A software analyst is a vital member of any software development team. Whether new programs are being developed or existing programs are being upgraded or modified to meet user requirements, the software analyst is there to bridge the gap between developers and end-users. The software analyst needs to have a diverse skill set in both business and technology to be successful.
1. Understand available programs
To best support the end-users, a software analyst needs to know what programs the company currently has and how that software works. Since part of the responsibility of the software analyst is to ensure end-users are getting what they need and want, the more familiar the analyst is with available software, the better able they will be to communicate options and manage expectations.
Often business teams begin their search for solutions outside the company, assuming if their need could be met by existing infrastructure, they wouldn’t have the need. A systems analyst is familiar with the programs available, and their capacities can redirect those efforts to existing solutions that the team may have been unaware of, saving both time and money.
2. Stay informed of new products
Additionally, a good software analyst must stay in the know about new software options that the company may adopt in the future, such as 5G network architecture. When user requirements exceed the capacities of existing, in-house programs, this information can be used to help the company prioritize software purchases or make upgrades based on the evaluated needs of users.
Besides knowing about the software, it’s valuable for the analyst to understand how it fits current infrastructure and meets present and future business needs. This awareness further serves to inform software purchase decisions. For example, suppose a new software already slated to be implemented by the company can readily meet the users’ needs without extensive work, where an existing software could be used but would require exorbitant hours of modification and testing. In that case, the informed analyst could make a recommendation that best serves the end-users, the development team, and the company’s bottom line. This requires that the analyst also have a firm grasp on the needs and urgency of the end-users and the skillset and availability of the development team.
3. Ask the right questions
It is not uncommon for end-users to have trouble articulating what they want and need from their software. They’ve become so accustomed to certain workarounds that they no longer realize they’re working around anything. A successful software analyst will be able to work closely with the end-users to identify these areas while discovering additional needs and desires to make the software as effective as possible. It can be easy to assume the user knows what they need, and while they may be able to communicate their desired outcomes, sometimes the best they can say is, “It’s clunky.” This is where asking great questions comes into play.
By asking the right questions of the right people, the software analyst will be able to understand and clearly articulate how the software is currently being used, what it is supposed to be providing, and where it is falling short. Since solving today’s problem is not their only objective, software analysts know the questions to ask to discover the anticipated future needs of the end-users as well. The better the analyst can draw out the desires and needs of the end-users, the clearer the software requirements documentation will be, and the more likely the users will receive a solution they are happy with.
4. Comfortable as the liaison
It can be tricky to be the go-between when dealing with software program updates, upgrades, and modifications. Not only must the software analyst be well-versed in the language of business, but in the language of tech and in translating the two. This may be comfortable in the beginning stages, with the excitement and hope that a new project brings with it, but as the project moves forward and there are changes, shortcomings, disappointments, and delays, the ability to continually communicate status and maintain end-user engagement can grow more complex.
Delays are inevitable, and problems always arise. Even in the best-run projects, the liaison needs to be flexible, clear-headed, and communicate well in times of conflict and compromise. The ability to manage expectations and emotions effectively while keeping all the key players focused on the objectives makes a huge difference in how a project moves forward.
An analyst will understand what to communicate, how, when, and to whom. This one skill set can make the difference between success and failure as an analyst.
5. Familiarity with business process improvement
Ultimately the software analyst is involved in business process improvement. The whole point of creating new programs or modifying existing software is to improve one or more business processes. While a strong background in technology can provide a foundation for understanding the options, experience in business and process improvement offers an important perspective, without which the analyst may struggle to truly meet the end-user’s needs.
Often business groups present their needs in isolation, so a skilled software analyst will take the time to grasp the full scope of the impact any requested changes may have company-wide. Coordinating one change for an end-user can easily have ripple effects in other departments. Knowing this in advance and ensuring the changes will not result in undesirable outcomes for other impacted users is an important part of the software analyst’s job.
This is also important because the software analyst is often tasked with updating business process manuals and assisting with testing, implementation and training. Without knowing what departments are impacted by a project, manuals will be missed, and testing may not include all the key players.
6. Adept at project management
While a software analyst will not always be the project manager they are always responsible for project management. From beginning to end, no one is as intricately involved in most software upgrade, modification and implementation projects as the software analyst. They are the glue that holds the project together and keeps things moving. The stronger their skills in project management, the smoother the flow of the projects they are involved with, and the more likely those projects will be completed in a timely fashion to the satisfaction of the end-users.
7. An eye for detail
Documenting user requirements, creating quality assurance test cases, reviewing results, running reports, evaluating progress, updating process and procedure manuals, all of these tasks require great attention to detail. One missed step or piece of information could change the course of an entire project, either derailing it completely or delaying it unnecessarily. The software analyst must be patient enough to validate their work and the work of others, and engaged enough to understand the impact of the data they are reviewing.
In the ever-changing landscape of software and technology, the importance of skilled software analysts cannot be overstated. From maximizing the efficient use of existing software to assisting in prioritizing the purchase and implementation of new programs, the software analyst helps streamline business processes and improve the bottom line.