SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) – Version 7 (released 2018) – in 3 minutes
2 The basics
SFIA, the Skills Framework for the Information Age, SFIA describes skills and competencies required by professionals in roles involved in information and communication technologies, digital transformation and software engineering. SFIA was formally launched in 2000 and its provenance can be traced back to the 1980s and a number of collaborative skills and competency projects. SFIA is regularly updated, and has become the globally accepted common language for the skills and competencies related to information and communication technologies, digital transformation and software engineering.
SFIA remains a collaboration – it has been regularly updated through a global open consultation process. People with real practical experience of developing and managing skills/competencies in corporate, public sector and educational environments from all around the world, contribute to ensuring SFIA remains relevant and true. It is built by industry and business for industry and business. It is these components that set SFIA apart from other frameworks and has resulted in its adoption by governments, corporates and individuals in almost 200 countries.
SFIA is a practical resource for people who manage or work in or around information and communication technologies, digital transformations and software engineering.
- It provides a framework consisting of professional skills on one axis and seven levels of responsibility on the other.
- It describes the professional skills at various levels of competence.
- It describes the levels of responsibility, in terms of generic attributes of Autonomy, Influence, Complexity, Knowledge and Business Skills.
SFIA is updated frequently to remain relevant and aligned with the needs of industry and business and current thinking.
A common language for skills in the digital world
SFIA gives individuals and organisations a common language to define skills and expertise in a consistent way. The use of clear language, avoiding technical jargon and acronyms, makes SFIA accessible to all involved in the work as well as people in supporting roles such as human resources, learning and development, organisation design, and procurement. It can solve the common translation issues that hinder communication and effective partnerships within organisations and multi-disciplinary teams.
This consistency means that SFIA works well for both large and small organisations: they share an approach, a vocabulary, and a focus on skills and capability.
SFIA has been designed to be completely flexible and to fit seamlessly with a user’s established ways of working.
4 Target audience
The design and structure of SFIA makes it a flexible resource with a proven track record of being adopted and adapted to support a wide variety of skills and people-management related activities. The following list provides an indication of the current usage of SFIA by different stakeholder groups. Note that this list is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive and new uses of SFIA are continually being developed and described by the SFIA community.
Individuals: assessing current skills and experience; identifying future interests, career goals, and planning personal development; identifying suitable courses, qualifications, and professional memberships; creating CVs, resumés, and personal skills profiles; applying for job vacancies which match their skills and experience; developing high quality, focused, learning and development objectives.
Line managers: resource management and resource deployment; identify operational risks in teams and developing succession plans; measuring current capability and planning for future demand; creating role profiles and job descriptions supported by skill and skill level definitions.
Organisational leaders: strategic capability planning; aligning organisational capabilities to technology and business strategies; planning and implementing transformations and mergers / acquisitions.
Human resource professionals: creating role profiles / job descriptions supported by consistent skill and skill level definitions; strategic workforce planning, talent management, succession planning, assessment centres; designing and implementing career families; supporting organisational performance management and personal development processes; improve employee engagement by supporting careers and professional development.
Learning and development professionals: defining required competencies and skills profiles; creating learning catalogues, blended learning solutions, curriculum, mixing formal and on the job learning.
Operating model and organisation design consultants: aligning operating models with required people capabilities; designing new roles and validating the skills needed to deliver a new operating model; assessing organisational skill gaps and developing plans to close the gaps.
Procurement, supplier management and service providers: supporting the management of service providers (e.g. for outsourcing, staff augmentation, managed services, education, training, and consultancy services); provide a clear and transparent basis for describing the capability being sought or provided; using SFIA Rate Cards for like-for-like comparison of resource-based services from suppliers.
Recruiters: specifying required competencies based on having the right skills with the required level of experience; helps employers to accurately describe what they need, in language that potential employees understand; creating competency-based selection criteria and assessment approaches.
Professional bodies and their Bodies of Knowledge: creating discipline-specific competency frameworks aligned to a global standard; linking bodies of knowledge to competencies; mapping to support membership levels, certifications, professional development and mentoring programmes; developing and mapping qualifications, accreditations, and career paths; creating and maintaining a professional register of members’ skills and skill levels.
Education providers, training providers, curriculum designers: aligning curriculum to industry / employer needs and improving employability; mapping curriculum to skills and knowledge attainment; support for developmental and evaluative skills assessment.
Reward and recognition consultants: align organisation structures, salary banding and benchmarking; link to an industry standard for levels of skills experience, and being compatible with standard approaches for job architectures, job sizing and job evaluation.
5 Scope and constraints
At the core of SFIA is the descriptions of professional skills and generic attributes. These form SFIA’s most valuable resource.
SFIA’s seven levels of responsibility
The backbone of SFIA is a common language to describe levels of responsibility across roles in all the professional disciplines represented in SFIA. The SFIA Framework consists of seven levels of responsibility from Level 1, the lowest, to Level 7, the highest. The levels describe the behaviours, values, knowledge and characteristics that an individual should have in order to be identified as competent at the level. The levels are precisely written to be progressive, distinct and consistently described. Each of the seven levels is also labelled with a guiding phrase to summarise the level of responsibility.
The levels of responsibility are characterised by a number of generic attributes: Autonomy – Influence – Complexity – Knowledge – Business Skills. The definitions of these levels describe the behaviours, values, knowledge and characteristics that an individual should have in order to be identified as competent at the level. The breakdown of each level of responsibility can be found in the levels of responsibility and generic attributes section of SFIA. SFIA Level 1 is shown here as an example.
SFIA Professional Skills Categories
SFIA 7 consists of 102 professional skills, each described at one or more of 7 levels of responsibility. To aid navigation, SFIA structures the skills into 6 categories, each with a number of sub-categories.
These categories and sub-categories do not equate to jobs, roles, organisational teams, or areas of personal responsibility. It is common practice for a specific job description, for instance, to comprise skills taken from multiple categories and sub-categories. The grouping is intended to assist with navigation, e.g. when incorporating SFIA skills into role profiles, job descriptions, or, when building an organisation’s own competency framework. The categories and sub-categories do not have definitions themselves, they are simply logical structural containers to aid navigation. SFIA is a flexible resource and the SFIA skills can easily be grouped, filtered, and viewed in alternative ways to support specific industry disciplines and frameworks.