IT competency frameworks in the UK: SFIA, ITIL, IPCM et al

In previous posts I have said that competencies are vital for Talent Management.

If you’re hoping for hot Talent Management action, you will just have to wait for later posts. The rest of this one is all about competency frameworks.

Still reading? You probably follow things closely enough to have noticed a recent increase in methods for documenting IT skills in the UK and beyond. You’ll be familiar with:

ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library)
SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age)
The Government IT Competency Framework
IPCM, the IT Professional Competency Model

Sure, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from, but really, why do we need so many? Surely they can’t all be necessary or useful?

In fact, for the moment, I’m convinced that each of these models has a role to play.

The first, big distinction: ITIL is a collection of best practices, supported by qualifications. Unlike the others on the list, it isn’t a skills framework (a matrix of skills against a grading system). For more on this, see the adventures of the ITIL Imp.

SFIA, on the other hand, is the dominant IT professional skills framework in the UK. It’s a list of 78 skills against a grading scale of 1 to 7. Launched in 1999, it’s now on its third version. It forms the basis of the other two frameworks, has a long historyand increasing numbers of organisations are using it. Although it is not possible to map SFIA to ITIL (because one covers skills and the other best practice) the latest version of SFIA does explicitly refer to ITIL. It is free to use.

The Government IT Competency Framework is based on SFIA. It includes some extra, business-focused skills, and omits others not thought to be relevant to the public sector. It is one of a series of frameworks designed to support the UK government’s Professional Skills for Government programme. The aim of the programme is to build the skills of the Senior Civil Service in all areas, including IT.

Launched at the end of May, the IT Professional Competency Modelis a high-level summary of SFIA produced by the UK sector skills council e-skills UK. It’s been produced to help organisations plan job families at a high level. This is how it is reported in their press release, and by UK skills consultant Clare Howard.

Yet e-skills UK doesn’t actually mention the SFIA link on their main page for IPCM, which has led to some confusion. Immediately after the launch, Computing Magazine positioned IPCM as a rival for SFIA. Interviews a day later in IT Week/Computing didn’t clarify anything. All someone needed to say was that IPCM is mapped to SFIA, and that the mapping is freely available.

Hope that clears things up.

We know that ITIL has been phenomenally successful, but is anyone actually using these skills frameworks?

It’s too early to say for the IPCM, which was only launched a matter of weeks ago. SFIA usage, though, has been doubling year on year, and Ron Mclaren of the SFIA Foundation predicts that the framework will rack up its 1,000th organisational user this year, according to the latest SFIA Foundation newsletter.

Meanwhile, central and local government are definitely using the mandated Government IT Competency Framework. Leeds City Council recently made Computing Magazine’s front page with their adoption of what the magazine dubbed ‘the eGU framework’.

Disclosure: I sit on the SFIA Steering Committee (a voluntary post), but have no direct financial interest in SFIA or in any of the frameworks listed.


3 responses to “IT competency frameworks in the UK: SFIA, ITIL, IPCM et al

  1. Hi Donald,

    Just wanted to say “Thanks for the link” and let you know that I’ve responded to your comment 🙂

    As for the standards you’ve mentioned, I actually think that the Government IT Competency Framework is the one that isn’t adding a whole lot of value. I see it as fundamentally SFIA for the public sector. Why couldn’t they just add some competencies to SFIA with a note that they are more focused to government than private sector?

    Kind regards,

    The ITIL Imp

  2. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

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