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Finally, the SDLC Model also leads to greater alignment of software application features with customer requirements, which is also measurable. As the role of the systems analyst becomes more closely aligned with customer strategies over and above that of being merely the implementers of technology to business strategists, the role of the SDLC becomes a necessary framework for initiating and delivering lasting process change to an organization.
Systems' Analysts Most Critical Task: Finding the Voice of the Customer
Defining the systems and analysis objectives for the all system analysis and design efforts begins with finding the Voice of the Customer (Columbus 2005) which are critical for the development of SDLC-based development strategies which must reflect not only one-of- business objectives but also the specific wants and needs from system users the applications under development will be used by daily. Many IT staffs host User Advisory Councils to gain insights into how the users internal to the company will be using the systems in the future. This Council acts as the Voice of the Customer in the development of the applications, and in the case of Microsoft for example, the company's internal IT staff uses Internet panels for listening to and capturing the unmet needs of internal customers. The User Advisory Council also has Sales, Product Management, Operations, and Service representatives on it to ensure their specific departments' needs are also reflected in the developed applications.. The first step in any strong systems analysis and design program is to create ownership not only with the eventual customers, or users of the system, but also with the internal departments that will also have to support the applications and the system over its life. This is typically referred to as change management, as it focuses on changing the behaviors associated with new systems' processes. It is the most difficult task of the system analyst to appreciably change how people do their jobs every day through the selectively layering in of key technologies. For change to be permanent the systems analyst must give the users ownership of the system being designed and created specifically for their needs. Alstyne, Brynjolfsson and Madnick (1997) comment that "The very act of decentralizing decision-making - asking workers for their values and then taking them seriously - can have a positive effect on the change process by giving employees a sense of ownership and responsibility when it comes to redefining core business businesses," and from previous work show the impact of theories of ownership on change management with this insight from their work Alstyne, Brynjolfsson and Madnick (1995): "Theories of ownership, for example, suggest that decentralizing decisions can boost quality levels as users take responsibility for performance themselves and the systems they help create."
According to many industry experts, change management can take up to 70% of the budget on any given project, as it is a strategy that defines how behaviors will change.
The next step in the systems analysis and design phase is working with the advisory council and internal team members to define how processes are completed today. The scoping of existing processes is a critical step in defining how both systems compliment how people work. The processes in place already, many no doubt highly inefficient and time-wasting in structure, need to be replaced with the system components of the applications themselves.
Following the definition of processes that are going to be modified, the systems workflows are created, often in a graphical formatting tool like Microsoft Visio for example. Figure 1 from the (Service Availability Forum 2005) shows graphically how the workflows are defined for handling the service-related functions within a service order management system HP created in 2006 for a client. Systems analysts create these Business Process Management (BPM) workflows to show how specific steps of a business process will be re-defined to better align with the needs of business strategies. HP specifically created the workflow below to show the flow of work from pre-service to service request, and finally to service withdrawal conditions.
Figure 1: Defining Workflows as part of the Systems Analysis Phase of the SDLC
Further steps regarding systems analysis and design include the creation of roles and responsibilities in a matrix, defining alpha and beta test programs, with strong focus on making each step of the systems design and analysis phase focused on both internal and external customers or stakeholders for the system. The use of the User Advisory Council is often used specifically for this purpose.
Progressing from the role of pure technologist to that of strategist and business process re-engineering expert through the use of programming, SOA, and composite application development tools, the system analyst is revolutionizing how companies are using IT to support and enable their accomplishment of business objectives. The traditional role of IT as a cost center is being transformed as a result in many organizations with the CIO becoming one of the lead strategists of an organization, responsible for the accomplishment of line-of-business objectives. This evolution from purely being a cost center to profit center is in direct proportion of the system analyst to be the change agent that assists in the accomplishment of business objectives first, using technology as the competitive advantage and differentiator.
Alstyne, Marshall van, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Stuart Madnick (1997). "The Matrix of Change: A Tool for Business Process Reengineering." MIT Sloan School Working Papers available on the Internet, accessed on December 17, 2006:
Alstyne, Marshall van, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Stuart Madnick (1995). "Why Not One Big Database? Principles for Data Ownership." Decision Support Systems 15.4 (1995): 267-284.
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