The global skills and competency framework for the digital world

T-shaped roles

Review of T-shaped roles and T-shaped people

These pages are part of the SFIA 8 project.
This is still work in progress.
The content may be changed and/or removed at any time.
They do not form part of the published SFIA framework.


  1. Different approaches for describing the concept of T-shaped

  2. SFIA positioning

  3. How SFIA 7 already supports T-shaped roles

  4. Opportunities for SFIA 8 and/or the wider SFIA ecosystem

  5. Further experimenting. T-shaped roles - SFIA and Bloom's taxonomy

Your comments...

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  • Alternatively send your feedback to the SFIA Updates Manager.

Different approaches for describing the concept of T-shaped

  • There’s lots of different shapes and letters used to describe the concept.
  • We have captured a few in the slide share below
    • I-shaped, T-shaped, Dash-shaped, Pi-shaped, Comb-shaped, A-shaped, V-shaped
    • Specialist, Generalist, Versatilist
  • Looking at all of these models it is clear that
    • the different models do not describe the mechanics/detail consistently - in fact it would be a miracle if they did
    • generally the difference between knowledge, skills, competencies is all mixed up and sometimes used interchangeably
    • even where the same model is used (T-shaped being the most popular) it is used to describe different concepts

SFIA positioning

There is no industry standard definition of T-shaped

  • This should not be a surprise. Its just like job titles, role profiles, organisation structures. The industry is fast moving in picking (and throwing away) concepts and ideas to help themselves.
  • So SFIA cannot/does not need to map to an "industry standard"
  • The flipside is also true. Organisations also need to think hard about what they need from a T-shaped role. There is no proven or consistent model to be picked up off the shelf.

Our key message is both familiar and consistent “SFIA is flexible by design”

  • You can map any approaches to role design, working patterns, career development using the existing components of the SFIA framework – see graphic

To incorporate SFIA skills and levels of responsibility into the T-shaped model

  • The vertical of the T should list the things you have to be able to do
    • This can be described by SFIA skills & levels/levels of Responsibility
  • The horizontal of the T should be the things you need to know
    • Increased / in-depth knowledge required for those things in the vertical
    • On the outer edges of the horizontal line - being aware of concepts, processes, tools and how they fit your role is sufficient

How SFIA 7 already supports T-shaped roles

SFIA has been helping organisation's resolve issues and design solutions for a long time. Here's some ways that SFIA can help with the concept of T-shaped people.

  1. Diagnosis
    • what problem am I trying to resolve if a T-shaped role is the answer
    • difference between skills/competencies, behaviours and knowledge
  2. Planning and organising
    • organisation design – do we want T-shaped people, T-shaped roles, multi-skilled teams
    • filling skill gaps e.g. development paths to fill cyber security gaps
  3. Design T-shaped roles
    • bring clarity to what the person in the role needs to know and what they need to do - (SFIA skills and levels)
  4. Recruit/Acquire and Assessing
    • identifying T-shaped people,
  5. Deploying
    • Targeted deployment also provides the best opportunity for individuals to develop new skills and knowledge
    • Project and operational risks are reduced by assigning the right skilled people. Using SFIA means this is based on their actual capability, not just their technical knowledge.
  6. Developing 
    • Difference between developing new knowledge and being able to enact new skills and responsibilities for a T-shaped role
    • Career paths encouraging people to be T-shaped
  7. Accreditation/Recognition
    • accreditation for the different SFIA elements – knowledge and SFIA levels – to recognise T-shaped people

Opportunities for SFIA 8 and/or the wider SFIA ecosystem

Here are some areas to be explored...

  1. Guidance on linking/mapping to sources of knowledge…

    • SFIA does not describe knowledge.
    • BUT – SFIA’s design explicitly recognises knowledge and has started to help organisations link knowledge to skills and competency levels.
    • ACTION for SFIA 8 - create/refine guidance
  2. Create prototype T-shape role profiles with SFIA skills and knowledge mapped…

    • ACTION for SFIA 8 -  Choose a DevOps role and a Service Management role
  3. Developing a proficiency scale for knowledge…

    • while SFIA has a proven scale (the 1 to 7) for skill/competency level the framework has never described a scale for knowledge.
    • This is a step away from SFIA's current scope so needs to be considered before taking this direction
    • There is benefit in SFIA recommending a scale for knowledge as it would visibly highlight how a knoeledge scale it is different than a scale for competency / responsibilities
    • Other organisations have published knowledge scales but these rarely fit with SFIA's design principles
    • ACTION for SFIA 8 – research / identify different approaches to a scale for knowledge. Publish and explain a scale which can work alongside SFIA to support T-shaped roles (and all other letters of the alphabet)

Further experimenting

  • The following graphics explore some opportunities to describe and exploit SFIA and knowledge.
  • These are experimental and are shared to encourage constructive feedback and comment.

T-shaped roles and Bloom's Taxonomy.

What happens if we try to combine the T-shape role with Bloom's taxonomy. 

Can we align the highest levels of knowledge required with the core competencies/responsibilities of a role

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Some worked examples

  • For a given role the model is not static - over time thing on the periphery of your knowledge may become more important 

  • Topics that only needed knowledge may increase in importance and become a skill required for the role

  • This is a natural result of changes in the external environment (impact of social media channels on a service desk), changes in your responsibilities, organisation structures etc.

  • A model like this can be used to define the learning needs for roles and for individuals.

  • In this way the learning needed to develop competencies, skills can be distinguished from learning for knowledge and awareness.

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