SFIA: What is it and why do we use it?

SFIA, Sophia, Sophie… Whatever you choose to call it, the Skills Framework for the Information Age is a huge part of our working lives here at risual, and it’s here to stay.


SFIA was initially published in 2000, but was based on work that had been carried out in the UK dating back to the 1980s. It’s creation was partially in response to issues surrounding the Millennium Bug; which related to the fear that all computers had the potential to shut down on the stroke of midnight between 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000. It was anticipated that software would not know whether to interpret “00” as 1900 or 2000, resulting in erroneous outputs and software crashes. In the end, the ONS counted only 74 companies who had millennium-related problems in the first week of January, hardly the global recession or infrastructure collapse that some of the most excitable prophets were anticipating.


Yet, the framework trundled on, eventually leading to the introduction of the SFIA Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation) and a number of subsequent iterations (we are now on the 7th with the 8th on its way). The framework is kept relevant through an open consultation process, which means that anyone can submit a request for change. It has grown from strength to strength and is now used in more than 35 countries over the world. In fact, a number of countries, such as Australia, use the framework as their National Standard of IT Competency.


So, why do we use it? There are plenty of reasons! The framework provides us with a common language to discuss skills and levels of responsibility, which allows us to maintain a level of clarity in job descriptions and role profiles. This improves communication and understanding across all levels of the business, from employees, to line managers, to Directors. Another significant benefit of using SFIA is that it allows us to measure current capability and identify future requirements; it enables us to plan for future demand and work out where our gaps are. The framework also allows us to demonstrate consistency in sourcing and deployment; as an internationally recognised framework, it allows us to be consistent in our recruitment and when sourcing externally for our clients, enabling us to assign resources based on their capability. Finally, SFIA provides clear and approachable career pathways by identifying the skills that need to be developed, providing clarity on targeted levels of competences and allowing team members to reach agreements on how development can be achieved or what support is required.

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