Why You Should Use the SFIA Framework to Manage and Develop IT Skills.

SFIA Accredited PartnerWhy is Managing and Developing IT Skills so Hard?

Many of the IT organizations I have worked with struggle with developing and managing the IT skills of their employees. Questions are constantly being raised as such as:

  • Do we have the right mix of skills in our staff for current projects?
  • Do we need to develop the skills of current staff? If so, who, how, and what skills (soft skills vs technical)?
  • In hiring, do we really know if the skills(both technical and non-technical) of the staff we are hiring are good enough?

In this post we will look at the value of using a framework for IT skills assessment and to define competencies. We will also look at how the SFIA Framework can help your organization manage and develop the skills of your IT workforce.

Most organizations go by the gut feel of managers for managing their staff’s IT skills. If our projects are doing OK and have no major issues we probably have the right staff skill mix.  But time and again we do not get it right.  Project outcomes are often sub-optimal; we did not get the requirements or user engagement right, there were cost or time overruns, etc.  Major user surveys by firms such as Gartner consistently show that between 20% and 30% of IT projects fail, with larger projects more likely to fail than smaller projects.  IT skills are obviously critical to project success as common and compound causes of failures include poor project management, inappropriate software platforms, poor testing and release practices.

The difficulty developing and managing IT skills is compounded by the accelerating changes in technology ranging from Cyber Security, Cloud Computing (outsourcing Infrastructure, Platforms, or Applications); Big Data (as a complement or alternative to traditional relational databases); and migration and support of legacy applications.

Why Do We Need a Framework for IT Skills Management?

Once we agree that we need to manage and develop the IT skills of our staff better, the next question is how to do that.  Time and again I have seen organizations do this in an ad hoc manner; defining their own IT roles and levels of staff skills with the input of Human Resources (HR) which often is not that helpful (as they do not understand IT skills well).  When an organization has IT roles and skills defined, I often find they are out-of-date and not maintained. This is worse than useless.

In almost all areas of IT we rely on frameworks to help us organize our processes and practices. Common frameworks include ITIL (IT service delivery), PRINCE2 and PMP (project management). For software development we have .NET and JEE.  Frameworks are invaluable because they:

  • Standardize what is otherwise an ad hoc process or activity
  • Improve consistency, quality, and reduce costs

So why not a framework for IT Skills Management too? Well, that is exactly with the SFIA Framework is.  SFIA is one of IT’s best kept secrets as once organizations become aware of it, it becomes obvious that it can greatly assist and simplify managing and developing IT skills in many ways including:

  • Quantitatively defining your organizational IT roles using standardized SFIA IT skills and skill levels
  • Mapping staff job roles to these organizational IT roles
  • Quantitatively measuring skill levels and skill gaps
  • Developing and defining plans to fill gaps (e.g., through training, mentoring, or hiring)

More About the SFIA Framework

SFIA is an international standard framework for IT Skills Management, managed by a not-for-profit foundation.   SFIA defines a comprehensive set of 96 IT skills, ranging from Programmer to Help Desk Support, at up to 7 levels.  The SFIA skills are generic and can be customized and combined to define roles and levels appropriate to an organization (e.g., a programmer role using specific technologies such as Java and JEE).  The licence for use of SFIA as an internal management tool is free of charge.

SFIA Framework training

Learning Tree is a certified training partner for SFIA and has recently introduced 2 new courses to teach you to apply this framework. One is a 1-day course you can take online entitled Defining IT Skills, Roles and Responsibilities Using the SFIA Framework. It explains how the SFIA framework structure, skills and levels of responsibility relate to the practicality of IT skills and capability management in an organization. Additionally, those wishing to become a SFIA Accredited Consultant can include this course as a prerequisite in their application.  Second, you can apply your organization’s case study with this 1-day IT Skills Assessment Workshop Using the SFIA Framework. This is a private course that we will bring onsite to your organization’s location.  In this highly interactive workshop, you will receive guidance from a certified SFIA instructor as you apply the SFIA Framework directly to your organization’s environment.

To learn more, stay tuned for our next post where we examine an actual SFIA Framework case study.

 

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