Today’s IT industry - it’s a vast, promising landscape and there are a million different career paths an IT practitioner might take. With no one route the same, you may sometimes wonder if you’re heading in the right direction.
But how can you gain control over your progression? Do you hope you’ll get lucky and stumble upon a career path that’s perfectly suited to your abilities, one that leads you to your professional potential? Or do you grasp every opportunity that comes your way regardless of its suitability?
Is there another route, perhaps in a related discipline, that you may have found more rewarding had you only known about it? Your dream job could remain just around the corner, a smidgeon outside of your comfort zone. And what if you do decide on a change of direction - do know which competencies you’ll need to bring to your new role, and how will you equip yourself?
As all ambitious IT professionals know, career development should never be left to chance! Like every successful journey it’s about knowing where you’re starting from, understanding where you want to get to, and making the right informed decisions along the way. Oh and a map always helps. So how about a map of IT skills, training and development resources covering the breadth of today’s exciting industry - well a framework to be more precise...
SFIA so good!
SFIAplus is the skills and competency framework for the IT industry - a skills map, if you like. SFIAplus enables you to benchmark your IT capabilities and responsibilities against defined levels, plot potential routes for progression and transition, and identify training and development activities to help you reach your professional goals. And it’s just had an upgrade.
Before exploring the exciting changes introduced in the new SFIAplus V8, let’s set the scene a little. SFIAplus is built around the SFIA framework. SFIA - which stands for the Skills Framework for the Information Age - was launched in 2000, though its origins date as far back as the collaborative skills initiatives of the 80s.
The SFIA framework aims to provide organisations and practitioners the world over with a common language and reference model covering the full spectrum of skills and competencies required in the digital industry. It’s no mean feat, which the SFIA Foundation achieves as a non-profit collaboration combining expertise and input from across the global tech community.
Independent industry representatives sit on the SFIA Board and Council, overseeing the framework’s development and ensuring its quality and integrity. The framework is backed by international governments and trusted and used in organisations around the world. It has an impressive provenance, and its longevity is testament to its effectiveness.
In our progressive industry, flexibility and responsiveness are further factors that have helped ensure the framework’s continuing success. SFIA is regularly updated through a global, open consultation process and at the end of September 2021 its newest update was launched, SFIA 8.
So what’s in the plus?
SFIAplus was developed by BCS to bring the flat SFIA framework to life. While SFIA takes the form of a two-dimensional matrix of skills - with a set of tasks defined for each skill, ranging from levels 1 to 7 - SFIAplus provides additional information giving practitioners a 3D view of the skills and behaviours that make up the matrix, and a clearer view of how it translates in the real world.
In SFIAplus every skill is supported by: task definitions; typical background including previous experience, educational background and prior knowledge and skills; descriptions of behaviours and the typical work activities that need to be performed; suggested certifications; training resources; and guidance around professional development opportunities, for example when to consider applying for industry registration such as the Register for IT Technicians (RITTech).
Boasting a healthy provenance of its own - with origins also dating back to the 1980s - SFIAplus is regularly reviewed and updated in parallel with SFIA and BCS draws on its community of subject matter experts and industry professionals to verify the accuracy and integrity of every resource component. Following the release of SFIA 8, BCS has launched SFIAplus V8... and it’s the biggest update yet.
Introducing SFIAplus V8!
As you’d expect, SFIAplus V8 incorporates all the new content from SFIA 8. The framework is divided into six categories: Strategy and architecture; Change and transformation; Development and implementation; Delivery and operation; People and skills; and Relationships and engagement. These are further split into 19 sub-categories, four of which are brand new to this latest version.
The update also introduces 23 brand new skills, bringing the total number to 121 - with new skills in areas such as information and cybersecurity, data privacy, data analytics, DevSecOps, computational science and business analysis. There are also 100 new tasks (skills at a level).
But in addition to bringing the wealth of new skills and tasks into the SFIAplus fold, for its V8 update BCS has gone some steps further. Every existing skill has been carefully reviewed by their team of experts, including each task component and development resource, and all Work Activity and Knowledge and Skills components have been progressively realigned.
You can now undertake a much more accurate analysis of your current role and level, and compare it more closely with the other skills and levels you may be considering. V8 puts you in the driving seat giving you tighter control over your development and career progression.
But are you T-shaped?
Once perhaps referred to as ‘well-rounded’, today’s skilled practitioners take on a more perpendicular form. T-shaped professionals are characterised by having a depth of expertise in their own discipline - represented by the vertical stalk of the T - together with a broader set of skills and knowledge of other areas, represented by your T’s horizontal crossbar.
If you’re a BCS member, you can access Browse SFIAplus in your MyBCS account.
Not a member yet? Join BCS today
The depth and breadth of SFIAplus promotes this development model, ahem... to a tee. The matrix provides you with a clear roadmap for developing your skills and extending your responsibilities to the highest levels in any given area - while also signposting related disciplines and the skills and behaviours needed to support activities in those other areas. You can find resources to develop your awareness of concepts, processes and tools in related roles that could impact yours, while exploring roles you might easily transition to next in your career.
Even in the most highly technical teams, T-shaped professionals are increasingly in demand as the lines between technology and the rest of the business become ever more blurred. Broader soft skills such as collaboration and adaptability are fast becoming ‘core’ skills for IT professionals. The addition of five brand new skills within SFIA’s People and skills category reflects this evolution.
SFIAplus V8 - evolving with the industry
The last three years, since the previous framework update, have been an exciting time in tech. AI and machine learning application has been adopted in most sectors, transforming customer experience and business strategy. Cloud technologies are providing the enterprise with huge cost savings, greater reliability and mobility.
Big data has got bigger and is optimising performance across all markets. On the flip side, wherever emerging tech presents businesses with new opportunities, it presents security teams with new challenges. While nearly 80% of IT leaders currently believe their organisation lacks sufficient protection, developing an effective vulnerability and risk strategy is becoming essential for businesses to survive.
SFIAplus V8 takes on the challenge, responding to the changing landscape and supporting new tech innovation with targeted skills planning and development capability. New SFIAplus sub-categories cover the areas of Data and analytics and Computational science - and two focus on protecting the organisation: Security and privacy and Security operations.
As the industry evolves, so does SFIA. Four skills have been retired, nine re-structured and seven renamed, such as Enterprise IT governance, now simply Governance, and Change management which is now Change control.
And a number of skills have had further levels added. SFIA levels run from 1 to 7, defined as:
1- Follow; 2- Assist; 3- Apply; 4- Enable; 5- Ensure; 6- Initiate; 7- Set strategy, inspire.
But each level is not necessarily applicable in every skill, for example Information management describes tasks at levels 4 to 7 only. Version 8 sees a total of 28 levels added within the existing skills.
Browse SFIAplus is the BCS portal used for accessing the full framework - and it’s also had an upgrade! Browse SFIAplus has been updated with additional guidance and related skills, and it now offers competence matrices with pop-up information to quickly show you how skills and responsibilities compare with other levels. This helps you to refine your benchmarking and more precisely navigate your routes for professional and personal development. The view can be exported to show details across all the levels for your given skill.
Browse SFIAplus lets you dive headfirst into the framework, explore the full depth and breadth of the content, and extract the information that’s relevant to your role. If you’re a BCS member it’s free to use - simply log in to your MyBCS account to get started. Why not begin by benchmarking your skillset and responsibilities to find out which SFIA level you currently work at? From there you can plot your rise to the top.
SFIAplus V8 is your roadmap to the IT industry - don’t leave home without it!