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Reference and guide to SFIA version 7. Framework status: Current standard.

About SFIA

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.  These led to the SFIA Framework and the formation of the SFIA Foundation which has become an international not-for-profit organisation that now brings together the global community to develop and maintain the SFIA Framework for the benefit of all.

SFIA 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.  Its unique and ongoing success can also be attributed to:

  • Built and owned by the global user community
  • Global collaborative development
  • Global governance and steering boards
  • A 20+ year provenance and track record of successful use
  • An established ecosystem and trusted infrastructure
  • A neutral approach – it is not aligned to any specific technologies, vendors or professional bodies

SFIA remains free of charge for most non-commercial use 

  • The SFIA Foundation is a not-for profit organisation
  • There is a modest licence fee for organisations that use SFIA for commercial purposes
  • The licence fee supports the continued development of the framework
  • Organisations and individuals who contribute a licence fee can be proud that they are helping the continued development of the industry

SFIA – What is it?

SFIA is an easy to use common reference model

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.

Why use it?

SFIA has been designed to be completely flexible and to fit seamlessly with a user’s established ways of working.

  • SFIA does not define a fixed methodology or prescribe organisational structures, roles or jobs: it simply provides clear descriptions of skills and levels of responsibility.
  • SFIA can be used across multiple industries and organisational types. It’s an ideal framework whether for individuals, small and large teams, whole departments or entire organisations with thousands of employees.

Key design principles

Since its early development SFIA has maintained a number of design principles. These have persisted throughout all versions of SFIA.

  • SFIA is straightforward, generic and universally applicable. The breadth of coverage is broad and SFIA is designed to be applicable to all sectors.
  • SFIA is an experience-based framework. An individual has a particular competence because they have demonstrated that they have a level of responsibility and have practised a number of skills at the levels required in real world situations. SFIA is not aligned to any qualification or certification; certifications can be aligned to SFIA but qualifications that merely test knowledge do not indicate experience nor a level of responsibility.
  • SFIA defines levels of responsibility and skills. SFIA does not define jobs, roles, people, processes or general areas of activity, however important they are.
  • SFIA defines the essence of skills. SFIA is descriptive, not prescriptive. It does not define low level tasks nor deliverables.
  • SFIA provides an integrated view of competency. SFIA recognises levels of responsibility, professional skills, behaviours or attributes, knowledge and qualifications and certifications. It shows how these fit together and how they complement each other.
  • SFIA is independent of technology and approach. SFIA does not define technology, methods, approaches or technical knowledge – these change rapidly but the underlying skills are more persistent. So, for instance, Cloud, DevOps, Agile, Big Data and digital roles etc. can be described using a combination of the SFIA skills.
  • SFIA is updated by real practitioners from the international user base. SFIA is driven by its end users – the content reflects what industry and business want and it is not driven by any single stakeholder group.
  • SFIA does not assume or recommend specific organisation structures, job or role designs. The SFIA skills and levels can be configured flexibly to support all organisational types and structures. It works for individuals, small and large teams, whole departments or entire organisations with thousands of employees.

Who is it for?

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

Staying relevant

SFIA is kept relevant through open consultation and it has been updated every few years to address the needs of industry and business.

The architecture and underlying design principles of SFIA have remained unchanged - this is testament to its usefulness and value.  It continues to deliver what industry and business need in order to manage and develop skills and competencies.

SFIA has adopted a continuous approach to consultation in order to remain responsive to new and changing needs. This process is facilitated via the SFIA Foundation website.

In order to maintain a continuity of usefulness, SFIA must reflect changing needs and perceptions of the significance of some items, and occasional changes in accepted terminology. The maintenance of SFIA is carried out with the aim of making sure that SFIA remains relevant to the needs of industry, employers and individuals. It is part of an evolution that balances stability with the need to remain up to date.

Requests to update and extend SFIA skill definitions are welcome and are a visible sign of a healthy and well used resource.