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

#18 Real-time Systems Development - Improvements to address needs of Software Engineering : change request accepted

Should real-time systems development be described as a stand-alone, end-to-end skill or is it better positioned as a particular instance of all the software engineering skills?

So, for example, are the skills of Requirements Definition and Management, Software development / programming, Systems design etc the same no matter whether you are working on enterprise IT, real-time systems, or more traditional data processing applications.

Examples of the application of real-time systems development include vending machines, mobile phones, alarm systems, washing machines, motorcar engine controllers, heart monitors, microwave ovens, point-of-sale terminals, all operate courtesy of an embedded micro-controller running dedicated software.

Reasons to make this a standalone skill:

  • Recognised as a distinct domain in the “Relationship between Software Engineering and IT” model
  • There are unique attributes which make real time different than engineering – e.g. software tightly coupled to specialised hardware, timing, event -driven - © Extract from Real-Time Systems Development by Rob Williams
  • Ensures there is an explicit reference point for employers / individual / educational institutions / professional bodies in this space who may not otherwise “see themselves” in the SFIA framework.
  • There is a precedent – when Animation development ADEV was added as a “full life-cycle” skill in SFIA v5.
  • SFIA has typically erred on the side of pragmatism; in this example what would be of most practical use to industry, employers, educational institutions and individuals?

Reasons against making this a standalone skill:

  • At a level of abstraction the skills are the same as Software Engineering and are covered by requirements definition, software design, software programming, etc.
  • The real difference is methods, tools, knowledge, experience & context


This change request is one of a number which are proposing revisions to SFIA to ensure it fully supports Software Engineering while retaining overall industry wide applicability and integrity.

The updates will support:

  • The Software Engineering & Technology industry, it's employers and professionals to close skill gaps, attract and retain talent and improve the performance and productivity of engineers
  • Alignment of Software Engineering training / accreditation
  • Professional development through the IEEE-CS and other professional bodies representing software engineers
  • Universities, technical institutes, and other higher education organisations to support professional education and accreditation and enhance the employability of their students

Also need to consider the relationship (e.g. unique skills and overlapping skills) between Software Engineering and IT.

Skill requirements for Software Engineering have been cross checked against the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK).

Also need to consider the relationship (e.g. unique skills and overlapping skills) between Software Engineering and IT.

Attached to Real-time/embedded systems development


What we decided


What we changed

 See also change request #46.

Additional skill for SFIA7 - Real time/embedded systems development.

Consideration given to whether this was already covered by existed SFIA skills such as Software development/programming, Systems design, Testing.

  • We concluded there was significant differences to warrant a standalone skill,
  • For SFIA7 this is written as a skill encompassing the full lifecycle (design, development, test) - this decision will be monitored and revisited if necessary.