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Typical day of a systems analyst.

By brentdeback ·
Can someone please describe in detail what a systems analyst might do on a normal job day?. I would greatly appreciate if someone with IT experience could answer this question.
Anything like the issues they deal with, how they solve them, is it stressful?, just pretty what they go through during a typical day as a systems analyst. Thanks.

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First define the job responsibilities of a system analyst

by stress junkie In reply to Typical day of a systems ...

It's amazing how the various job titles have kept the same verbage over time but the definitions have changed dramatically. Back around 1990 there were a lot of job titles that would be considered appropriate for a particular job. Example: I am a system administrator. This term first became popular in the Unix environment. Some people would call me a network administrator under Microsoft's way of thinking. Other people would say that I'm a system manager. This title was almost exclusively used by Digital Equipment Corporation. Still others would say that I am a system analyst/administrator. Head hunters have used this job title to describe what I do. So what is a system analyst? What is the scope of the job that you have in mind?

Let's say you mean what I would call a system administrator. What part of my job is "analysis"? I consider the analysis part of my job to be related to capacity planning and determining the current and future IT requirements of a client. In this capacity you have to know what you have already got, what the future is of the technology that you are using, trends in the IT industry, the business culture, and available resources. All of these factors and more are used to create a vision of what your IT department should be doing and what it should be aiming to do in the future. You take all of that information and create a plan. Then when budgets are being drawn up you have some idea of what you should be purchasing, what you could redeploy to save money, and how your decisions will affect the end users' work experience and productivity. Generally the system analyst does not make the final decisions. Managers like to keep that to themselves. The analyst simply creates recommendations and can explain in detail why you have made those recommendations, and the options that you rejected in your plan. BUT, this only takes up a very small part of the system administrator's day. This is a background project.

You can expect to balance your time between several background projects which have deadlines with unplanned problems that need immediate resolution and with typical tasks like user account maintenance. All of the following accounts have happened to me.

You will always have a couple of ongoing projects such as upgrading and patching various mission critical software applications. These are applications like email server and database server software. Mistakes are highly visible to everyone in the business so you want to avoid making any. You will research everthing that you can find about the system and find potential problems. Then you create an action plan to address any and all possible problems. Then you create a test environment and do a test upgrade. If that goes well then you schedule the upgrade or patch to occur when the end users aren't using the system. That means nights and weekends. Then you perform the upgrade and, if you're lucky, either there are no problems or you find the problems and "roll back" to the original configuration. If you aren't lucky then the upgrade looks okay until Monday morning when nobody can do this or that and you have to "roll back" to the previous configuration during normal working hours and EVERYONE in the business thinks you are an idiot.

Then there are the problems that arise without warning. I remember one classic example. One day the in house development manager came into my office shouting at the top of his voice that the server for his application was ground to a halt while the CPU was at 100% and the I/O was at the peak of the hardware's capability. Naturally my efforts to diagnose the problem were slowed by the fact that the server was not responding very quickly. So this guy is raging into my ear and looking over my shoulder while I'm trying to figure out what jobs are using up the resources. That's never very pleasant. Department managers frequently come into your office and look over your shoulder while yelling at you. Anyway it turned out that the person that was yelling at me had started a job to reindex a huge database that was being used by end users to do their work. So it turned out that the guy who was screaming in my ear was the person who had caused the problem. Oh, this guy NEVER apologised. THEY NEVER DO. NEVER.

I think that story answers your question about stress. If you don't like having managers at all levels of the corporation barging unexpectedly into your office and screaming at you and blaming you for problems that they have caused then you probably shouldn't get into this business.

Then there are times that a field service rep will be doing work on your servers. All of a sudden all of the computers stop responding. Why? Well the field service rep had knocked the power cord for a portable air conditioner out of its socket and had immediately plugged it back in. Now you may or may not know that if you turn off an air conditioner you need to wait a couple of minutes before you turn it back on. So when the field service rep plugged the air conditioner back in it caused a power overload and tripped a circuit that powered three or four servers. And then the field service rep left without saying anything so it takes five or ten minutes to figure out what happened. In the mean time your phone is ringing off the hook with people calling to tell you that the network is down or the server crashed or they don't know what. And the people that are calling are also very angry because they had been editing some document and had lost three hours of work.

Then there is the case when you enter work the receptionist says that you need to go directly to the President's office. You get there and your boss is trying to explain why the one and only company server isn't running. They take a minute from their dialoge to tell you that the server isn't running and fifty people are sitting on their hands because they can't do their work and you have SEC reports due today. So you investigate and find that the system disk on the server has crashed. You fondly remember that you had been trying to get your boss to purchase an extra disk and your boss had scoffed at the idea of having an extra disk in the server. So you call field service and it will be at least four hours before they can get to your office. Once they get there it could be another four or more hours before they fix the problem. Once they do their job it will take YOU several hours to restore the disk from the last full backup and the apply all four of the incremental backups. So once the field service techs get around to replacing your broken disk you will be at work until about midnight getting the computer running. In the mean time there is nothing that you can do and people are all looking at you like "Why aren't you doing anything?" And your boss is telling the President that YOU should have forseen this and recommended some fault tolerant configuration, which you did but the President doesn't know that and your boss is trying to cover her own *** by blaming you. (I'm talking about you Jean F.!!!)

Or there is the situation where a business has absolutely no tolerance for downtime because they are overworking the servers. You walk in and find that the server that runs payroll has crashed and the payroll job is now several hours behind schedule so people will not get their paycheck on time. Few things make people more angry than when they are not going to get their paycheck on time. Believe me. Anyway you restart the server, read the logs, and two high level managers appear in the server room door expecting an explanation. You say that it will take a little time to figure out what happened. They leave very unhappy. Then a programmer calls you and says he knows what happened. He will tell you if you don't repeat what he says. You agree. It turns out that this programmer had gone into the server room and accidentally pressed the halt button on the server. Then he didn't know what to do so he left the room hoping that nobody saw him. So you're happy that the OS didn't crash but managers want answers. You have to say that you cannot tell them what happened but that it wasn't a problem with the computer. They want to know why you won't tell them what happened. You have to say that you gave your word of honor in order to find out what happened. The managers aren't happy WITH YOU because you won't tell them what you know.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

This is a typical day in IT system administration.

Does that answer your question?

Embrace the stress.

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thanks.

by brentdeback In reply to First define the job resp ...

looks like it might be a very stressful job. Or in your experience lol. I wasn't expecting someone to write as much as you did, but ya you did answer the question very well. But, you are a system administration, which is a higher level than a systems analyst. Based on my knowledge, you are the person that can either save the business, or let it fail. I don't think a systems analyst has that type of stress (although how would i know, im just a college student lol). BTW, how did you become a system administrator? Is that a recommended field to go into? or is it flooded?

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:-D

by stress junkie In reply to thanks.

The point that I tried to make in my first paragraph is that job titles mean different things to different people. One person's system analyst is another person's system administrator.

You wrote "Based on my knowledge, you are the person that can either save the business, or let it fail."
Thanks but I wouldn't go that far regarding the success of a business. System administrators can help a business make good decisions about spending money. They can also help a business find good solutions to address information management requirements. My war stories give a feel for exactly what I do. It's not always that bad. Each story was from a different job. I worked as a contract employee for 15 years so I had about 40 jobs. I expect that I would not have had so many adventures if I had spent a lot of time in one place.

As for career advice I would never suggest that anyone get into system administration. When I entered this field in 1985 I was sure that computers would become so simple that businesses would not need system administrators by 1995. I was wrong, thankfully. Experience has shown that computer issues have become more complex over time. However this trend may not continue forever. We are experiencing a lot of issues caused by the commercialisation of the Internet. Once things like viruses and phishing are effectively addressed the field may become simpler. I always expected that system administration would become like a janitor. Anyone can do it but businesses hire people for that task just because it's easier than telling everyone to take turns cleaning the latrine. I still think that eventually the system administrator will be just like the janitor.

The current job situation can be assessed by looking at monster.com and dice.com and other similar sites. You can see how many ads are being posted in a week and get a feel for the demand from the ad posting rate.

As to how I got into system administration here is the Reader's Digest version: I got out of college planning to be a programmer. I got a job in a tiny company where I was the only computer support person. I wrote programs. I designed databases and created applications to massage the databases. And I supported the computers. When I left that company the Tao of my career presented one contract system administrator job after another. After a couple of years I was behind the curve on my knowledge of software development tools. Businesses started using the C programming language and SQL for databases. I never learned either. I was stuck with my only current skills being in system administration. The rest is history.

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