At Sentient Digital, Inc our mission revolves around our ability to provide innovative solutions for our clients by identifying and bridging critical gaps within the technology sector. This week, we want to highlight the incredible benefits of the SFIA Framework, which we’re adopting internally to help further develop our staff’s extraordinary potential. Below, we’ll navigate the SFIA methodology and explore how its enriching praxis can help our organization and clients thrive.
What Is the SFIA Framework?
Before dissecting the benefits of the SFIA Framework, let’s begin by establishing a portrait of SFIA as a whole.
SFIA (pronounced Sofia) stands for Skills Framework for the Information Age, self-described as “the globally accepted common language for the skills and competencies related to information and communication technologies, digital transformation and software engineering.” Overall, SFIA’s mission is geared toward augmenting the information and communication technology skills management cycle through a comprehensive and replicable model that evaluates and optimizes workforce potential.
Because of its universal relevance, the SFIA Framework is incredibly malleable and may be used for government, corporate, or individual ends. It is scalable bidirectionally and boasts high levels of cross-industry applicability. At its core, it’s a global collaboration between business managers, IT professionals, educators, HR representatives, and, of course, homegrown SFIA users themselves.
This collaboration began over 20 years ago in the 1980s. SFIA has since been implemented in over 200 countries following its formal launch in 2000. It is considered a worldwide frontrunner in the arenas of testable IT proficiencies and the development of new skill-based qualification baselines.
Today, despite its major industry successes, the SFIA Foundation exists as a not-for-profit entity and the Framework remains more or less free of charge for its users (with the exception of minor licensing fees for larger commercial enterprises).
How the SFIA Framework Operates
Before an organization can take advantage of all the benefits of the SFIA Framework, it is necessary to cultivate a more comprehensive understanding of how the Framework functions as an assessment tool.
3 Key Aspects of the Framework’s Founding Principles
First, SFIA is non-prescriptive, meaning it appraises subjects on corresponding axes of skills and competencies, rather than professionally provided deliverables. The Framework recognizes that Bodies of Knowledge (BoKs) or independent aggregates of industry-specific expertise are context-sensitive and ever-evolving. Though separate from SFIA, they work in conjunction with the skills and competencies that SFIA measures regarding those industries.
Second, SFIA defines competency holistically. Unlike its more traditional counterparts, while SFIA certainly accounts for industry certifications, it also assesses proficiency based on less quantifiable attributes. It takes into account “professional skills, behaviours or attributes, knowledge and qualifications and certifications.” The Framework moves beyond the cut-and-dry binary of “qualified or unqualified.” Instead, SFIA’s evaluations produce strategies for longitudinal skill development, growth, and personal advancement.
Third, SFIA is open ended by design. Through operational crowdsourcing, it strives to reflect the current needs of international business. SFIA is constantly subject to review, augmentation, and referendum.
Based on these principles, SFIA manages to be flexible and community-led, yet also universal and comprehensive, traits underlying many of the biggest benefits of the SFIA Framework.
An Overview of SFIA Diagnostic Metrics
Here’s a brief breakdown of SFIA diagnostic metrics:
- Skills are organized into 6 major categories:
- Strategy & Architecture
- Change & Transformation
- Development & Implementation
- Delivery & Operation
- Skills & Quality
- Relationships & Engagement
- 102 professional competencies are divided among the 6 categories. These competencies are much more specific.
- For example, within the Development & Implementation category, skills include animation development, database design, and safety engineering.
- Because SFIA is non-prescriptive, it’s important to note that real-world jobs are likely to require competencies and skills across categories.
- 7 ascending levels of responsibility characterize an employee’s proficiency in each competency once they’ve undergone the pertinent assessments.
- The levels are constructed based off of 5 Generic Attributes: autonomy, influence, complexity, knowledge, and business skills.
- Each of the 102 competencies has specific skill descriptors for each of the 7 levels.
- These levels are loosely correlated with more familiar job titles. For example, levels 6 and 7 might be conceptualized as being a principal or lead professional, whereas level 2 may be representative of an associate.
For more information about these skills, competencies, and levels, review the SFIA full framework view.
4 Ways to Use the SFIA Framework
Once SFIA determines where employees stand in terms of levels of responsibility with specific skills, the Framework illustrates what specific training may be necessary to aid in their progress towards a personal competency goal. In a nutshell, SFIA is used to:
- Identify skill gaps using formal and universal codification.
- Illuminate personal objectives and goals.
- Generate learning plans.
- Close experiential gaps through training.
Sentient Digital’s SFIA Implementation Journey
For years, Sentient Digital has taken a foundational interest in how the technology solutions industry can continue to optimize its services while performing within a constantly transforming IT infrastructure. SFIA posits that while it may be true that new technology tends to ever-outpace our assumption of it, most core skills and competencies are enduring. The Framework values technology as being yet another tool in conjunction with labor power, assigning said labor its own independent value, which effectively empowers and autonomizes workers.
Looking to optimize our internal structures with the advent of the new year, our president, Chris Mobley, began an extensive search for a comprehensive framework able to assess our current (and future) employees’ skills and capabilities. Because most available systems are specific to particular government agencies, they require intensive updating and layering, not to mention the process of translating assessment results to external entities.
For Sentient, one of the main benefits of the SFIA Framework is its impressive universality; it aims to standardize information and communication technology skill assessment to align with global business trends. SFIA has been successfully implemented for many years in both the UK and Australia, including within the British Army itself. Because Sentient serves clients synchronously within multiple federal and commercial sectors, SFIA is especially valuable as it is easily decipherable across industries. Moreover, the commonality between SFIA’s skills and Sentient’s existing contracts are nearly one-to-one: change management, configuration management, IT management, and information assurance all align.
Though we’re still in the early stages of rollout, we’ve already witnessed impressive results. Our managers have spent a significant amount of time familiarizing themselves with the Framework and its corresponding skill designations and definitions, enabling them to map out departmental jobs appropriately.
Because our talent pool is an amalgamation of technology specialists, professional managers, sales/marketing administrators, and more, all of our employees ultimately possess some level of skill cross-categorically. SFIA enables us to determine where and when additional training should be administered to employees. The main priority now is to bridge the gap between employee skills and the requirements necessary for current (or upcoming) work opportunities. By partnering with, our managers are able to assign trainings from over 4,500 courses, each mapped to different SFIA levels and attributes.
This process enables far more than just individual growth areas; it allows us to remediate the blind spots in our organization in totality. By continuing to implement SFIA’s methodologies, we’ll be able to package the Framework such that the transition is both smooth for all those involved and ultimately reflective of our enterprise’s maximum value. This will be the first monumental step toward the creation of our forthcoming Learning Management System and Career Development Plan utilizing these tools.
Benefits of SFIA Framework
We’ve already discussed the ways SFIA’s common language improves its accessibility, yet other benefits make it entirely comprehensive, supporting organizations end to end. Consider these benefits of the SFIA Framework:
- SFIA assists managers, HR professionals, and recruiters by procuring top-notch talent and by better illustrating candidates’ strengths during the recruitment process. SFIA is a cost-effective and efficient means of enriching in-house teams.
- SFIA empowers employees to recognize their many strengths and prepare themselves to take ownership over their own potential. SFIA helps advancement opportunities materialize through clear definitions of how current skills function at increasingly higher levels. Employees also gain the ability to drive focused conversations with employers about where they stand and where they hope to advance in future positions.
- SFIA benefits clients by ensuring that the team members assigned to a given account will always have the best possible skillset to address the tasks at hand by mapping abilities both specific and diverse.
- SFIA strengthens businesses and makes them more competitive, because it enables them to understand their own talent pool as it stands, while also charting latent potential that may be capitalized upon.
- SFIA supports its users by providing regular framework updates. SFIA’s development has never been motivated by stakeholders—instead, its evolution is driven by the users themselves.
Tackling Tech Challenges with Sentient Digital
Here at Sentient, we’re proud of our exceptionally talented technology professionals, but that doesn’t stop us from continuing to strive toward future excellence. With the SFIA Framework effectively integrated into our arsenal, we’ll continue to augment our team’s skillsets with up-to-date training and evaluations, benefiting our employees, our company, and the organizations we serve.
SFIA improves our ability to provide our clients with top-notch expertise by ensuring that we’ll continue to assign the most adept and specialized professionals for your technology needs. Contact us online to learn more about our technology services and solutions.