Why bother understanding IT skills?

Nov 16
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None of us need to understand the skills required to design and build a car in order to use one to pick up the kids from school. Likewise, consumers of IT services really have no need to understand the skills required to deliver those services.

But the fact that you are reading this article probably means you are not a mere consumer of IT services. You are more likely involved in the IT service delivery chain, even if most of your services are in turn delivered through cloud services provided to you.

At most this means there are some IT skills you probably do not need to understand, because you have confidence in your service providers to manage their internal skills. You only need to validate the quality of services they provide to you, right?

Or is that in itself an ICT skill? What about the integration of services from multiple providers to present a unified service to business? There is another set of skills.

So while there may be some skills you can avoid the detail of, there are a large number of IT related skills you will need to understand to deliver the services you provide. This means you need to understand the language of ICT skills, even though there are some words or phrases in that language you may never use. No big deal – there are plenty of words in English most of us never use. I am sure it is the same in Chinese.

Skills Framework for the Information Age

It would be good if there was a common international language for describing ICT skills, one that does not depend on a knowledge of English or Chinese. Fortunately there is: SFIA.

SFIA, the Skills Framework for the Information Age, is a skills language which is itself available in six languages (English, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese). It uses codes and levels to identify all the individual ICT skills that may be combined to define a role, structure training programs, conduct workforce planning and do many other things related to managing people and skills in the ICT arena.

Using SFIA you can be precise with your expectation when engaging new resources or discussing resourcing challenges that somebody else (like a supplier or a customer) may have.

Defining required skills

For example, what exactly is the difference between a Senior Business Analyst, a Lead Business Analyst and an Enterprise Business Analyst? What skills does a regular Business Analyst need to acquire to become one of these?

With the SFIA language, we can define each of these roles via a series of codes. It does not matter whether your idea of what constitutes a Lead BA is different to mine, because it will become trivial to see the differences when we compare our SFIA coded definitions. Here is my organisation’s definition of what a Lead Business Analyst looks like using the SFIA codes and levels:

Staff wishing to develop their career can very easily see the differences between the SFIA skills they have and the skills required by the role they aspire to. With more and more training courses aligned to the SFIA framework, it will be relatively easy to design a development program to get the skills required for a desired role.

If you have not explored SFIA, I recommend you look into it. It is available for free from the SFIA Foundation: www.sfia-online.org

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Submitted by Grant Nicholson

Grant Nicholson

Grant Nicholson is Director, Quality & Workforce Strategy (ICT) at
IP Australia.

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