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Opinion: The value of deconstructing roles into skills

Dissecting IT jobs into “components of skills” can help you better define and determine the importance of each role

I am constantly amazed at the “hit and miss” approach many organisations have in relation to recruiting IT staff.

At a recent Australian Computer Society (ACS) roundtable, I discussed the challenges young people have in entering a fast-moving industry where roles change so quickly compared to other industries, and how IT graduates maintain their relevance.

One of my key recommendations was to have organisations look at the underlying skills that make up these roles, and focus on these rather than the positions themselves.

Some prominent universities in the UK include the SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) skill codes associated with each course, to assist students in career development and skills management.

Deconstructing roles into their components of skills assists with defining individual jobs and determining their value.

At an individual level, the benefits of SFIA are obvious in that understanding the skills you have allows you easily see where you are lacking so you can set a path for professional development.

At an organisational level, the benefits of SFIA are tremendous and include reduced operating costs (generally 30 per cent reduction), improved alignment with training and recruitment and reduced operational and programme risk.

However, the issue is that skills and salaries for IT staff seem to be poorly aligned, according to a recent Adaps Consulting study, which compared to salaries and skills of IT workers at one organisation. These workers included analyst programmers, business analysts and project managers who had been with the company over the past two years.

Firstly, there was a variation in the salaries paid for the types of role, which could be as high as an additional 30 per cent. Secondly, there were many roles where the required skills were absent, although the salary of the successful candidate remained unchanged.

This led me to consider three different scenarios that could explain the difference in alignment between salary and skills.

These included:

1. Work being done by another individual

In this case, the skills required to perform the work are present in another individual, and they are completing the activities associated with the role. In this case, there is a hidden cost, which has been transferred to another person.

2. Activities associated with a skill are not performed adequately

This can result in poor risk management for a project, a lack of skill around benefits and business case management, as well as poor change planning. This also becomes a risk issue and there are several audit findings that could be applied.

There are three controls under the COBIT 5 framework for managing enterprise IT and governance relate to skills and capabilities. These are APO05 (manage benefits achievement), APO07 (manage contract staff) and EDM04 (ensure resource optimisation). APO05 and APO07 reference SFIA directly as related guidance.

3. Skills were not really required in the first place

This is the most unlikely outcome, as why would an organisation include a requirement for a skill that was not really required? If this is the case, then the role should be re-scoped and the skill removed.

Translating missing skills into dollar value

On average, there was $28,000 worth of skills missing in each role assessed in the Adaps study and $73,300 worth of value being provided. The average salary for each role should have been $101,300, but the actual average remuneration was $118,400, a difference of $17,100.

Therefore, the combined saving if a person was aligned to each role would be $45,100. To put it into perspective, with an organisation of 1,000 IT staff, the saving would be $45 million per annum, or approximately 31 per cent.

There is great value in adopting frameworks like ITIL, Prince2, COBIT and others to standardise processes and implement good governance.

Unless organisations define the roles that support these frameworks effectively, then people will be challenged in completing a range of tasks in their jobs.

By implementing a skills framework like SFIA, organisations can better align the skills required for each role, and justify the cost of skills development and career progression.

If organisations understand the value of a skill or set of skills, they can choose whether to build the capability in-house or purchase it from a third-party. They can track where human assets are, and calculate the return on human capital.

Finally, by aligning the roles people have to the skills they require, organisations are much more likely to get them to adhere to the processes they need to follow. SFIA is the missing or forgotten framework, and a critical component to both embedding and delivering IT governance.

Simon Roller is managing director at Adaps Consulting, which helps organisations with IT strategy and governance.

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