never been greater. Various groups exist to support women in IT and technology, such as BCSWomen, Big Ambition (including Big Ambition Wales and Big Ambition Scotland) and TechUK has formed the Women in Tech Council for members to lead action to increase the representation of women in IT.
- The pace of work to meet client deadlines and the high level of responsibility may be stressful.
- In some smaller organisations there will be opportunities to become involved in multiple simultaneous projects.
- Dress code is generally relaxed but may be formal when visiting clients.
- Work usually takes place in a project team can be based on clients' premises.
- Some time will probably be spent working away from home, with overnight stays a possibility. Overseas travel may be required, especially if the company has interests and clients outside the UK.
Most systems analysts are graduates but HNC/HND or BTEC qualifications can lead to entry level positions with training and development opportunities. Relevant qualifications include IT and business subjects.
Business graduates need be able to demonstrate interest in and a clear understanding of technology and information management systems, perhaps undertaking relevant qualifications outside their degree studies.
Typically analysts will enter the profession as junior programmers, progressing to developer and/or consultancy roles. Experience is essential for progression.
The following degree subjects are relevant:
- computer science/information technology;
- information management systems;
- business information systems;
- business studies;
- science-based subjects;
- electrical/electronic engineering.
The Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) was established as a result of collaboration between top employers and e-skills UK - The Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology after it was identified that there was a need for a qualification that addressed the skills gap and resulting shortages in the industry.
For information about where you might study an ITMB visit IT Management for Business (ITMB).
Most new entrants to larger companies are graduates, and a 2:1 is usually preferred. However, entry is possible with a HND especially if you have prior experience, although a lower starting salary is likely.
Entry without a degree or HND is unlikely, but may be possible for those with well-developed IT skills and good previous experience in computing or business.
For graduates in non IT-related subjects, a relevant postgraduate conversion qualification may be useful. Search postgraduate courses in computer science.
You will need to have:
- broad knowledge of hardware, software and programming;
- the ability to learn quickly;
- ability to contribute to a team effort;
- a logical approach to problem solving;
- good interpersonal and client-handling skills with the ability to manage expectations and explain technical detail;
- business awareness;
- a methodical, investigative and inquisitive mind;
- presentation skills;
- excellent oral and written communication skills;
- planning and negotiating skills;
- initiative and self-confidence;
- an interest in the way organisational processes work.
Systems analysts are expected to have a working knowledge of programming as well as analytical skills. Common programs include:
- Visual Basic, C++ and Java;
- Unified Modelling Language (UML);
- SAP business software applications;
- Web-based technologies.
Relevant pre-entry experience is welcomed, and IT-related vacation work or an industrial placement may lead directly to graduate employment.
Competition for vacancies is keen, particularly with the more high-profile employers. Internships and work experience or placements as an undergraduate will give you insight into the role and strongly support your graduate job search. Start making applications to larger firms in the autumn term of your final year.
IT businesses in the UK range from industry giants like IBM to micro organisations, employing fewer than five people.
It is important to note that the working culture and ethos between companies of different sizes may be very different. It is worth exploring which type of organisation might best suit your needs.
Analysts work in almost every kind of organisation within the IT industry, including firms of management consultants, software and systems houses, and large manufacturers of computing equipment who offer consultancy services.
Consultants' client companies are diverse and include:
- the financial services sector;
- the public sector;
- automotive firms;
- global investment banks;
- utility companies.
Some IT companies specialise in one area, such as internet solutions, or produce software tailored to a particular market. The analysts that they employ have, or develop, specialist knowledge and experience in that area or about those products and client sectors.
Some end-user organisations with large IT departments may employ their own internal analysts. Increasingly sophisticated payment systems, information storage, client records management and compliance processes are growth areas.
Working with a small to medium enterprise may offer scope to develop a wider range of skills, gain earlier responsibility and experience of a wider range of short-term projects.
Opportunities also occur overseas with UK and foreign companies, or with international organisations.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Inside Careers: Information Technology
- IT Jobs Post
- IT Jobs Watch
- Women in Technology
- Careers service vacancy lists.
- National and local press.
You should bear in mind that virtually all companies recruiting for IT vacancies advertise them on the internet.
Foe companies who employ consultants see the Management Consultancies Association (MCA).
Membership with professional organisations such as the Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP) may be a prestigious and useful way to make contacts, gain advice and even employment. They also have a Register of Consultants.
Training combines on-the-job and in-house courses for the development of technical and business skills.
It is likely that training will be provided in the programming languages used by the employer along with a variety of others and the principles of systems analysis, plus specific training to cover the technical skills required for particular projects.
Organisations also run courses to develop inter-personal skills in order to enhance interaction with clients.
These courses focus on areas such as:
- team leading;
- presentational abilities.
Many large companies run mentoring schemes to ensure that new members of staff are exposed to different working environments and systems. They tailor training opportunities to individual members of staff and the projects on which they are working.
A qualifications framework has been developed in collaboration with employers and the Joint Awarding Body Forum by e-skills UK - The Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology. It features links with qualifications vendors and awarding bodies including BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT), to ensure professional standards and a platform for the recognition of skills.
The BCS also provides information and guidance to assist members to develop their expertise and recognise and plan their learning needs.
For a range of courses, events and advice you may want to become a member of techUK .
Emerging technologies, new products and services are continually evolving with the result that practitioners need to continually update and review their skills.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is therefore all-important. There are many technology vendors offering a range of solutions and training options.
Supported by key professional bodies the SFIA Foundation (Skills Framework for the Information Age) provides another basis for IT professionals to monitor their skills.
Useful CPD qualifications include the BCS Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture and Prince2.
As an analyst, your immediate prospects depend on the size and type of the organisation for which you work, consequently, movement between employers is common.
Analysts often develop expertise in a particular business sector and career progression depends on your ability to upskill in line with current trends in the sector, such as:
- evolving cloud technology;
- mobile apps;
- big data;
- data protection.
Career advancement opportunities include:
- progression to consultant or senior consultant, liaising with top-level management in client organisations;
- indirect moves within the organisation, for example, developing specific technical expertise (in a systems/technical architect role);
- project management, or sales and account management roles;
- moving in a more strategic business direction, either within the company or with a consultancy firm.
The size of the organisation you work for is likely to have direct implications for the way your career will progress depending on its structure and business focus.
In a large organisation, systems analysts may have more opportunity to specialise in a particular client group, and to advance through the corporate structure. There may also be more opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams, for example, and even in overseas branches of the parent group.
In a small organisation, there may be more opportunity to gain experience in a variety of associated functions across the business, to feel closer to the front line of business activity and to see the direct commercial impact of your contribution.