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July 28, 2007 5:47 PM   Subscribe

I have a fairly unstructured job at a medium-sized company where what I do varies day to day. However, there's one aspect of my work which I really enjoy, and I'm wondering if there's a formal name for it and/or a way to become "qualified" should I want to do the same thing somewhere else.

Basically, I get to design/specify new areas of functionality for a handful of internal systems.... and then someone else builds them. I don't work on the coding part at all. I know enough to be able to look inside and see how something is working or where it's breaking, but I don't actually build anything myself. The part of the process I like best is talking to the target users, understanding their workflow and goals, figuring out how the existing technology is helping them or standing in their way, and coming up with "a better way to do it" (usually by specifying development to the technology, but in some cases by figuring out new ways to use existing tools, or by making changes to how several systems work together). I also write most of the documentation and training materials and hold training sessions for users, plus I pull my share of testing/helpdesk/etc. But the design part is really what I'm most interested in. Because the systems I work on are internal, the design goals have less to do with visual elegance and more with functionality, transparency, efficiency, and judicious automation.

Is there a "real job" which corresponds to what I do? I really love the position I'm in now, but I feel like way my company is structured is somewhat unique... if something happened and I had to move on, right now I wouldn't know where to go next. Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.
posted by OrlandoFurioso to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The skills you're exercising are those generally ascribed to Business Analysts, although documentation and training functions are usually specialized disciplines in their own right, in most firms where work volumes would be great enough to have full time concentrations.
posted by paulsc at 5:54 PM on July 28, 2007


I'd go with paulsc, although, when I was a wee'un, the position you describe was referred to as a Systems Analyst.
posted by veedubya at 5:57 PM on July 28, 2007


Like Veedubya says, Systems Analyst seems to be what you are looking for.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:59 PM on July 28, 2007


If you're talking about computer systems, it sounds like interaction design or user interface design. Is it the user interface you're making suggestions about? For instance, things like "Users would really like to be able to upload documents earlier in the process and have an indicator screen to confirm they've been uploaded, then they want to input the data about their project. In fact, it would be great if we could create pulldown menus with the most common data they use so it's easy for them to fill the form out."

If it's broader than computers--if it's entire business processes--that more like a business analyst or process reeningeer (though I don't think that term is in favor or use anymore).
posted by cocoagirl at 6:00 PM on July 28, 2007


Sometimes, depending on the company, those skills can be found in product managers.
posted by acoutu at 6:11 PM on July 28, 2007


And at some companies they're called program managers.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:30 PM on July 28, 2007


Design ethnographer! I know there's a lot of work/studies that have been done around system design ethnography - it might be worth taking to google & having a look (I can't think of any specific papers right now).
posted by teststrip at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2007


Here's a nice definition of design ethnographer.
posted by teststrip at 6:49 PM on July 28, 2007


Thanks for these answers -- it looks like there's not really an industry-standard term for this, but lots of options to explore...
posted by OrlandoFurioso at 9:08 PM on July 28, 2007


Another thing to explore is the RUP methodology, I'd encourage you to explore the Business Modeling and Analysis & Design disciplines, see if any of these terms fit, and may help you put your desired role into the context of this software development process.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RUP
posted by WetherMan at 9:55 PM on July 28, 2007


Seconding Systems Analyst. I just took a great class last semester on Information Systems Analysis from Kevin Crowston at the Syracuse iSchool (through the online distance program). We used this textbook.
posted by mingshan at 8:19 AM on July 29, 2007


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