Decoding the Differences Between a Business Analyst Vs. Systems Analyst

Quynh Pham

Quynh Pham | 05/02/2024

Decoding the Differences Between A Business Analyst vs. Systems Analyst

Teamwork makes the dream work. This quote rings true for every project, especially software development projects. A well-structured software development team ensures that the project is smooth sailing at all of its different stages.

There are several key roles in a software project, but today, we want to discuss the roles of business analysts and systems analysts. Some projects have both of these roles, while others have only one of the two. In some cases, they are used as two distinct and separate terms, while in others, they are interchangeable. There seems to be a boundary between the two terms, but it is a rather fuzzy one. What does a business analyst or systems analyst do? What skillsets do you need to have to become a business analyst or systems analyst? Most importantly, are they one and the same?

A Quick Look at the IT Landscape

A Quick Look at the IT Landscape

A McKinsey study showed that 17% of large projects go so bad that they threaten an organization’s very existence. The same study found that large IT projects typically exceed their budgets by 45 percent and take longer to complete, all while providing 56 percent less value than expected.

A well-functioning team with the necessary key roles can prevent your project from falling into such disastrous circumstances. A business analyst and systems analyst (sometimes referred to as a business systems analyst) play vital roles in stirring the project the right way.

This includes laying a strong foundation for the project and making sure the requirements are correct from the start. The goals, visions, scope, and workflows are spelled out and defined. Another task is to collect and analyze data, helping organizations make informed strategic decisions. The duty also involves the translation of business requirements into a form so that the business stakeholders can understand and validate them while the development team has functional requirements to work with.

Those are some of the key roles business analysts and system analysts play. Of course, every organization has its business processes, systems, and technologies, so their roles might look different depending on them. There are core responsibilities each job title holds, which we will discuss in depth now.

Everything about Business Analysts

Everything about Business Analysts

What Do Business Analysts Do?

In short, business analysts assess processes and requirements by gathering information from both business and technical departments to enhance the quality of the software produced by their company.

A business analyst’s role revolves around an in-depth understanding of the business needs. The role focuses on a broader scope rather than the technology or application itself. When we take a closer look, it looks something like this:

Initial Phase/ Discovery Phase

After the sales team has done its job, it is the business analysts’ job to assist the customers with identifying the business problems and root causes, suggesting solutions as well as defining business goals. This can be done via meetings with stakeholders, discussions with experts, and focus groups with those that match the personas.

Development Phase

While the business analyst’s role is to analyze the requirement, business process, and software, they also join in during the development phase. Since they are the ones talking to the clients, they need to communicate such information with the dedicated development team, fill the backlog with user stories, and rank them in order of business value.

They also need to monitor the UAT (User Acceptance Testing), testing the final product in the “real world” to make sure that both the end users and stakeholders are happy with the final product and capture any additional requirements.

All in all, business analysts act as the bridge between the business and IT departments, ensuring that each understands the other’s needs and objectives.

Education

Those who aim to become a business analyst often aim to earn a bachelor’s degree in relevant fields like business, finance, economics, administration, computer science, engineering, or information technology. For more senior and specialized positions, you might be required for a master’s degree. Some organizations might accept candidates with relevant work experience or certifications in business analysis.

Competencies

Core competencies required for a business analyst include:

  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Collaboration skills
  • Requirements elicitation and documentation
  • Map and document business processes
  • Business domain knowledge
  • Data analysis
  • Monitoring and planning

Career Path

As you progress further in your career with more experience, you can become a business project manager or a senior business analyst, work in a different industry, work as a freelancer, or set up your own company.

Everything You Need to Know about Systems Analysts

Everything You Need to Know about Systems Analysts

What Do Systems Analysts Do?

While the business analyst role focuses on the business aspects, the systems analysts focus more on the technical aspects. Sometimes, however, systems analysts’ tasks overlap with those of business analysts, which is why there is a hybrid term for it called “business systems analysts.”

Systems analysts often join after the discovery phase is completed. With the main aim of bridging the business demands with technical solutions, systems analysts take and analyze the visions, goals, and requirements during the initial phase to create working solutions.

Systems analysts are team players who work collaboratively with various teams, including business analysts, quality assurance, developers, and software architects, to ensure the smooth functioning of a software development project.

Their main responsibility is to produce flowcharts, diagrams, and specifications for programmers. They also interpret technical issues in a business language that stakeholders can understand. They possess a deep understanding of how systems communicate with each other and their impact on the overall software architecture.

When Are Systems Analysts Needed?

Since systems analysts work on more technical aspects, they are needed in cases when there are:

  • Problems need solving in existing systems
  • Integrations with third-party systems
  • Large projects with complex components
  • The need to analyze data, business rules, or demands for additional requirements
  • The need to work with legacy data
  • Business requirements that need an agile response.

Education

Since the tasks of a system analyst are of a technical nature, they often have degrees in computer science, business information systems, information management systems, or maths and operational research. Since the job does involve some business aspects, a business degree would work, too, but often, it is best to get IT certifications or other IT training programs with it.

Competencies

The required technical skills and soft skills of a systems analyst include:

  • Knowledge of Object-oriented programming and SQL
  • Knowledge of SQL application in database and DBMS environments
  • Familiar with different integration styles like buses, APIs, and broker principles
  • Skilled in data models, entity relationships, and UML class/ sequence diagrams
  • Ability to debug and troubleshoot
  • Data analysis
  • System modeling/documentation (e.g., class diagrams)
  • Technical writing skills

Career Path

With experience, you can work your way up to become a senior system analyst, a project manager, a consultant or contractor, or even specialize in a field like retail or finance. The starting point in a systems analyst career, however, might be a business analyst, a developer, or a junior project manager role.

Is a Systems Analyst a Business Analyst?

The short answer is no. While the responsibilities of the system and business analysts overlap in certain cases, there are still key distinctions.

Similarities

Both business and systems analysts have several common soft skills.

  • Analytical Skills: Whether they are looking for a technical solution or a pure business one, they can collect and analyze data to figure things out.
  • Great Attention to Detail: As part of their jobs is to constantly make data-driven decisions, it is crucial for both the systems analyst and business analyst to take seemingly trivial details in to detect patterns or solutions faster.
  • Teamwork and Communication Skills: Whether a business analyst, a systems analyst, or one who performed a mix of both roles, you never work alone. Typically, you need to frequently communicate with other teams, the client, and stakeholders.

Differences

Even though their main roles both involve solving business problems, a business analyst is not a systems analyst, and vice versa.

The business analyst’s focus is on the big business picture. The system’s analyst focus is on the IT infrastructure.

The business analyst might draw up a plan and requirements for the final code, while the systems analyst makes sure the final codes are working effectively.

Although the two are very similar, and in certain projects, you might only find one of the two roles, they are complementary and together can produce successful results.

Last Note

Understanding the differences between business analysts and systems analysts can ease your process of making an informed decision about your future career. If you enjoy solving business problems and want to connect with business users, a career as a business analyst might be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you have a strong technology background and want to use your expertise to elevate a project without coding, then you might want to consider a career as a systems analyst.

No matter which path you choose, it’s important to have the right environment to practice and grow your skills. At Orient Software, we value personal growth and have a team of talented individuals who are happy to guide you on your journey. Join us and take the first step towards a fulfilling career in business or systems analysis.


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