When consultants get it wrong about SFIA assessment

When consultants get it wrong about SFIA assessment

So what do I mean when I say consultants get it wrong about SFIA assessments? Several times recently I’ve heard statements from experienced and accredited consultants, which I believe are wrong. They said something like “I’ve just picked the highest level of the professional skill because it’s a given that if they have the higher level they can do the lower levels”. This is potentially dangerous thinking and doesn’t align with the guidance from the SFIA Foundation https://sfia-online.org/en/tools-and-resources/using-sfia/sfia-assessment/sfia-assessment-guidelines-overview


In the Guidelines for SFIA Assessors page 12 explains “SFIA skill descriptions are not always cumulative between levels. Depending on the purpose of the assessment – it may be useful to capture all applicable levels to provide a comprehensive view.” It goes on to explain “A single level number for a skill does not imply that you have skills to perform all the activities described in lower levels.”


There are some good examples to illustrate this:

I’ve met several Service Desk Managers over the years who are definitely practicing the incident management (USUP) skill at level 5, as described in SFIA8, but without having experience of ever practicing that same skill at level 2.

Level 5: Develops, maintains and tests incident management procedures in agreement with service owners. Investigates escalated, non-routine and high-impact incidents to responsible service owners and seeks resolution. Facilitates recovery, following resolution of incidents. Ensures that resolved incidents are properly documented and closed. Analyses causes of incidents, and informs service owners to minimise probability of recurrence, and contributes to service improvement. Analyses metrics and reports on the performance of the incident management process.

Level 2: Follows agreed procedures to identify, register and categorise incidents. Gathers information to enable incident resolution and allocates incidents as appropriate.

Problem management (PBMG) is another good example – at level 5 you are ensuring that appropriate action is taken by others to investigate and resolve, not investigating problems in systems, processes and services yourself.

Level 3: Investigates problems in systems, processes and services. Assists with the implementation of agreed remedies and preventative measures.
Level 4: Initiates and monitors actions to investigate and resolve problems in systems, processes and services. Determines problem fixes and remedies. Collaborates with others to implemented agreed remedies and preventative measures. Supports analysis of patterns and trends to improve problem management processes.
Level 5: Ensures that appropriate action is taken to anticipate, investigate and resolve problems in systems and services. Ensures that such problems are fully documented within the relevant reporting systems. Enables development of problem solutions. Coordinates the implementation of agreed remedies and preventative measures. Analyses patterns and trends and improves problem management processes.


This is why we advise people to capture all the levels at which they practice each skill, as we can’t afford to make an assumption that they have experience of the lower levels. Imagine that Service Desk Manager with incident management at level 5, being asked to pick up the phone and log, register and categorise an incident during busy periods – if they haven’t done it before, this may be something they need in their development plan if their role demands that they use this skill at multiple levels during the normal pattern of carrying out their role. This is also why we advise that Role Profiles and Job/Position Descriptions should include all the levels at which anyone performing the role/job will be required to practice a particular skill. If you only identify the highest level, you are masking requirements and potentially overlooking genuine development needs and skill gaps which might come back to haunt you later on!


As Consultants it is important that we stay up-to-date with the evolving best practices of our specialist areas, as things do change, old views and outdated practices can lead to poor advice and guidance – so we owe it to our customers and employers to ensure we’re giving the best advice possible. Sometimes this means we need to study – life-long learning! Even though I’ve been using SFIA for over 20 years, I have to do my research, challenge my views and adapt to changes. There’s an old joke somewhere about the difference between God and a Consultant being that “God doesn’t think he’s a Consultant” – we need to remain humble, continue to learn, admit when we’re wrong, and act professionally and respectfully to others.


If you are a SFIA Consultant and feel the need to update yourself in assessment practices, we have a SFIA Assessor training course which is approved as an accredited training course by the SFIA Foundation. If you are already a SkillsTx licence holder, you can get access to training materials as part of your SkillsTx SaaS licence – we also have the course available as a public course.

SFIA Assessor accredited training (self-paced) public course

The public training list also contains details of the next instructor-led training, if you prefer that style of training. Details of our training options are available on the website.

Once you have completed the accredited SFIA Assessor training, and meet the experience requirements published by the SFIA Foundation, you can apply for accreditation.

Matthew Burrows