The global skills and competency framework for the digital world


Functional, Non-functional and Process testing | Guidance notes

This is in beta alongside the development of the SFIA 9 framework. Contributions and ideas are welcome.

The update aims to align the framework with contemporary working practices, tools, roles, career paths, and soft skills required for the testing profession.

The updated testing skills framework includes the following key changes:

  • Refined and restructured definitions and descriptions of Testing skills
    • including process testing, functional testing, and non-functional testing
  • Improved alignment of testing skills with SFIA levels, providing clearer guidance for career progression
  • Greater visibility of the importance of soft skills, such as communication and collaboration, across all levels
  • Recognition of diverse entry points into testing roles, including transitions from business operations
  • Acknowledgement of the growing importance of test automation and agile testing practices

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How does the updated framework address the skills required for functional testing?

A: The SFIA 8 Testing (TEST) skill has been rewritten to focus exclusively on Functional testing.

Q: What changes have been made to the way SFIA describes non-functional testing skills in the updated framework?

A: A new Functional testing (FNTS) has been created

    Q: How does the updated framework address the importance of soft skills for testing professionals?

    A: The SFIA framework has always had soft skills as an integrated part of the framework. There were part of the generic attributes – primarily in the ‘Business skills’ section.

    With SFIA 9 – the importance of these has been emphasised and made more visible. This means that testing professionals can make use of skills, such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, across all levels of testing. e.g.

    • the communication and collaboration skills that are essential for testing professionals to work effectively within cross-functional teams and to build strong relationships with stakeholders.
    • the importance of problem-solving skills in identifying and mitigating risks and issues throughout the testing process.

     Q: How can testing professionals use the updated framework to plan their career progression?

    A1: The updated framework provides clearer guidance on the skills and competencies required at each SFIA level, enabling testing professionals to map their current skills and identify areas for development. By setting goals and objectives aligned with the framework, testing professionals can plan their career progression and acquire the necessary skills and experience to advance to higher levels.

    A2: Testing professionals can use the SFIA framework to plan their career progression by identifying the skills and levels that align with their current experience and expertise, and then mapping out a path to progress. The framework provides a clear description of the responsibilities and experience required at each level, allowing professionals to identify areas where they need to develop their skills and gain experience to advance their careers. Testing professionals can focus on progressing within their chosen specialisms

    • Process testing – with examples,
    • Functional testing – with examples
    • Non-Functional Testing – with examples

    Or explore opportunities to expand their skills across one or more of these domains.

    Q: How does SFIA support generalist and specialist testing roles/skills.  

    A: SFIA supports both generalist and specialist testing roles/skills. The separate skills for Process testing, Functional testing, and Non-Functional testing, allows for specialisation in specific areas of testing. Professionals can choose to focus on one specialism and develop deep experience in that area. On the other hand, the consistent progression of responsibilities and skills across the levels also supports generalist roles, as professionals can develop a broad understanding of testing principles and practices that apply across all specialisms. Professionals can use the framework to see how they can transition between different domains or enhance their skills by working across multiple testing domains.

    Q: Do you have to be a test manager to progress to the higher SFIA levels.

    A: If by ‘test manager’ you mean managing a team of testers, then the answer is no, you do not need be a test manager to progress to the higher SFIA levels. While the higher levels (e.g. 4, 5 and 6) involve responsibilities related to planning, leading, and managing testing activities, as well as contributing to the development of organisational policies and standards, these roles do not always require a formal test manager title or team manager responsibilities. Professionals can progress to these levels by demonstrating leadership, strategic thinking, and the ability to influence and guide testing practices within their organisation, regardless of their specific job title.

     Q: Why aren’t there standalone skills for test analysis, test design, test management

    A: In summary, SFIA incorporates the different phases of test development into the main testing skills to provide a comprehensive, adaptable, and progressive approach to defining testing skills while keeping the framework simple and manageable.

    SFIA does not have separate skills for different phases of test development such as test analysis, test design, and test management. Instead, SFIA incorporates these phases into the description of each testing skill at the different levels of responsibility and complexity.

    SFIA takes this approach for the following reasons:

    Integration: By incorporating the different phases of test development into each skill, SFIA ensures that professionals have a comprehensive view of the entire testing process within their specific area of focus (e.g., process testing, functional testing, or non-functional testing).

    Adaptability: The SFIA framework is designed to be applicable across various industries and organisations. By not having standalone skills for each phase of test development, SFIA allows for flexibility in how these phases are implemented within different contexts.

    Progression: As professionals progress through the levels within each skill, they take on more responsibilities related to the different phases of test development. For example, at lower levels, they may focus on executing tests, while at higher levels, they are involved in planning, designing, and managing testing activities.

    Simplification: Having separate skills for each phase of test development could lead to an overly complex framework with many, overlapping, skills. By incorporating these phases into the main testing skills, SFIA keeps the framework more manageable and easier to understand.

    Q: There seems to be similar wording used for Functional/Non-functional/Process testing

    A: Yes, there is similarity in the wording used to describe the responsibilities and skills at each level for the testing skills. This is because the progression of responsibilities and skills is consistent across the different verticals. However, the specific focus and techniques used in each testing domain differ.

    • e.g. Functional testing focuses on verifying that the system performs the functions it is designed to do, while non-functional testing assesses the system's performance, reliability, usability, and other quality attributes.

    The similar wording in the SFIA framework reflects the consistent progression of skills, while the differences between the domain are captured in the specific activities and focus areas mentioned in the skill descriptions including the guidance notes for each skill.

    Q: How does SFIA deal with the wide range of tools and techniques used by Testing professionals

    A: SFIA acknowledges the importance of tools and techniques in testing by mentioning them at various levels within the skill descriptions. The framework encourages testing professionals to adopt and adapt appropriate testing methods, automated tools, and techniques to solve problems and improve testing processes. the SFIA skill Methods and tools METL can be used alongside Testing to support roles which are responsible for 

    • assessing, selecting and implementing methods and tools
    • measuring, tailoring, improving and automating the use of methods and tools.

    As professionals progress through the levels, they are expected to develop expertise in selecting and implementing testing tools and frameworks, as well as contributing to the development of organisational testing capabilities and methods.

    • Note that, SFIA does not provide a list of specific tools and techniques, as these can vary widely depending on the organisation, industry, and technology stack.
    • Instead, the framework focuses on the general principles and practices that underpin the effective use of tools and techniques in testing.

     Q: How does SFIA deal with test automation

     A: SFIA recognizes the importance of test automation and incorporates it into the skill descriptions at various levels.

    • At lower levels (1-2), professionals are expected to use basic automated testing tools and automate repeatable tasks.
    • As they progress to higher levels (3-4), they are responsible for implementing scalable and reliable automated tests and frameworks, as well as promoting productivity through test automation, tools, and best practices.
    • At the highest levels (5-6), professionals are expected to adapt or develop organisational testing capabilities and methods, which may include advanced test automation strategies and frameworks.

    The consistent mention of test automation throughout the levels emphasises its significance in modern testing practices and encourages professionals to develop their skills in this area as they progress in their careers.

    Q: What is the relationship between the new Process testing skill and the existing Acceptance testing (BPTS)?

    A: This is still under review. All contributions are welcome.

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