A solutions analyst is a combination of business and systems analysis. The unique aspect of a solutions analysts job is the level of expectation. He or she is required to be knowledgeable in a range of software products that have the potential to meet business needs. This position is most commonly found in large information technology departments or within a consulting services firm.
There are four primary tasks that form the basis of a solutions analyst job description: defining scope and requirements, isolating key issues, reviewing possible solutions, and presenting a recommendation. The skills required to become a solutions analyst include critical thinking, communication, and research skills. Most people shift toward this role after five or ten years working in information technology, often as a systems analyst. The vast majority of analysts focus on a specific business process area, such as finance or procurement. This principle helps to provide focus for both the analyst and potential employers.
The first task of any solutions analyst is to define the scope and requirements of the project. For example, a client may contact a solutions analyst looking for advice in selecting a customer relationship management system. The analyst needs to work closely with the client to identify his core requirements, the total budget and time line, project resources, and expectations. This information is used to create a broad scope, which is further refined through additional meetings and discussions.
Isolating key issues is essential for any solutions analyst. The ideas and concerns presented by the client often represent a small aspect of the overall project risk. It is the solutions analyst's responsibility to look at the request from all angles and identify both the obvious and the hidden issues and decision points.
The analyst must have sufficient knowledge and training to be able to identify a list of possible solutions that would meet the client's requirements. However, simply identifying these products is not enough. He or she must also be able to provide information about the relative risks and benefits of each option in sufficient detail to allow the business owners to make an informed decision.
The final recommendation is rarely one specific product. Instead, the report typically includes a short list of two or three solutions that would fit the majority of the client's requirements. The risks and benefits of each solution are documented and highlighted to the client. This report is often the basis for further, pointed discussions about the different options and a final selection of the most suitable solution.