Systems Analysis & Design
Systems analysis and design (SA&D) is an important process that creates information systems that support strategic organizational objectives. SA&D skills are important and a critical component of technology education. Most systems analysis and design skills are introduced during the educational process and fine-tuned with on-the-job experience. Systems education initially emphasized the technical portion of SA&D skills and now incorporates more interpersonal and planning skills. The goal of systems analysis and design is to make business processes more efficient and effective by improving the design and function of computer systems that drive and support business processes. Systems analysts usually perform the functions related to systems analysis and design and turn user requirements into technology implementations. Analysts must also determine the feasibility of implementing user requirements. Analysts use interviewing techniques and questionnaires to query users and use flow charts and data diagrams to begin to map systems. Over time, various models have been used to conduct the systems analysis and design process. More recently, analysts may opt to use a combination of proven models to provide the best result for a particular organization's needs (Siau & Rossi, 2011).
Keywords Systems Analyst; Systems Analysis and Design; Systems Development; Systems Development Life Cycle
Information Technology: Systems Analysis
Systems analysis and design requires understanding the role of the systems analyst and reviewing the process of developing systems. Avison, Cole & Fitzgerald (2006) note "The process of developing and maintaining information systems is the main role of IS people in practice." The process of developing computer systems requires specific skills and abilities. Analysts learn these skills by studying systems analysis and design. Systems analysts look for ways to apply technology to the strategic goals of an organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2006) states that analysts "solve computer problems and apply computer technology to meet the individual needs of an organization. They help an organization to realize the maximum benefit from its investment in equipment, personnel, and business processes." Developing information systems must follow a logical pattern, format or discipline to be completed in a predictable fashion (Avison et. al., 2006).
An information system is short for computer-based information system and is the combination of hardware, software, human resources, telecommunications, databases, policies and procedures organizations use in combination to convert data into useful business information (Stair & Reynolds, 2001). The components of an information system include input of raw data, processing (which is manipulating data), output (which involves generating useful information or reports from the system) and feedback (which allows an opportunity to make changes in input and processing or to correct errors) (Stair & Reynolds, 2001).
Stair & Reynolds (2001) discuss how a strategic plan for an organization drives the systems that run an organization. When information systems projects are identified, the projects develop from a combination of the objectives of a strategic plan and systems projects that remain unfinished or appear as an unexpected need. Information systems planning stems from the strategic plan and yields activities and plans for systems development.
There is a process called the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) which guides the process of systems development in an organization. There are several steps in the process (Stair & Reynolds, 2001):
- Systems investigation
- Systems analysis
- Systems design
- Systems implementation
- Systems maintenance and review.
The process begins with understanding what problems exist (investigation phase) and then understanding the solution (analysis phase). After analyzing what should happen, the design phase involves planning the best solution. After the planning or systems development phase, implementation occurs. Once the system is implemented, it is evaluated to ensure that it is consistent with the original goals that were the drivers of the solution in the first place.
Stair and Reynolds define four different approaches or ways to develop new systems including:
- Rapid application development (RAD) and
- End user development
The traditional method of developing systems simply uses the steps of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) while prototyping continuously creates prototype or demonstration systems that can be analyzed and evaluated until a satisfactory final version is achieved. Rapid application development is a method of speeding up the development process through automation and reduction of documentation. Finally, end user development is weighted heavily with participation in development from business managers and end users. Goda Software (2005) confirms "any single process is not universally applicable for all projects in an organization." Systems analysts need to be informed and aware of various approaches and techniques because of the need to vary approaches by project.
Systems analysis and design (SA&D) skills are deemed critical to organizations. McGee (2006) quotes a Society for Information Management survey of IT managers where over 60% stated that it was imperative to keep important systems analysis and design skills in-house. SA&D skills are so important that they make up an important part of technology and business education. Batra & Satzinger (2006) have proposed fundamental changes to SA&D education to allow for changes in technology including trending towards Web technologies and necessary changes in approaches used in the real world. Currently, Batra & Satzinger (2006) observe that many organizations are using development methods that are not pure in type but more of a "hybrid or customized" approach.
TechWeb.com (2007) defines systems analysis and design as:
"The examination of a problem and the creation of its solution. Systems analysis is effective when all sides of the problem are reviewed. Systems design is most effective when more than one solution can be proposed."
Systems analysts must be skilled in the analysis and design process but also possess an objective view and open attitude towards considering multiple possibilities. The entry of end-users in the design process may also force systems analysts to think critically about the tendency to take traditional approaches because the traditional is familiar. Although systems analysts are key players in analyzing and designing systems, all organization members are impacted and affected by the design and analysis of the systems that run the organization's business processes. Significant project planning and preparation is necessary before the analysis and design phases begin. Some organizations have a specific project planning methodology that is used for systems development. Approaches to project management can evolve based on internal skill and needs.
Kendall & Kendall (2005) call systems analysis and design a "systematic and complex endeavor." The process is systematic in that it follows a predictable path, but follows the path in a creative way. Systems analysis and design is complex because it delves deep into the business processes of an organization. Sometimes these process have been accurately documented but other times, the process may not be accurately documented nor the reasons why modifications might have been made. Inaccurate processes can lead to wasted effort and outputs that are unusable or unnecessary.
The Relationship Between Organizational Knowledge
Bera, Nevo & Wand (2005) state "Organizations analyze their business processes in order to improve them." Improvements can be driven by the inefficiencies of existing systems, a need to meet a new customer demand, requirements to reduce the cost to maintain a system or increase system functionality. The actual processes that systems development seeks to improve contain substantial, important information and often, that information is not captured as the systems are modified (Bera et. al., 2005).
Bera et. al. (2005, p. 814) identified knowledge as a key organizational asset that provides competitive advantage and should be captured as systems and processes are analyzed. The authors describe a process called "Knowledge Requirements Analysis" (KRA) that specifically calls for identifying the organizational knowledge contained in processes while also analyzing from a process perspective. By looking at knowledge contained in business processes, companies can easily see where information needs to be refined, is inaccurate or is not being shared. Knowledge is connected to business processes either as being generated from the process or as the knowledge that makes up the process and how information is routed. The ability to execute strategic plans through systems is dependent upon an organization's ability to identify, use, reuse and repurpose knowledge.
The process of systems analysis and design should not begin without making sure that knowledge management is an integral part of the actual processes. The problem that organizations have is how to select one way to manage both the processes and knowledge (Bera et. al., 2005). When organizations conduct a Knowledge...
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