If you can dream up ways to save your company money by developing new systems and better ways of working then the job of business analyst might be for you.

It's a job that currently has a skills shortage in the IT world, and that - says recruitment consultant Tom Derbyshire - means strong job candidates can call the shots.

"Last year a lot of projects went on hold and companies stopped spending money, but right now there is an increased comfort in the economy, so a lot of companies are saying now is the time to start investing in the business again," says Derbyshire, of recruitment firm Robert Walters.

He says demand for IT business analysts is growing in the telco and finance sectors such as insurance and retail banking.

"The BNZ has had a massive recruitment drive this year and companies such as Vodafone bring in analysts to work on a particular project," he says.

"There has always been a need for analysts, particularly with clients looking for a certain skill set. For example, telco analysts are extremely hard to find in the New Zealand market so we often look off-shore or make contact with returning Kiwis.

"Even in the good times, finding business analysts with the right skill set was hard. Especially when it is related to a particular industry such as IT - when clients require a specific skill set." Derbyshire says that after such a long period of inactivity with many companies in survival mode, they now need analysts to come in give their systems the once over.

"A lot of companies learned a lot of hard lessons out there last year, and from that they are now looking at what they can do to increase their operational needs," he says. "From the back end of last year we have seen an increased requirement for people to go in, look at businesses and identify growth opportunities.

"For example, Vero Insurance has a massive online presence so they need IT people to help develop and grow that area for them."

With major changes going on within the industry, what can people with IT experience do to make themselves employable as an analyst?

"The good news is that there is no defined career path for this type of job," says Derbyshire. "It is something people morph into from other roles.

"Ideally, people moving into IT analyst roles will have a systems analyst background, although that is quite a technical job.

"But as well as having a full understanding of the industry, IT analysts need to have strong soft skills - so they can communicate technical information in a way anyone can understand it. They would need to have strong client-handling skills, be good at building relationships and be comfortable handling very technical people on one side and lay people on the other."

However, Derbyshire says employers are taking a more relaxed approach in the face of the skills shortage. "Clients are getting a little bit wiser because business analysts are hard to find," he says. "Clients are now starting to understand that they may need to invest time and money in the people they need.

"When we can't find a specialist IT analyst we will cast the net a bit wider and look at people with multiple industry experience. Often these people can go into different environments and work well with people across different levels. Someone who has worked in a telco and a financial company is always going to stand out against a person who has only worked in a single industry."

On the money side, Derbyshire says there has been an increase in pay rates over recent months. He says a senior analyst can expect to earn between $90,000 and $100,000 a year, while a contractor can expect to pick up around $80-$85 an hour.

"There is a lot of responsibility as an analyst because their main role is to help companies save money.

"There is a slight preference for permanent people but it fluctuates.

"Employers need to realise [candidates] will be looking for good packages that include career growth and have a strong emphasis on what the employer can do for them."

Steve Hart is a freelance writer. His website is at www.stevehart.co.nz