How are projects initiated?

Projects are initiated in a number of ways:

  • A system that is currently in place in an organisation is not doing its job efficiently. Perhaps the business has grown and the system can't cope anymore. Perhaps too many problems keep arising.
  • Perhaps it is a new business that needs a way of solving a problem, for example, a new company needs to take on-line payments.
  • Perhaps an old system isn't flexible enough, or costs too much to run.
  • Perhaps there is a change in legislation that requires an existing computer system to be modified in some way.
  • Perhaps the company has heard of some new technology that they think may help them make their business more efficient and give them an advantage over their competitors.

Whatever the reason, a manager will notice that a system needs to be looked at. In the first instance, they will arrange a meeting with a Systems Analyst.

The first meeting

A Systems Analyst's job is to take charge of assessing a problem and to see whether or not it is suitable for computerisation, or whether an existing computer system can be upgraded. They will be expert in assessing situations. They will have a wide knowledge of existing computer technology and will be able to visualise what can be achieved with this technology. Before a Systems Analyst solves a problem, however, they need to be clear what the problem is! This might sound like common sense but can take a lot of time to get clear and it must be clear before any real work begins.

When company X has a problem, they will call in a Systems Analyst to look into it. We can assume that the company will be expert in whatever area of business they are in. They will not be expert in computer systems. They will not know about the latest technology. They will not necessarily know all that can be achieved using computers in their business area.

This is where the potential problem lies. The Systems Analyst is an expert in computer systems, but not company X's business. Company X is an expert in their business but may, at best, have only a vague idea about computer technology and what it can do for the business. Yet they have to talk together at the beginning of a project to decide what the project aims are. It is a little like two people who speak two different languages meeting together. They have to find a common way to communicate.

When company X calls in the Systems Analyst for the first time, they will sit down together and company X will explain why they have contacted the Systems Analyst. The Systems Analyst will listen carefully and will also use this opportunity to ask any questions, perhaps clarifying some of the jargon that company X has used during the discussion or double-checking that they have understood what they have been told by the company. Together, they will try to define the 'scope' of the problem. They will try to flesh out what the problem is in language that both company X and the Systems Analyst understand.


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