The title of Business Analyst is shared among nearly 30 employees in ASR, but what does a Business Analyst do? In sum, he or she clarifies the needs of a group of stakeholders and recommends methods for making a business process more efficient. A business process is a collection of tasks that produce a specific service, serving a particular goal, for our customers (e.g., students, faculty, staff, support units, or coordinate campuses).
Business Analysts provide maintenance support on existing systems and project support on new systems or business process improvements. They also complete upgrade and testing on new software and existing software, including testing new functionality and fixes to functionality in various systems.
Employees in this position often act as a liaison between the two sides of the business process: the functional user/customer (e.g., a college or department, including ASR departments) and the technical developer (e.g., Office of Information Technology). They offer support on implementing a new business process or a change to a process. Business Analysts translate the business requirements gathered from the user into system and/or technical requirements for the developer. Once this process is done, the system is tested and user training begins.
Though they all share the title of Business Analyst and many job duties, the specific job tasks differ depending on the unit.
Deb Edwards, business analyst, Office of Student Finance, Undergraduate Services
Deb Edwards has a background as a financial aid counselor at the University. She became a business analyst because she enjoys the daily challenges the job brings.
"I imagine a lot of people think my job sounds boring, but I enjoy helping people with problems that come up during the day," Deb said. "I love anything that takes me down a new road."
As a Business Analyst, Deb works on all systems related to financial aid for undergraduates. Deb also provides support to One Stop Student Services and the coordinate campuses with any issues related to financial aid.
Each year, Deb analyzes the Verification process of student's financial aid forms. In the verification process, the information provided on the verification form and the student's most recent tax returns are compared to the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If the information on the FAFSA differs from the information on the provided financial documents, the application data is corrected and the financial aid award amounts reflect those changes. Deb helps determine the criteria to set for selecting students in the upcoming year based on federal financial aid regulations. Much of her work is driven by federal regulation changes to the financial aid process.
She is also working on the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards for financial aid recipients, which is used to define a student's successful completion of coursework to maintain eligibility for student financial aid. For Deb's next project, she will begin working on estimating costs of the incoming freshmen financial aid packages.
Jack Kimmes, business analyst, ASR-IT, Student Financials
Jack Kimmes has a degree in accounting and came to the University with a knowledge of PeopleSoft. He enjoys looking for solutions to problems and thinking of new ways to do things.
"I really enjoy working with One Stop and the coordinate campuses with any problems they have. They are all great to work with," Jack said. "We are problem solvers for the University."
As a Business Analyst, Jack provides support to One Stop and the coordinate campuses with issues that arise during the day regarding calculating tuition, generating bills, and processing and making payments.
Jack is a member of the team working on the new version of the Tuition and Fee Management system (TFMS). Jack and others in ASR are meeting to define the requirements needed to upgrade the system. The new system is planned for an October 2012 release. In the meantime, Jack and others in ASR are in the process of evaluating preliminary user experience of the new system and solidifying the design to develop the most user-friendly interface. You can view details of the project at the TFMS project site.
The summer tuition set up will be completed by mid-March so he is currently working on configuring PeopleSoft so the fees are calculated correctly. Jack is also working on the upgrade to PeopleSoft 9.0.
Aileen Lively, business analyst, ASR-IT, Student Records
Aileen Lively has worked at the University for 32 years, much of it in the Office of the Registrar. She is a team lead in Student Records and is essentially the go-to person on campus about student record data. As a Business Analyst, Aileen provides support to all coordinate campuses on student records systems and system-wide tools such as Graduation Planner.
"With this job, you have to understand data: to know how it gets into the system and what it looks like," Aileen said. "You need to have a good understanding of the interrelationship of the user and the technical developer for each system."
A main part of Aileen's job is providing maintenance support on existing systems and upgrade support on new systems. Aileen is currently working on implementing the new PeopleSoft 9.0 upgrade as well as a technical upgrade to Oracle that focuses on the database behind many of our systems, including PeopleSoft.
Currently, she is working on a system that will send out emails to instructors, informing them of when a student has withdrawn from their class. She is also involved in the transition of over 10,000 student records from the Graduate School to the individual colleges and adding graduate program information to the Program and Curriculum Approval System (PCAS).
"This job has a lot of variety to it. It's not the same job every week and there are always different tasks and problems," Aileen said. "I focus on what benefits the students most because that is our highest priority."
Aileen's next project will be cleaning up the old PeopleSoft system and eliminating parts that are not needed after the upgrade. Aileen is also eager to begin work on business analytics and reporting to coincide with the Business Intelligence initiative.
How do you determine when a business process needs streamlining?
Jack: Generally, the functional users are aware that a process needs streamlining. They can tell that it is taking them longer than it has in the past, the results are not what they should be, or they are being asked to put through a higher volume. Sometimes the computer processes reach a point where they negatively impact the business process.
When acting as the liaison between all stakeholders of a business process, what strategies do you employ to make sure everyone is satisfied with the outcome?
Jack: The approach to acting as a liaison is twofold. First, you need to be able to communicate clearly with each side - the functional user and the technical developer. You also need to convey the importance of the business process to the technical developer and technical challenges back to the functional user. Secondly, you need to make sure the focus is on solving the business problem and not on buying the latest gadget, using the coolest technology, or maintaining the status quo just because we've always done it that way.
Deb: I think communication is vital. Usually, we can find an outcome that completely satisfies the stakeholders or at least improves a business process. But sometimes what stakeholders want simply can't be done or won't be done due to the amount of work that would be required to implement the desired change. I've found ASR staff to be very accepting of even these negative outcomes, as long as they understand the reasons behind the decision and what the other people involved are thinking.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Jack: Not to sound too corny, but it truly is making a positive difference in students' lives. When we are able to improve a system or implement a solution to a problem, we create a better student experience. This might be on a system with direct student impact (tuition calculation, billing, or UMPay) or one with indirect impact (Tuition and Fee Management System). Either way, it improves the overall University.
Deb: I most enjoy the problem-solving aspect of my job--finding out that a student has a mistake with his or her financial aid, for example--then writing queries to determine if other students are affected by the same problem, figuring out what caused the problem, and planning how to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again. It's very satisfying to know that a problem has been resolved and that students have been helped as a result.