One of the key strength of SFIA is its depth and breadth of coverage of digital, IT and IT-related skills.

The downside of this for first time users is that it can seem quite time consuming to work through all the skills and skill levels and skill in order to complete an assessment of skills for individuals.

This document outlines a pragmatic 3 step approach to optimise the self assessment process. It can also be applied when assessing the skills of other. This approach recommends making full use of the generic SFIA levels of responsibility.


1. Assess against the SFIA generic Levels of Responsibility

2. Identify & prioritise the SFIA skills

3. Assess against the SFIA skill level descriptors


Step 1 – Assess against Levels of Responsibility

The value of the generic SFIA Levels of Responsibility is often overlooked.

A. Before diving into the detail of the 97 skills and 362 skill level descriptors; the first step is to review and understand the generic levels of responsibility.

  • These describe the four dimensions responsibility called autonomy, influence, complexity and business skills.
  • These are applicable to all jobs and roles no matter what the specialism

B. Individuals should consider how the expectations of their current role matches up to the levels of responsibility.

  • This could be documented formally in a role profile, job description, position description, or a “terms of reference” for a piece of work or assignment
  • In many cases it may be less formal. You should discuss with your line manager or co-workers to get their views.

C. If you have experience from previous roles and assignments that you want to assess; you can use the same approach as above.

D. Of course; you may think that you are contributing more or less than the formal expectations of the role – again you can use the SFIA Levels of Responsibility to highlight the behaviours / competencies you have demonstrated.

  • A skills assessment is about actual demonstrated behaviours not about potential or what you think you could do if you get a chance
  • Examples from you work experience are vital to support any assessment.

E. You should now have a view of the level of your role or assignment (or previous roles / assignments) e.g. I am a system designer operating at SFIA Level 5, I am a business analyst operating at SFIA Level 4.

F. This sets the highest SFIA level you can expect to map against;

  • That is; if you map against generic responsibilities of Level 4 and none (or only a few) of the level 5 responsibilitiesyou have set yourself an upper limit of Level 4 for any of the 97 skills.

Step 2 – Identify & prioritise the SFIA skills

A. Now browse through the overall descriptors for each of the 97 SFIA skills.

  • Five example SFIA skills are listed below – you should download and refer to the SFIA reference material for the full list of skills
IT strategy and planning

The creation, iteration and maintenance of a strategy in order to align IT plans with business objectives and the development of plans to drive forward and execute that strategy. Working with stakeholders to communicate and embed strategic management via objectives, accountabilities and monitoring of progress.

Business analysis

The methodical investigation, analysis, review and documentation of all or part of a business in terms of business functions and processes, the information used and the data on which the information is based. The definition of requirements for improving processes and systems, reducing their costs, enhancing their sustainability, and the quantification of potential business benefits. The collaborative creation and iteration of viable specifications and acceptance criteria in preparation for the deployment of information and communication systems.

Solution architecture

The design and communication of high-level structures to enable and guide the design and development of integrated solutions that meet current and future business needs. In addition to technology components, solution architecture encompasses changes to service, process, organisation, and operating models. Architecture definition must demonstrate how requirements (such as automation of business processes) are met, any requirements which are not fully met, and any options or considerations which require a business decision. The provision of comprehensive guidance on the development of, and modifications to, solution components to ensure that they take account of relevant architectures, strategies, policies, standards and practices (including security) and that existing and planned solution components remain compatible.

Programming / software development

The design, creation, testing and documenting of new and amended software components from supplied specifications in accordance with agreed development and security standards and processes.

Problem management

The resolution (both reactive and proactive) of problems throughout the information system lifecycle, including classification, prioritisation and initiation of action, documentation of root causes and implementation of remedies to prevent future incidents.

B. Sort each skill into one of 3 groups:

  • Group 1 – a skill I definitely have
  • Group 2 – a skill I may have – I will need to do some more investigation
  • Group 3 – a skill I definitely don’t have

Although there are 97 skills in SFIA – you should not try and match as many as possible. This is not an assessment of your knowledge / awareness of IT concepts and activities it is an assessment of demonstrated application of skills. So keep focused on activities you perfrom and perform on a regular basis – they will be your skills areas.

  • Programming/software development
  • Systems design
  • Data analysis
  • Methods and tools
  • Consultancy
  • Technical specialism
  • Testing
  • Systems integration
  • Animation development
  • User experience design
  • Porting/software configuration
  • Solution Architecture
  • System software
  • Release and deployment
  • Systems development management
  • IT governance
  •  IT strategy and planning
  • Information management
  • Information systems coordination
  • Information security
  • Information assurance
  • Analytics
  • Information content publishing
  • etc
  • etc

C. This prioritises the skills to look at and will make the detailed skills assessment in Step 3 more focused and productive.

D. If you have had a broad and varied career you may also prioritise your skills assessment against current, past and future career path.

  • might be thinking “I used to be a programmer so I could claim some skills but I moved into an Architect role and that is what is important to me now so that is the area I will focus on”

E. For all skills in group 1; proceed to a detailed assessment against the SFIA Skill Level descriptors.

F. Only return to the skills in group 2 when you have completed your assessment of all skills in group 1.

Step 3 – Assess against the SFIA skill level descriptors

A. Now take group 1 – we can start looking at the detailed skill level descriptors.

  • In our example we know from our assessment in step 1 that level 4 is our ceiling so we should start there or below.
Programming / software development @ SFIA Level 4

Designs, codes, tests, corrects and documents complex programs and scripts from agreed specifications, and subsequent iterations, using agreed standards and tools, to achieve a well engineered result. Takes part in reviews of own work and leads reviews of colleagues’ work.

Programming / software development @ SFIA Level 3

Designs, codes, tests, corrects, and documents moderately complex programs and scripts from agreed specifications and subsequent iterations, using agreed standards and tools. Collaborates in reviews of specifications, with others as appropriate.

Programming / software development @ SFIA Level 2

Designs, codes, tests, corrects, and documents simple programs, or scripts and assists in the implementation of software which forms part of a properly engineered information or communications system.

A. Remember it is actual experience of doing something (preferably repeatable) which demonstrate capability. A skills assessment is about demonstrated behaviours not about potential. Examples from your “body of work” are vital to support any assessment. Evidence should meet the following criteria:

  • Identify something that the individual specifically did (rather than the team)
  • Describe an event that has already happened (NOT intentions for the future)

B. Some SFIA level descriptors make use of relative terms such as simple, moderately complex, large. e.g. for the  Programming / Software development skill (PROG) the descriptors say:

  • Level 2 – Designs, codes, tests, corrects, and documents SIMPLE programs
  • Level 3 – Designs, codes, tests, corrects, and documents MODERATELY COMPLEX programs
  • Level 4 – Designs, codes, tests, corrects and documents LARGE and/or COMPLEX programs
  • This can make it difficult to assess where you are e.g. You know that you develop programs but how do you decide if your programs are simple or moderately complex. At this point you should refer back to the generic level of responsibility to help clarify your level. So rather than debating what is simple or complex – you can refer to the four dimensions of autonomy, influence, complexity and business skills and choose your level that way.

C. One trap to avoid is where individuals are aware of the skill / or need to understand the concepts.

  • E.g. I may not be an Architect but for my role I need to understand the concepts of Enterprise Architecture and be able to understand their work products. While it is useful to know that an individual has this knowledge it does not follow that they should assess themselves as having the Enterprise Architecture skill.

D. Work methodically through all the skills in your group 1 pile.

E. Go back to Step 2 and review group 2. Repeat this process until you end up with something like the example below.

My SFIA Skills Self Assessment

  • Programming/software development @ SFIA Level 4
  • Systems design @ SFIA Level 3
  • Data analysis @ SFIA Level 3
  • Methods and tools @ SFIA Level 4
  • Technical specialism @ SFIA Level 4