I know, it actually sounds like something they used to show early in the morning when I was growing up as part of an adult learning initiative, long before children’s television schedules took off.
The first I heard of it was at the itSMF Regional Seminar in Staines, as part of the “speed-dating” networking sessions, as Matthew Burrows had just finished writing the pocket book.
Before chatting to him further on the subject, I took a browse through the website, where I spent a while trying to understand just what it actually means.
SFIA in a nutshell
The idea is to give employers a common terminology framework around a set of generic business skills, and seven defined areas of responsibility, starting with entry level (Level 1) and taking you up to Level 7 where you would expect someone to be defining strategy and mobilising organisations to achieve business goals.
Set strategy, Inspire, Mobilise
This approach makes it quite straightforward to understand, as most people can typically follow the concept of an experience curve.
The biggest surprise for me was that this framework has been around for a long time.
“I started using it nearly 11 years ago for an organisation redesign project.
“I discovered SFIA, rather than invent something new, and found it really useful.”
He sees himself as a practitioner (indeed, he is one of the SFIA Accredited Consultants) and has been using it ever since.
Going through the material, I began to recognise skill profiles that I used to have to annually update in one of my previous companies, who have representatives on the SFIA Council and have chosen to adapt and adopt the framework.
Access to the materials
As with many things, there are no two ways about it, you have to register, but it is free to do so.
Once you register you are taken immediately to all the materials, without having to wait for a confirmation email.
- A3 Size Summary Chart
- Complete Reference Guide
- Working With SFIA Guide
- PDF detailing the changes between V4/4G and V5 (latest)
- Skills Reminder Card
- Skills in a spreadsheet form
The skills and descriptions in the Reference Guide are the most valuable resource – the generic description of the skills, and the specific descriptions for the various levels.
How it helps professionals & organisations
Recruiters these days find the few, rather than attract the many, and you might be more likely to see jobs advertised that use the same language.
“I saw one [job] the other day which mentioned the specific skill and specific level, right in the headline of the job.
“The more recruitment consultants use SFIA, the more intelligent their matching becomes because if they can educate their customer (who is specifying the role), or if the customer is already aware of SFIA, they can list a couple of core skills”
Using the specific descriptions, matched with the skill level in CVs could help professionals become one of the few.
Continual Professional Development & Mentoring
The progression through the levels of responsibility can be charted within disciplines (for example Project Management – starting with leading a single project and progressing to managing a number of projects, or managing project managers.
Training companies have started using SFIA to describe their training offerings, showing where the course is designed to provide which skill and which level.
Mentoring works in exactly in the same way – if you want to get to a certain level, use the SFIA framework to find a mentor with a skill at a particular level.
Organisational Skills Planning and (Re)Design
From a company point of view, they can baseline their current skills, and forecast what skills are going to be required, and do a gap analysis between the two, using that to define training and recruitment plans.
It can help in providing informed decisions around restricting and reorganisation. If a couple is looking to outsource some activity, then assessing those skill needs and gaps can help.
SFIA only provides you with definitions of professional skills.
It does not describe behavioural skills or specific technical knowledge.
Think of it as helping you put the self-promotional phrases that are all important in CVs and at appraisal time, backed up with specific technical qualifications and those all important softer skills that make someone a rounded professional.
Matthew warned against putting too much faith in the categories and subcategories:
“The categories and sub-categories are just convenient labels. Don’t read too much into them.
“Service Management doesn’t include all the skills associates with Service Management, so if you were defining a process ownership role, you would find they would have some of the skills in the Service Management category, and some of the skills in the Strategy and Architecture category, so I find the skill names are really useful.”
Who makes it happen and where to find out more
The SFIA Foundation is a non-profit organisation.
There are five Foundation members who fund the Foundation, produce the material and make it available for people:
- itSMF UK (The IT Service Management Forum)
- IET (The Institute of Engineering and Technology)
- e-skills UK (Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology)
- IMIS (The Institute for the Management of Information Systems)
- BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT)
Each of these organisations has a member on the SFIA Board, and in addition there is an SFIA council with other members from companies and corporations who use SFIA.
Funding comes in from the Foundation members, and from Accredited SFIA Consultants who pay a percentage of their fee to the central pot.
To register for SFIA materials, and to find out more, visit the SFIA Website.