As a concept, systems analysis is both very straightforward and enormously complicated. This essay attempts to clarify the concept to show how systems analysis can be used to arrive at imaginative solutions to urban problems. Obstacles to that use include data deficiencies, theoretical limitations and confusion, problems associated with professionalization and specialization, human constraints and a preference for thinking simply about nonsimple matters, practical concerns about the motives and procedures of analysts and clients alike, and insufficient appreciation of the analytic process itself. The essay concludes with guarded optimism. Once the monumental problems are recognized and resolved, systems analysis will be a powerful and valuable tool in the hands of those who would use it thoughtfully and responsibly. 45 pp.