The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for systems analysts will increase at an above-average pace through 2014, as organizations continue to build and implement increasingly complex technologies. If you've been wondering whether you'd be happy in the role of systems analyst, take a look at the following list. If you see yourself in some of these descriptions, you might want to consider another career route.
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#1: You expect the business to conform to IT
One of the reasons the word "analyst" is in the job title is that you'll need to analyze business needs and make IT serve them better. You might come up with a great plan to make the IT side of things function more efficiently or more powerfully, but don't expect your in-house clients to change their processes to make your proposal work — at least, not until you make the case that change is in their best interest.
#2: You don't like working with upper management
It's true that some top managers and executives are clueless about what technology can and can't do. After all, a senior executive may not have done much more than send e-mail or text-message on his CrackBerry — er, BlackBerry — for years. It can be hard on the ego to deal with their unrealistic demands and know that they make your yearly salary in a week or a month. If you can't patiently explain their misconceptions — without seeming disdainful of their ignorance — you won't succeed as a systems analyst.
#3: You can't say "No"
The ability to say "No" is important in managing all areas of life, but as a systems analyst, someday your job may depend on it. Suppose you're in a meeting with your boss, his or her boss, and management from the operations side. Someone tries to get you to commit, on the spot, to adding new functionality — and your boss is not interceding for you. Under pressure, many people would say "Yes" just to get out of the meeting. But if you don't know absolutely that you can do the project, within the time and budget required, resist the temptation to get them off your back temporarily. Agreeing to a task that turns out to be unreasonable is just a setup for failure.
#4: You can't say "Yes"
Saying "No" may prevent you from promising the impossible, but it's best to use the word sparingly. To succeed as a systems analyst, you'll need to think of yourself as an in-house consultant. The business needs IT tools to make money, and you have to figure out how to provide those tools. Work with your in-house customers to develop a plan you can say "Yes" to. Figure out what you need — more time, more money, more human or technical resources — and be prepared to back up your requests.
#5: You hate BAND-AIDS and duct tape
Few systems analysts get to design all-new systems with plenty of capacity to grow. The job more often consists of trying to get new things done on the same old platform with patched-together legacy code. To meet a business need in the time required, for example, your only choice may be to rig a little app to grab data from one place, process it, and send it into another app to create an information resource the business can use. (Even though you've found a way to accomplish the goal, it's usually a good idea also to propose a long-term plan that will process the data the right way.)
#6: You're just into the big picture
Working at the systems level, you might think that you'll be more concerned with the grand scheme of things than with petty details. But companies often demand that you follow a particular process to get almost anything done. Although a process with strict change control may protect you from dealing with users' whims, it can also bog you down with forms when you'd rather be moving ahead with the project. Plus, there are tons of details to document and progress reports to write, and you'll probably be involved in testing longer than you'd like.
#7: You rely on intuition to make decisions
Analysis and intuition are radically different ways of making decisions, and you're paid to be an analyst. Don't expect to be able to do the job by relying on similar experiences, innate knowledge, or gut feelings. You may be right, but in the planning stages of a project, most good managers will ask you to show your work (as they say in math class). Be prepared to spend some time working with Unified Modeling Language (UML) or other modeling tools. A flowchart on a napkin just won't cut it.
#8: You don't listen
Logical decision-making is critical to a systems analyst job, but you also need some people skills to succeed. Perhaps the most important of these is listening. When you meet with end users, listen to what they need and ask follow-up questions to refine project specifications. Listen to upper management, too, to understand the benefits the company as a whole wants from the project.
#9: You think compromising means losing
Do you always think you have the "right" answer? Nobody really cares about the right answer if it doesn't meet their needs. Your most elegant and rational design is inadequate if it blows the budget or misses the deadline for deployment. Be prepared to compromise and reengineer your project to meet with the company's limitations.
#10: You want to work 9 to 5 — only
The title systems analyst typically indicates responsibility for an entire system. If problems arise, you'll have to work until they are fixed. Be prepared for long days at the office or pagers going off on nights and weekends. And if you find yourself the only person with knowledge of your system, start cross- training someone as soon as you can. If your company doesn't think you and another person have time to cross-train, explain what will happen to the business if you're hit by the proverbial bus.