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How to become part of ICT without really trying

edited March 27 in News

I made a career in Education as an Administrator specialising in Admin Systems and processes. Over the last 5 years, I saw the number of roles calling for my skills dwindle. It took some time to figure out why, but my Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) Manager cleared it up for me - my job, which was once considered Admin, was now considered part of ICT. The work I'd been doing for 16 years now called Business Analysis, and I was working on Business Information Systems, not Admin Systems.

Happily, this realisation lead my to role at ish, helping ICT, Admin and Management staff in training organisation with the issues and challenges I'd faced myself.

Business Information Systems (BIS)

BIS covers electronic systems, manual systems, process, procedures, documents and staff that collect, collate and disburse information. In layman's terms, ICT is only the software and hardware, BIS is ICT plus everything else. Elizabeth Hardcastle [p.8] lists five basic resources in BIS
* people - the users and developers of an information system, and people who maintain and operate the system i.e. IS managers and technical support staff
* hardware - computers and peripherals such as printers or mobile devices
* software - computer programs and instruction manuals
* communications - networks, including the hardware and software needed to support them
* data - the data stored for the organisation, such as in computer databases and paper files

onCourse is a type of Student Information System, usually called a Student Management System, or abbreviated to SMS.

Software Information System

Any software package that collects, sorts, stores or distributes information can be considered an IS, but there are categories such as Database system, Accounting systems, Administration system, Business Intelligence or Management Information system, calendars, email etc. IS include training, documentation and associated materials as part of the system.

Manual Information Systems

Paper-based processes are also covered by BIS. If a form is generated, printed, completed by a student, returned to the college and filed, it's still collecting data and is a type information system. Manual processes used to be called Administration systems, but are now subsumed into BIS. This is because many of the systems that used to be manual are now partially or fully supported by technology solutions, such as creating a web form rather than a paper form.

What is a Business Analyst?

People working in BIS are usually called a Business Analyst (BA). BAs the go-to people for making organisations work effectively. They review software, hardware, processes etc, and how they integrate with each other to ensure the business operates in a way that is efficient and effective.High-level ICT Manager, like Chief Information Officers (CIO), are usually responsible for the BIS in their organisations. Large organisations or Tech companies may have a BIS Manager or a BIS team.

What do Business Analysts do?

Business Analysts (BA) is often the keystone of a project, ensuring everything is meeting the needs of the client, and communicating those needs in terms the development staff can understand. The BA may also develop training material, participate in project development, project testing, implementation, and provide post-implementation support. BA roles may involve the development of project plans and often requires project management skills.

Wikipedia.org's summary states that there are at least four types of business analysis:
Strategic planning – to identify the organisation's business needs
Business model analysis – to define the organisation's policies and market approaches
Process design – to standardise the organisation’s work-flows
Systems analysis – the interpretation of business rules and requirements for technical systems (generally within IT)

While there are many BA, in many cases it's rolled into the Managers or ICT roles. It's often unacknowledged and not fully supported, so understanding BIS and gaining access to further support be highly beneficial for staff and organisations, particularly when there is change or growth in that organisation.

ish employs a number of staff with BA skills are specific to Australian training organisational environments. As an SMS vendor, ish carries out analysis on our clients' needs throughout the development cycle, including planning, creation, documentation and testing of features in onCourse.

Many of the features that are now available in onCourse began with a conversation between our BA staff and our clients. Most of onCourse's feature were conceptualised, designed and developed by our BA staff, then handed to our development team creation and technical testing, then back to our BA staff for further testing and documentation. Our BA staff deliver the training and review the effectiveness of the features.

As your organisation grows, or branches out into new areas, your needs change and you may benefit from conducting a Business Process Review and Re-engineering. Our staff are able to provide information and feedback on planned business changes, how they would function in onCourse, and what the impact the proposed change could be to other processes. Future articles in this series will define Business Process Re-engineering, How to Identify Business Processes for Re-engineering and whether to Outsource or Automate.

Many of our programs features began as 'how to do I' or 'could we' questions, and client asking for advise on their business process. ish is a Software as a Service provider (SaaS), so being responsive to the needs our clients is an essential part of our operational plan.

Further Reading

Luka Skracic's blog post on elabor8 as several amusing cartoons about Business Analysts, and what it is they do. My favourite is the image of the BA speaking to the client as a form and then to the developers in code. It's a very good visual of what a BS job is like.

You can to see diagrams of different types of information systems

This is the first in a series of four articles relating to Business Processes and Business Process improvement. The other articles are

  • How to become part of ICT without really trying - Business Information Systems
  • Brick by Boring Brick - Business Process Re-Engineering
  • Choose your own Adventure - Selecting Processes to Re-engineer
  • Choose your Weapon - Outsource or Automate
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