Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 31, 2008


Over the last four decades I have met a lot of Systems Analysts in a lot of different industries. Some impressed me greatly by their knowledge of their business and the systems they designed, but I have also met a lot of duds along the way. When I think about the better ones, I consider the attributes they share which I can narrow down to three areas:

1. They are in-tune with their business. This doesn't necessarily mean they graduated with a business degree, although some did, but rather they took the time to study the business and placed themselves in the shoes of the managers, clerks, and other workers they were charged to support. In other words, they took the initiative to assimilate the duties and responsibilities of the end users.

Conversely, the duds tended to take technical solutions and tried to jam it down people's throats with little thought of the applicability for solving specific business problems. As a result, personnel in the user departments tended to resist such technological solutions, even going so far as to sabotage efforts for its implementation.

2. They can conceptualize and possess an analytical background. Although they appreciate the need for detail, they are able to think big and look for pragmatic solutions. In contrast, the duds tend to get sidetracked easily over minutia.

3. They possess strong communication skills, both oral and written, allowing them to effectively interview people, articulate problems and solutions, and be very persuasive. The duds have trouble communicating at any level.

You'll notice I didn't include a knowledge of technology as an attribute. The better analysts understand the need for monitoring technology trends, but are not driven by it. Basically, they understand technology is physical in nature and changes dynamically. Instead they are more focused on the logical business problem and how to solve it. In essence, they realize "there is a million and one ways to skin a cat."

There is an old argument as to who produces the best Analysts: the Business Schools or the Computer Science Schools. Although I have seen some good people from both ends of the spectrum, some of the best Analysts I've met do not come from either school. Instead, I have seen them come from entirely different backgrounds including Library Science, Music, Engineering, and Mathematics; disciplines based on a governing science yet allows for the expression of creativity.

Frankly, I haven't met too many successful Analysts who graduated from the ranks of programming as they typically only see things through the eyes of the computer. They tend to believe the only valid business problems worth solving are those that can be addressed using the latest technology; everything else is considered inconsequential. I refer to this as a "tail wagging the dog" philosophy.

One of the best Analysts I ever met was a young woman from Wisconsin who worked for a government agency there. This particular agency was trying to overhaul a major financial system, an effort that stalled after several months and using quite a few people on the project. To break the logjam, the Director assigned the young Analyst to the project, but gave her latitude to operate autonomously. In three months time she had methodically documented the existing system, noting its strengths and weaknesses, defined the requirements, and designed a totally new system which was then turned over to programming for implementation. In other words, she had been able to accomplish in three months by herself, what the whole project team hadn't been able to do in twice the amount of time. She was organized, she could conceptualize, and she was disciplined. After reviewing her work, I asked her about her background. I was surprised to learn she possessed a degree in music, something she took quite seriously and claimed helped her in her work. "What was her instrument?" you might ask; the piano (with a working knowledge of the harpsichord to boot). Her forte though was in music composition which she found analogous to system design; interestingly, she considered playing musical instruments as essentially no different than programming. In other words, she grasped the significance of logical and physical design, and the difference between Systems Analysis and programming.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith!

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...

"Systems are logical, programming is physical."


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


When we join a new company, we're all hoping for a fresh start and clean slate. The last thing we want is to get embroiled in political intrigue, regardless of how petty it might seem. Most of us just want to do our work and move along with our lives. Even if this were so, which is rarely the case, we must still deal with "political correctness" as defined by society; we have to recognize certain protocols in our mannerisms, language, and conduct. So, even before we get started in a new job, we have to recognize there is going to be some form of politics, like it or not. I remember visiting a manufacturing company in the Midwest where a Vice President proudly said to me, "You'll like this place Tim, there's no politics here whatsoever." And I think he firmly believed it too. In reality, they had more cutthroat politics than I had ever seen before.

Whether you are a new employee or a visiting consultant, one of the first things you have to determine about a company is its pecking order. An organization chart makes a convenient road map in this regards, but it doesn't truly define the power structure in a company. For example, a weak manager may actually draw his strength from a powerful assistant. Nonetheless, it is important to identify the fiefdoms of the company, who the key players are, and who the allies and adversaries are. Without such knowledge, you will inevitably trip into some political dispute or become an unwitting pawn in a power play. The best advice in the early going is to simply keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut.

Aside from the power players in an organization, the three most common types of political animals you will encounter are the Suckup, the Radical, and the Saboteur. The Suckup (aka "Brown Noser") essentially has no spine and is the perennial "Yes Man" to the boss. The boss says "Jump" and the Suckup says, "How High?" But the Suckup has a political agenda of his own which typically is an advancement through the assistance of the boss. He therefore bends over backwards to please the boss at the expense of losing the respect of his coworkers.

The Radical represents "the bull in the China shop" or "loose cannon" and is best known for revolting against the status quo, not quietly but loudly, and is not afraid of stepping on a few toes along the way. In many ways he is like Sherman's march to the sea. Perhaps his mission is correct, and perhaps it isn't. Regardless, this type of person has a slim chance of succeeding as his detractors will work overtime to undermine him. When dealing with such a person you basically have two choices: either join him and hope for the best, or get the heck out of his way so that you are not run over.

The Saboteur is perhaps the most viscous of the three and can probably best be characterized as the "conniving weasel" or "backstabber" who schemes to make the lives of others miserable. He is driven by petty jealousy and wants desperately to be seen as a power broker in his institution. Since he has no real life of his own, the Saboteur gets his jollies by undermining anybody that garners more attention than he does. Whereas the Suckup and the Radical can be dealt with politically, the Saboteur is a pest that must be exterminated.

Office politics is about loyalty and trust. At some point, you will be asked to choose sides and this to me is what makes office politics ugly. I might understand this in government politics, but not in a company where we are all suppose to be on the same team. Politics is an inherent part of the corporate culture; some companies deplore it, others thrive on it. I guess it's a matter of whether a company values the concept of teamwork or rugged individualism. I have found there is much less politics in companies promoting the former versus the latter. Either way, my advice to anyone joining a new company, be it a corporation or nonprofit organization, is actually quite simple: "En Garde!"

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "Resisting Change":

A C.S. in Florida wrote...

"Good article!! While the term "this is how it always has been done" is used a lot, it should be challenged and not just accepted as the way it should always be. One of the great things you do for us is challenge people to think. In the end, no one will agree on all things, but at least you bring things to the forefront. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!"

A T.C. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida wrote...

"Amen to your Pet Peeve. It is the bane of my existence in education. Educational institutions are among the most resistant to change. And when the change comes it is often poorly articulated, poorly planned, and poorly executed. But, improvement in the field of education is desperately needed."

Again, thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2008 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."




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