Skills frameworks

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The Skills Frameworks for the Information Age (SFIA) provides the most widely acceptable description for IT or IT related skills . It is an effective, practical tools produced by industry for the industry [2]. The SFIA framework is fully owned by SFIA organisations and is an open-source skills framework which is free of charge to apply the skills management skills within an organisation. SFIA usually used in an organisation to improve their stuffs management skills and process in order to solve their organisation's critical problem that impacting their people. SFIA can support people management processes such as role design, training and development career development, recruitment and many more. Typical business problem helped by using SFIA are IT out-sourcing, mergers and acquisitions, transformations of IT organisations and talent management in IT organisations.

SFIA provides a clear model for describing IT professional skills. It is built as a two-dimensional matrix. One axis presents the whole set of SFIA skills. All the skills are defined in the way that makes the users easier to apply it to workplace: the practical nature of the descriptions mean that they can effectively use the skills to build an organisation's internal competency framework. Below are the SFIA categories.

All the grouped skills are further broke down into subcategories where the 86 sub skills with every skill has an overall definition and then a more detailed descriptor for the 7 levels that skill is recognised. The skills categories provide skill definitions for the people or organisation who involved in delivering and exploiting IT systems. The categories provide every skill's definition to people and organisations who involve in delivering and exploiting IT systems. It is simply convenient heading under which group certain related skills. The skills are usually cover mainstream IT, user IT and also the interface of IT and business .

The other axis defines the different level of responsibility and accountability exercised by IT practitioners. SFIA describes 7 levels of responsibility. Each level, from new entrant to strategist level are defined in term of autonomy, influence, complexity and business skill . Below are the 7 levels of SFIA:

The matrix shows the full set of skills that can be use by IT professionals. Each skill at each level has the clear description provided of the level of competence required . The matrix is not fully populated as most roles do not require people at every level of responsibility .

Each professional skill is recognised at certain levels. SFIA is a matrix that allows few different skills management process to refer to the same definitions. SFIA provide knowledge to the organisation to describe what the individual are capable of and/or what the job requirements are.

For the business roles, SFIA can be use to identify the different professional roles that needed by the organisation to make the business successful. SFIA can apply to organisation whether it is an IT product or service provider or the users. The next step is to define the employee's role in the role profile that contains the required skills along with the other information along with HR standards. Normally each role profile would consist of more than one level. The role profile is the basic to assign people to the project. They are also used for assessment (how well people match the profile) and development (what kind of action needed by the professional to meet the requirement or to achieve the next level). Beside that, SFIA also provide flexibility as each role profile would specify the skills that are from different levels. For example, the software engineer which have programming skills at level 5, but also have the software development process improvement skills at level 6.

Norwich Union Life is the UK's largest and the world's fifth largest insurance group. In 2005, Norwich Union Life IT is about to began the business transformation with the aim of customer satisfaction and profitability to new level of excellence with the partnership with IBM Human Capital management. The operating environment is large & complex: NUL's 850 IT professionals, 250 contractors and 600 global sourcing resources support the 10,000 users of 100 mission critical systems as they deliver service in 10 key product lines to 5.5 million customers.

To support the business goals, major change was required as the little emphasis of skills and no career framework; the outcome did not support the high performance culture that was now needed. The new model that about to change must be conceived and designed to fulfil the requirement to deliver service, whilst making skills management play a full part, ensuring skills are available for the future. The model is the important element in the achievement of the vision:

People - motivated, effective, fulfilled; continuously enhancing their capabilities.

Environment - attracting, empowering, and supporting professional development.

Professional Development Team - mature, progressive, professional and trusted, acknowledged as contributing to the success of the business.

To turn the model into working operations, a programme with several work streams was initiated: Performance Management and Reward, Resourcing, Ways of Working, Development Framework (including Careers and Skills programme, Talent Strategy, Engagement Strategy, Community, Leadership, Professional Development Manager and Process Improvement . This all are needed to create a dynamic and professional organisation that providing quality service to 10,000 users .

The Careers & Skills programme is an important part of the whole Development Framework. Its foundation is the definition of professional roles in each Practise. These are documented in Role Profiles. The role purpose, SFIA skills, core behavioural competencies and technical knowledge are embedded in NUL's chosen Skills Management tool, InfoBasis Enterprise Skills Manager (ESM). The IT professionals assess themselves against defined targets and their assessments are moderated by the Practice in whose virtual community they are located, and confirmed in one-to-one interviews with Professional Development Managers. Their development plans are then updated according to their needs . This would enhance opportunity for career and professional development .

In additional to individuals' needs, the organisation's overall priorities for development can be built into the processes. This is achieved by the ESM tool's extensive operational reporting of skills needs and developments. Problem from individual's profile or community such as Business Analysis can be recognised and act on it. ESM's reporting then tracks progress made towards resolution. The reporting also identifies strengths that can be exploited. The reporting system is therefore the “handle”, providing information that allows management to have control of the development processes . This would help to build a flexible resource which can respond to the changing needed of the business .

As the conclusion, during NUL's business transforming, their stuff were no longer restricted to local opportunity, but had a career path planned within their own discipline . Beside that, SFIA also helped to keep management and staff motivated and engaged throughout the transformation process. Other than that, it has 50% increase of staff satisfaction and the measurable performance improvement, which achieved CMMI Level 3 since the transformation programme. Throughout the transforming period, they had many achievements in different fields, for example Communication, Performance management, Talent management and Career Progression etc.

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