Wringing the most out of existing business systems and designing new ones that optimize major business processes are key ways that organizations attempt to operate more effectively. And as companies rely even more on their business systems to boost efficiency, control costs and plan for growth, business systems analysts have become an especially sought-after talent.
In fact, demand is particularly strong for business systems analysts who have a solid accounting or finance background coupled with specialized expertise in enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages and related software.
High demand for quality data
Today there is a much narrower margin of error for business systems that fail to accurately capture key data needed to enable good decisions. Firms determining whether or not to invest in a new product line, for example, depend heavily on the analytics they get from their systems.
The final decision must be based on quality data. Mistakes introduced anywhere in a process or cycle are especially costly in the current environment. One false step could be particularly damaging as firms attempt to take advantage of new opportunities.
The common thread
Business systems analysts typically act as a liaison between the business side of an enterprise and the providers of services to the enterprise. They possess functional expertise in one or more of the traditional business processes (e.g., revenues, expenditures, financial reporting, payroll, general ledger, human resources systems and treasury) as well as specialized knowledge of one or more of the major ERP systems. Using their nontechnical skills, the business systems analyst enhances communication between internal and external parties, minimizing costs and delays. It’s not hard to see why their particular expertise makes them so valuable to firms.
Business system analysts can assist at various points in a company’s evaluation of its ERP capabilities and its decision to move forward with new projects. Those with deep knowledge of finance and/or accounting concepts are needed to help companies assess their ERP implementations and recommend ways to optimize these systems. Those whose expertise is more focused around the IT aspects of these projects, such as software and application development, are most helpful in network and software implementation phases.
Few firms, especially small and midsize businesses, have the resources for full-time support of ERP initiatives nor does this arrangement make the most sense given the one-time nature of most of these projects. As a result, companies look instead for consultants, or project professionals, with the required strong finance and accounting backgrounds and ERP implementation experience to serve in business systems analyst roles. Using consultants also helps a company prevent internal bias or politics in the system selection process. Interim business systems analysts are not salespeople; they are independent from any vendors.
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High demand for business systems analysts also means that a specialized staffing firm typically will have little difficulty keeping these professionals on assignment, thereby creating a steady income stream for them. The arrangement also provides flexibility not possible with full-time work. After one assignment ends, consultants can opt to move on to another project or take a break.
Finance professionals desiring to serve as business systems analysts may be able to present themselves as candidates by repackaging their current skills and/or pursuing certifications in top ERP systems and business applications such as SAP, Oracle/Peoplesoft, JD Edwards, Microsoft Dynamics GP and even Sage 50 Accounting (formerly Peachtree Accounting) or QuickBooks for less-complex systems consulting. Individuals best suited for these opportunities will also have excellent communication and client interaction skills.
The time invested acquiring certifications or honing skills will be well spent since these opportunities or others similar to them are not likely to go away any time soon. Professionals who can combine their existing functional expertise with more sophisticated systems knowledge will be in an ideal position to advance their careers.