The SKILLS Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective information systems making use of ICT.
Hilary Taylor Zumiya Consulting
The SKILLS Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective information systems making use of ICT. It enables employers of IT professionals to deliver a range of human resources activities against a common framework of reference - including skill audit, planning future skill requirements, development programmes, standardisation of job titles and functions, and resource allocation.
SFIA is almost a victim of its own success with more private and public organisations taking up the framework, often to describe job roles. These organisations - and, perhaps more importantly, the people who make up the organisations - are developing a deeper understanding of SFIA and becoming more vocal about the framework itself.
Feedback can prove a two-edged sword. Acknowledged as a unique unifier for the IT industry, SFIA at last allows all parts of a business to talk the same language, and has spearheaded dramatic and successful business process re-development. But simple structure and generic descriptions are not specific enough for some, despite SFIA finding acceptance for role descriptors.
It appears to provide less help about the underpinning knowledge and understanding behind these roles and responsibility levels, although training providers, such as Parity, map their provision to the framework. User feedback also points to some potential weaknesses in content, for example, information management and more technical aspects that include systems architecture and development.
This drive for early framework changes mirrors a typical product release curve. Thus March 2008 saw the formal start of consultations to move SFIA from version 3 to version 4 by November 2008.
"It makes sense for SFIA categories to align with e-skills' PROCOM IT professional competency model," says Terry Hook of e-skills, chairman of the SFIA Update Committee. At the same time, there is the drive to make links between SFIA and PROCOM clearer, implying a re-shuffle or re-organisation of some SFIA categories, technical skills and descriptors.
A year ago, e-skills published PROCOM as a high level overview competency framework; e-skills' Tony Venus, who is coordinating PROCOM output, expects staged releases of PROCOM disciplines during 2008, with a first full release this summer. Two disciplines have already been published for employer consultation, providing detailed mappings for competence at different levels of responsibility for information management and security, and programme, project and supplier management.
Since SFIA covers the high-level skills you need to fulfil particular roles, PROCOM can take over where SFIA leaves off. Employer demand for a learning and qualifications framework is part of the driving force that will ultimately see PROCOM mapped to a broad network of education and qualifications, from NVQs up to professional or chartered qualifications. Updating the two in parallel makes this a challenging year for both frameworks, but a coordinated effort could take IT professionalism one step further forward.