SFIA Version 5.0: Change Through Evolution Not Revolution

Andy Andrews

Today I had the pleasure of attending the launch of version 5.0 of the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), a skills framework for IT professionals. First of all, let me express my appreciation to the SFIA Foundation and the British Computer Society for preparing and hosting the event.

For the SFIA community of users, learning providers and consultancies, the release of a new version of the framework is a much heralded event. So, I was excited to hear what changes version 5.0 of the framework would bring and also to benefit from the experience of those attending.

Before going further, let me provide a little background on the framework and include some statistics I noted from today’s event.

The SFIA framework is maintained by the SFIA Foundation whose members are the British Computer Society (BCS), e-skills UK, the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) and the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF UK). SFIA is commonly recognized and is increasingly becoming the standard for IT skills; it is widely used not only in the UK but also worldwide. According to Ron McLaren, the SFIA Foundation’s Operations Manager, there have been over 100,000 subscribers to the framework from over 100 countries.

The content of the SFIA framework is open source and previous versions have been translated into multiple languages including Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. Furthermore, the framework is tied into UK National Occupational Standards and the BCS’s SFIAPlus framework, which incorporates the Industry Structure Model.

One of the wonderful things about the way that the SFIA Foundation manages updates of the framework is that they open up the opportunity for all members of the IT community to contribute. Today we were told that there were 390 submissions for changes to the framework for version 5.0. Admittedly not all of them were implemented but it demonstrates the Foundation’s stated aim that the framework should reflect the current skills requirements of the IT industry. Note that the framework reflects current industry trends; it is not intended to forecast or set them.

I know from experience what it takes to define SFIA job profiles, to create a learning curriculum and to carry out assessments – it’s a mammoth undertaking. So too is getting employees on board with SFIA. For organisations who have invested in SFIA, totally tearing the framework up and starting again each time the framework is updated is not a viable option. On the other hand, changes which reflect an industry as dynamic as IT are absolutely essential. So the Foundation’s approach to updating the framework is most welcome: change through evolution rather than revolution.

The overall structure of the framework remains the same as does the 7 level proficiency scale. What are some of the key changes? I won’t go into all the fine detail here, particularly as the SFIA Foundation provide a very useful guide ‘Moving to SFIA version 5.0’, which you can download online from www.sfia-online.org. However, below is a summary of some of the key changes to the framework:

8 new skills:-

  • Data management
  • Learning and development assessment
  • Teaching and subject formation
  • Animation development
  • Service acceptance
  • Storage management
  • IT estate management
  • Contract management

The Animation development skill acknowledges the emergence of game development in the IT industry and I like the inclusion of IT estate management, particularly when I recall the number of RFP responses I have prepared that included specification of physical IT facilities.

A number of skills have been updated, either merged, re-named or their wording has been changed. Some skills have been moved from one sub-category to another.

There is a new sub-category – Skills management – which includes many of the learning and development skills from previous versions. I must admit that I was initially surprised to see Skills Management as a sub-category of an IT skills framework, similarly the new Teaching and subject formation skill. However, having thought about it further, the purpose of the framework is to promote ICT skills. Does skills management and do the associated learning and development activities contribute to the promotion of ICT skills? Absolutely!

The result is a framework that reflects today’s IT industry, it is sympathetic to existing users, but it is also a clear improvement on version 4.0.

Well done to the Foundation and all those who have contributed!

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