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What's In A Title / Job Description - Programmer, Developer, System Analyst, Business Analyst Tue 02 Dec 08

Programmers_aid_dunkv_2A reader from Singapore (fantastic place by the way) wrote me with a question a few weeks ago -- " Just wonder how a BA [business analyst] is different from a SA[system analyst].   My understanding of a good SA has attributes given in the 'job description. "  This is an interesting question as the two titles are often used interchangeably along with 2 other titles: programmer and developer.

If we look as some simple descriptions from Wikipedia we see some similarities and overlap and a progression.  There are lot more that can go into the job descriptions but these simple description do illustrate the point.

  • Programmer - A programmer is someone who writes computer software.
  • Developer - A software developer, one who programs computers or designs the system to match the requirements of a systems analyst.
  • System Analyst - A systems analyst is responsible for researching, planning, coordinating and recommending software and system choices to meet an organization's business requirements.
  • Business Analyst - A business analyst or "BA" is responsible for analyzing the business needs of clients to help identify business problems and propose solutions.

What we see is a progression from highly technical orientation to highly business orientation.  Graphically it might look like this:

In terms of definition although there distinction in skills and responsibilities for each position there is also some overlap especially with one position compared to the next.  The distinctions are primarily one of focus technical versus business.  However in real world terms these may be a distinction without a difference.

In large organization you may actually see all 4 roles but in many cases the terms are used interchangeably to some extent.  Programmer and developer often are used in the same way as are system analyst and business analyst.  In smaller organizations the person doing the business analysis may also be the one programming the code.

So to answer the original question - it depends on how you want to define your organization and the roles in it.  A system analyst can be something different than a business analyst or it can be the same.  For my money I wouldn't worry too much over the distinction and would generally consider them the same.

What do you think about this?  How do you use these titles in your organization?

"Programmer's aid" photo by dunkv

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