What Is a BSA? Examining the Role of a Business Systems Analyst
Business careers make up a huge portion of the workforce. It’s pretty easy to picture someone working in business. They’re probably wearing a button down shirt or a blazer. And they’re probably working on a computer at a desk in an office.
But as soon as you start looking closer, business careers can get murky. Who does what? How many choices for roles are there? Positions like sales representative or accountant might feel recognizable, but what is a business systems analyst? Clearly the human resources department isn’t just combining words at random and making it up as they go along—so what’s the deal?
If you are curious about this job title and what it means, you’ve come to the right place! Read on to examine the business analyst role and hear from a few professionals on what this job is like from within.
What is a business systems analyst (BSA)?
Business systems analysts can be called BSAs, computer systems analysts and even systems architects. But no matter the label, these professionals are defined by the goal of helping an organization operate more efficiently and effectively through the design and implementation of information technology systems, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1
They use both business and information technology tools to evaluate a company’s operating systems and procedures and design improvements. They typically consult with managers or other leaders of functional areas to understand how they use IT systems, research emerging technologies that might be a good fit for the company, analyze costs and benefits, implement new systems and train the system’s users, or write instruction manuals.
The BLS notes that business systems analysts tend to specialize in certain systems—based on what their company uses. Analysts could focus on financial computer systems or engineering computer systems for example.
The business systems analyst job description
You have an idea of what a business systems analyst is, but that doesn’t exactly offer a clear picture. What does a business systems analyst do all day?
“When I get to work, the first thing I do is check my emails,” says Lana Chuykova, a senior business analyst at Belitsoft. If there is an urgent request from a customer, Chuykova handles that first. “More often than not, I’ll meet with one of the development teams, where I clarify elements of the specification documents.”
After lunch, Chuykova typically works on business software specification documents and analyzes business processes. “Then I plan the best way to turn them into an application and explain them to the development team,” Chuykova says.
In many cases, business systems analysts will act as a bridge between departments to help IT members understand business objectives and help management professionals understand technological solutions. In a sense, they’re sort of a tech-translator. For example, a business may want to implement a new escalation system in their call centers so managers can quickly resolve issues. A BSA will map out the ins-and-outs of how end-users would like this system to work and then translate those needs into a concrete plan for an information technology team to implement.
To do this, business systems analysts use techniques like data modeling to design computer systems, analyze data to understand trends, and prepare documents for programmers or engineers to use when building a system.
“My favorite part is anticipating all the ways a user can behave and how the system should react to them,” Chuykova says. “Lately, I have also been enjoying planning consistent user experience for the applications and making sure this consistency is preserved.”
What skills do business systems analysts need?
If you are thinking this career sounds both technical and business-strategy oriented, you’ve got the right idea!
We used real-time job analysis software to find out which skills employers want most in their BSA candidates. These were the top five skills they were seeking:2
- Business systems
- Systems analysis
- Business process mapping
- SQL (structured query language)
- Project management
As you might guess, this is a role that lends itself well to people who love structure, organization and defining processes—as well as understanding the underlying logic behind these processes. This combined with technical IT knowledge is a great start, but other factors like the ability to communicate and ask the right questions are also valuable.
“The two most important traits in this field are inquisitiveness and attention to detail,” Chuykova says. “The first helps you dig deep into the business processes and figure out how they work. The second allows you to write more precise specifications and spot any inconsistencies.”
What do you need to become a business systems analyst?
A bachelor’s degree is commonly the requirement for this career, according to the BLS.1 Business systems analyst job postings in the past year confirm that finding—with about 90% of employers seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree.2
According to the BLS, many business systems analysts have technology-focused bachelor’s degrees in fields like information systems or IT management—though it is possible for candidates with a business degree and IT skills or training to work in one of these roles.
As you might expect for a role that requires a strong understanding of IT systems you’ll typically need a fair amount of experience to be eligible for most positions. Our analysis of job postings found that nearly 84 percent of postings were seeking a candidate with at least three or more years of relevant experience.2 Long story short—don’t expect to immediately land one of these positions after graduation as you’ll need to prove yourself.
Is a BSA career in your future?
The work of a business systems analyst is an interesting blend of business and technology. These valuable tech pros bridge the gap between identified business needs and the technical teams responsible for making them happen. While this may be a role that takes some career progression to reach, it’s never too early to start making a plan. Our article, “Top IT Job Titles for Every Stage of Your Tech Career” can help provide you with a clearer picture of the potential road ahead.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed May 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 29,013 business systems analyst job postings, Apr. 01, 2018- Mar. 31, 2019.)