The launch of an updated version of the national Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) has been hailed by the BCS as a step towards professionalism in IT.
The new version, describing and defining 78 IT skills at up to seven levels, has been launched after public meetings and contributions to a consultation website involving hundreds of organisations including government departments, Norwich Union, the National Health Service and IBM. The website had 800 to 900 unique visitors a month over nine months.
SFIA has recently been adopted as the standard for skills assessment and development by the E-Government Unit as part of a drive to develop the government IT profession.
SFIA is managed by the SFIA Foundation, a non-profit-making body run by the BCS, national training standards body E-Skills UK, the Institute for the Management of Information Systems and the Institution of Electrical Engineers.
"The new SFIA will ensure the progress of the UK's IT sector towards the standards demanded from other professions like engineering, financial services or the law," said Malcolm Sillars, chairman of the SFIA upgrade project board and head of BCS professional development products.
"It will also dovetail into the BCS's own planned programme to extend and award chartered qualification status outside its own membership base."
A standard chartered qualification structure across the IT profession is one issue being considered by the Professionalism in IT Programme initiated by the BCS.
The work on the new version of SFIA has in particular strengthened the framework's coverage of skills in business change, service management, security, and IT governance and compliance, said Mike Chad, chief editor on the update project.
"These areas have benefited from the experience of a large number of organisations using SFIA," Chad said. "Input from users has also enabled us to cater more effectively for organisations managing contractors and outsourcing."
Chad said SFIA could be used in areas including benchmarking staff and organisation skills, job design, standardising job titles and functions, resource management and allocation, professional development planning, analysing skills gaps and planning future skills needs, always with consistent language.
SFIA is also recognised and used by suppliers of skills management products and services, including the BCS, E-Skills UK, IBM and training companies.
The BCS is now updating its own SFIAplus IT skills, training and development standard, which enhances SFIA by aligning with it and providing extra detailed overviews. The BCS SFIAplus3 will offer links to BCS and other providers' services and products covering training, development, qualifications, careers, jobs, communities, events, publications and other resources. SFIAplus3 is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2006.
BCS services and products using SFIAplus include Skills Manager and Career Developer for employers, and Career Builder for individuals, which enables people to review their skills against SFIA, create a personal job description, think about their career goals and plan training and development.