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FCW : June 30, 2015
For those of us who manage others, our effectiveness is largely driven by the skills and motivation of those who report to us. So whether you are a CIO, IT division leader or frontline manager, you need to spend the time to assess your employees in terms of their currents skills, abilities and career aspirations, and then help them create the plans that can support their development. And leaders must do all that in a way that supports the overall near- term objectives of the organization and that properly balances the need for professional development against the organization’s day-to-day opera- tional needs. Yet when it comes to skills assess- ment, particularly in terms of techni- cal skills, I have always felt that we IT managers had one hand tied behind our backs. Sure, there are certifica- tions for competence in many differ- ent products, and they can be helpful in giving you a sense of an individual’s skillset. But how do you assess some- one as a journeyman programmer, tes- ter or systems engineer, or perhaps as a master in one’s chosen discipline? It has always struck me that such evaluations are overly subjective and place too much emphasis on “book knowledge” rather than practical appli- cations of that knowledge to develop new, innovative solutions or approach- es that the organization truly needs. The concept of measuring some- one’s ability to perform in a discipline is captured in Bloom’s Taxonomy. “Book knowledge” can only achieve the lowest two levels. However, “syn- thesis” and above are the only levels at which it is generally accepted that a worker can fully and effectively do the primary roles of their jobs — espe- cially in IT. This means the assessment prob- lem is twofold. First, for a specific IT discipline, one needs a comprehensive framework by which to understand the types of skills and knowledge an employee should have at each level, from entry level through master. Second, for each discipline, one also needs a way to accurately assess the current level of proficiency of one’s technical staff members, in order to create the baseline by which to develop their skills so they can move to higher levels of proficiency. That approach not only helps the individual develop a realistic and achievable plan, but it also gives the manager insights into where he or she has significant skills gaps in the organization. Until recently, it was not easy to address either of those problems. Defining competencies on our own is time-consuming, expensive, frus- trating and very likely to be full of inaccuracies. Fortunately, in 2003 the nonprofit Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) Foundation established a comprehensive framework of skills in IT disciplines based on a broad indus- try “body of knowledge.” The SFIA currently covers 96 pro- fessional IT skills organized into six categories: • Strategy and architecture • Business change • Solution development and implementation • Service management • Procurement and management support • Client interface creation BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Assessing your employees’ abilities and identifying skills gaps require a less subjective approach Improving the skills of your IT staff CIOPerspective 26 June 30, 2015 FCW.COM Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal govern- ment service. Most recently, he served as CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. He is now CEO of Resilient Network Systems. 0630fcw_026-027.indd 26 6/10/15 9:12 AM
June 15, 2015
July 15, 2015