An Itch I Need to Scratch

An itch I need to scratch

An Itch I Need to Scratch

An Itch I need to Scratch – Label, Labels, Tags and Tags

I must admit, I am truly privileged. I often get the opportunity to speak with ICT Industry thought-leaders, world class academics and People and Culture specialists. Their insights, usually based on solid experience, provides a great channel of input into our solution roadmap. And yet, there is an overriding theme that creates an itch I need to scratch. And that is, during the throes of debate and discussion we always revert to labels and tags.

Let me explain

At a recent forum, we were discussing employability, which included constant references to roles or jobs, which in effect, are just Labels. Sometimes with detailed definitions such as Data Scientist, Business Analyst or Coder. Then we include Tags such as PowerBI, IIBA or Python, which are just references to technology or methodology.

And this is where I get overcome by an itch I need to scratch. The world is changing away from labels, pigeonholes, and tags to the language of skills. And we at SkillsTx have embraced this change.

I fully understand the need for some structure, not least of all to assign a remuneration package.

e.g. You are a Business Analyst in Company X and therefore your package is $nnnnnn plus a laptop.

Here’s a thought

Would it not be so much better for people to be assessed on their capabilities and to generate their going rate based on the skills they require to be effective in a role.

We require someone possessing these skills to help deliver our digital transformation; Consultancy Level 5, Project Management Level 4 and Level 5 desirable, Business Analysis Level 4 and 5, Solution architecture Level 5 and Product management Level 4 and 5. (The precise definitions of these skills are available from the SFIA Foundation (

While I recognise, we are SOME way away from this reality, by continually reverting to labels and tags we are not helping progress the conversation. I’ll confess, as a commercial organisation we also have our labels and tags. I’m the CEO (great label) and also SFIA knowledgeable (great tag) but here’s my website super short bio

“Manning the tiller, sometimes setting the sail and often in the galley”.

So, I guess, I’m not your typical CEO (or maybe I am?) and my required skills reflects this. Some of them are being able to set vision and direction (strategic) and others ensuring our people are sustained (inspiring them to generate ideas).

Of course, I could use SFIA to provide precise descriptions of the skills required (and we do). I recently took part in a few webinars with an innovative topic

‘Forget the workforce, focus on the skillforce’

And this truly encapsulates the itch I need to scratch.

Break Free of labels and tags

We should be breaking free from the job/role labels and technology tags and recognise our most valuable resource for the skills they possess NOT the label we give them. I am not suggesting we dump all labels; I’m just advocating we use them less often and move them down the conversion topics. A workforce is often defined by 6 x BAs, 12 x Programmers etc etc.

Whereas a Skillforce would be 12 people with Business Analysis at Level 4, 6 people with Data Visualisation at Level 5 etc. These are the skill requirements to deliver on our promise, not the job titles of our organisation structure. The more I see Position Descriptions (PD) or Job/Role Descriptions the more I realise that they often FAIL to represent the skills that are actually required to produce a quality outcome.

Skills data tells a story

Consider the following scenario. A PD is written specifically for the recruitment of a Senior Business Analyst. We can ‘translate’ it to the relevant SFIA skills and levels represented in the text. This allows us to very clearly articulate the skills requirement. We can then compare against the skills we have available (personal SFIA skill profiles). Now surely you would expect that the existing Senior BAs would present a lot of the skills in the new PD, would you not? However, often, this is where I begin to have an itch I need to scratch.


Why? because PDs, and therefore Job Titles (labels), get misaligned against the skills actually being deployed to perform the role.


Another thought, define the skills required for a Job/Role by first looking at the common skills across a group currently doing that same Job. At the very least, use this data to refine the PD. Get some quick wins by then using the refined PD as a career development aid for the group.


I am aware that in the real world, organisations usually already have well defined processes for formulating PDs and remuneration. I advise caution, ensuring such changes are reviewed with deliberation, or you could be stopped in your tracks.

Be a Digital Skills Rebel

At SkillsTx we are not complete rebels, we do define jobs and roles, but we can also define more abstract concepts, like skill clusters. We can even allow individuals to define their ‘dream job’ (well a combination of skills) and generate their career development breadcrumbs to take them there.

If there is a digital skills industry box, we don’t want to be in it!!!!

If you are also a partial rebel and wish to share some future gazing with meaning and practicality, we should talk. Book A 30 Minute Call

Paul Collins