Skills Framework for the Information Age
The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA, pronounced like the name Sophia) is a model for describing and managing competencies for ICT professionals for the 21st century, and is intended to help match the skills of the workforce to the needs of the business. It maps out the range of skills as a two-dimensional table, by tagging each skill with a category and responsibility level.
These categories are divided into six main areas: Strategy and planning; Business change; Solutions development and implementation; Service management; Procurement and management support; and Client interface. Each of these is then further divided into sub-categories (see below), mapping out 86 separately identifiable skills. Each of these skills has a general description.
There are seven levels of responsibility, in ascending order: Follow; Assist; Apply; Enable; Ensure and advise; Initiate and influence; and Set strategy, inspire and mobilise. Each of these responsibility levels has a generic description showing the level of autonomy, influence, complexity, and business skills required.
From a Professional Services perspective, responsibility levels 3-7 can be thought of as equivalent to seniority levels: Associate professional, Professional, Senior professional, Lead professional, and Principal professional.
Each level of responsibility within each skill has a brief description of the typical tasks expected of someone in that role, and as only one skill maps to all seven levels (Management and Operations, within the Service Provision category), this results in 263 detailed tasks defined.
This is still thought to be relatively complex by some, and a number of simpler complementary models have arisen which map onto the SFIA model, such as the Government IT Profession competency and skills framework.
These 263 tasks are further expanded within SFIAPlus, which is described as a three-dimensional model and supplements the SFIA task descriptions with a detailed breakdown of what is required to be able to fulfil those tasks, e.g.: knowledge, training, qualifications, etc.
SFIA is owned and managed by the SFIA Foundation, a consortium formed in July 2003 by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS), e-skills UK, and the British Computer Society (BCS). The itSMF subsequently joined the consortium in 2008.
The current published version of the SFIA model is version 4G, which was created to incorporate sustainability skills. Version 5 now under development with a draft out for public comment.
Levels of responsibility
Levels of responsibility run from level 1 (the most junior) to level 7 (the most senior):
- 1. Follow
- Basic capability to complete tasks under close supervision. Not expected to use much initiative. Should be organised.
- 2. Assist
- Uses some discretion and has a wider circle of interaction than level 1, especially in speciality. Works on a range of tasks, and proactively manages personal development.
- 3. Apply
- Complete work packages with milestone reviews only. Escalates problems under own discretion. Works with suppliers and customers. May have some supervisory responsibility. Performs a broad range of tasks, takes initiative, and schedules own and others work.
- 4. Enable
- Works under general direction in a framework. Influence at account level, works on a broad range of complex activities. Good level of operational business skills.
- 5. Ensure and advise
- Broad direction, supervisory, objective setting responsibility. Influences organisation. Challenging and unpredictable work. Self sufficient in business skills.
- 6. Initiate and influence
- Authority for an area of work. Sets organisational objectives. Influences policy, significant part of organisation, and customers and suppliers at a high level. Highly complex and strategic work. Initiates and leads technical and business change.
- 7. Set strategy, inspire, and mobilise
- Authority includes setting policy. Makes decisions critical to organisation, influences key suppliers and customers at top level. Leads on strategy. Full range of management and leadership skills.
The competencies are grouped into categories and sub-categories, intended to be broadly in line with job functions. An overview has been provided below, please see the SFIA Foundation website for more information (note: you will need to register to gain access, but it is free for non-commercial uses).
Strategy and architecture
- Information strategy
- Corporate governance of IT, information management, information systems co-ordination, information policy formation, information security, information assurance, information analysis and information content publishing
- Business/IT strategy and planning
- Research, innovation, business process improvement, enterprise architecture, business risk management and sustainability
- Technical strategy and planning
- Solutions architecture, emerging technology monitoring, continuity management, software development process improvement, sustainability management for IT, network planning, and methods and tools
- Business change management
- Business analysis, business process testing, change implementation planning and management, organisation design and implementation, benefits management, business modelling and sustainability assessment
- Relationship management
- Stakeholder relationship management
Solution development and implementation
- Systems development
- Systems development management, Data analysis, Requirements definition and management, Systems design, Network design, Database/repository design, Programming/software development, Safety engineering, Sustainability engineering, Information Content authoring and Software testing
- Human factors
- Systems ergonomics, Usability requirements analysis, Usability evaluation and Human factors integration
- Installation and integration
- Systems integration, Porting/software integration and Systems installation/decommissioning
- Service Operation
- Systems software, Security administration, Radio frequency engineering, Application support, IT operations, Network control and operation, Database administration, Network support, Problem management and Service desk and incident management
Procurement and management support
- Quality Management
- Quality management, Quality assurance, Quality standards, Compliance review, Safety assessment and Technology audit
- Resource management
- Programme and project support office, Asset management, Client services management, Professional development and Resourcing
- Learning and development
- Learning and development management, Learning resource creation and maintenance and Education and training delivery
Benefits of SFIA
SFIA alone does not deliver any business benefits, however, it does create a foundation to leverage and create additional value to the organization. Benefits of SFIA can include:
- Enables ICT and the broader Business to work toward similar goals
- Can provide a clear understanding of standardized, leveled ICT skills across the organization
- Enables targeted training, to address specific skill gaps
- Improve ICT recruitment
- Assist with Performance Development of existing staff