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 skills and competencies for professionals working in ICT, software engineering and digital transformation. First and foremost it is a global common language for describing skills and competencies in the digital world. SFIA was first published in 2000, created by a consortium of many organizations, spearheaded by the British Computer Society (BCS). Since its first publication, SFIA has been regularly refreshed and updated to reflect the needs of industry and business. SFIA remains a collaboration - it is updated through a process of open global consultation so is built for industry and business by industry and business itself. Initially participating organizations included representatives from the UK government, multinational corporations such as IBM and Microsoft, and educational and representative organizations such as BCS, IET, Intellect UK, and many others.; over the years, and for each update, it is simply impossible now to list all the organisations that have contributed to the content of SFIA - making it a truly globally accepted common language for skills and competencies for the digital world.
The SFIA Foundation SFIA Foundation, is a not-for-profit organisation with 4 members on the Governance Board - the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the British Computer Society (BCS), IMIS and the itSMF (UK). Due to the open consultation approach of its development it is effectively 'owned' by the user base.
The SFIA Council is made up of representatives from many countries and oversees the development of the Framework and the work of the Design Authority Board which is a small group which ensures the framework is developed inline with its design principles and quality is maintained.
SFIA has gained global use due to it being simple, straightforward, generic and universally applicable. It is now available in 10 languages as requested by the user base: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, French Canadian and Polish with a number of additional languages requested. The structure is well established and respected and may other frameworks, including several outside of ICT and digital transformation have either been inspired by SFIA or are aligning to it.
The current published version of the SFIA Framework is version 7. SFIA7, published in June 2018 and is available from the SFIA Foundation website www.sfia-online.org.
The SFIA Framework
SFIA is an easy to use common reference model. It is a practical resource for people who manage resources for ICT, Software Engineering and Digital Transformation and is independent of technology, method or approach.
The SFIA Framework itself is a simple model of professional skills on one axis and seven Levels of Responsibility on the other. SFIA describes the seven Levels of Responsibility in terms of generic attributes (of Autonomy, Influence, Complexity, Knowledge and Business Skills), it then describes the professional skills each at up to seven levels. Throughout, consistency is maintained across the skills and levels of responsibility. From a Professional Services perspective, responsibility levels 2-6 can be thought of anecdotally as: Associate professional, Professional, Senior professional, Principal professional, and Lead professional.
For convenience and navigation, the skills are organised into six categories: Strategy and Architecture; Change and Transformation; Development and Implementation; Delivery and Operation; Skills and Quality; and Relationships and Engagement. Each of these is then further divided into sub-categories, mapping out 102 separately identifiable professional skills. Each of these skills has a general description and a description at one or more of the seven levels of responsibility.
The SFIA Update Process
As with previous versions of SFIA, the updates to the SFIA Framework for version 7 have been as a result of a global consultation process of change requests and discussions involving a great many users from over 140 countries. These changes are discussed and actioned by Design Authority Board and the Framework subsequently updated. The process of consultation is continuous and work on the next release of SFIA has already begun and this is coordinated by Ian Seward (SFIA General Manager and SFIA Design Authority Chairman) and Peter Leather (SFIA Update Manager and Independent Consultant, SME).
Levels of Responsibility
The Levels of Responsibility run from Level 1 (the lowest level of responsibility) to Level 7 (the highest level of responsibility). Each level is given a simple phrase description (Follow; Assist; Apply; Enable; Ensure and advise; Initiate and influence; and Set strategy, inspire and mobilise) and each level is described using a number of generic attributes (autonomy, influence, complexity, knowledge and business skills). A summary of the levels is given below:
- 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. 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).
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:
- Enable ICT and the broader Business to work toward similar goals
- Can provide a clear understanding of standardized, leveled ICT skills across the organization
- Enable targeted training, to address specific skill gaps
- Improve ICT recruitment
- Assist with Performance Development of existing staff