SFIA: How to build an industry standard competency framework

Industry-standard competency frameworks?

At this time on a Friday!?

Okay, I know. This is not a crowd pleaser. Still, you want Paris Hilton or Big Brother, you’re in the wrong place.

I have been involved in two major activities around the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) this week, and after some reflection, I have come to realise that SFIA is a model for how to develop a competency framework.

So what?

Well, plenty of people would like to have a standard competency framework for their industry. It’s a piece of infrastructure that removes friction and lets things happen. Things like:

  • Standard job descriptions
  • Salary benchmarks you can believe in 
  • The ability to describe skilled personnel so that HR can understand what you mean and find them, internally and externally
  • … and so on.

 – all this from a description of 78 IT skills across 7 grades?


Well, yes and no. Actually, you only get all this because of what’s behind the descriptions of these skills. And what’s behind them, is what makes SFIA a model for competency frameworks:

  • Key professional bodies (potentially competitive) collaborating to guide, maintain and promote the framework
  • Regular updates of the framework (now on version 3)
  • Government support to set it up (and host an annual conference)
  • User-driven content, assessed and expressed by expert editors
  • Enthusiastic user base
  • Initial (and continuing) support across industry

The result: this skills framework is free to download and use internally (ie not-for-profit). 

It might seem like some sort of doyen of the open-source movement, and the anti-copyright movement, but in fact this is just what I’d call old school collaboration, driven by a sense that something like this was needed and people were jolly well going to make sure it worked.  

And it does work. Over 500 organisations now use it in the UK, and increasing it’s being picked up abroad.

So is it that easy to do? You just make it all available and it takes off?

Not at all. The key thing you get when you buy into SFIA is weight. It’s been around. It’s been tested. People have used it, and found it works. And that takes time.

SFIA started in 1997, and drew on work that was already 10 years old at that time. It seems that what you really need to produce an industry standard like SFIA, is a bunch of people who are prepared to see it out, just because it’s the right thing to do.


3 responses to “SFIA: How to build an industry standard competency framework

  1. “Okay, I know. This is not a crowd pleaser. Still, you want Paris Hilton or Big Brother, you’re in the wrong place.”

    This made me smile. 🙂

  2. Cello Bella – thanks for the comment, glad to know I brought a ray of sunshine to your day.

  3. Pingback: Competencies and capability Part I: a working framework « Donald H Taylor

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