2011-04-25 comments on Readability and Consistency for v5 Consultation

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One of most important area for the ease of use and access is the overall quality and readability of the SFIA framework. When using the framework in total (rather than looking at skills / skill levels …

One of most important area for the ease of use and access is the overall quality and readability of the SFIA framework. When using the framework in total (rather than looking at skills / skill levels in isolation) there is an overall sense of inconsistency in how the descriptors are put together. I propose that 4 areas could be looked at :
1. The range in the length, quality and readability of the skill and skill level descriptions
2. Readability
3. Could SFIA descriptors be presented as bullet points rather than sentences
4. Wide range in the number of skill indicators contained in the skill level descriptions

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  • 1. SFIA 4G Readability, Consistency & No. of Peter LeatherIndicatorsSummaryOne of most important area for the ease of use and access is the overall quality and readability of the SFIA framework. When using the framework in total(rather than looking at skills / skill levels in isolation) there is an overall sense of inconsistency in how the descriptors are put together. I propose that 4areas could be looked at : 1. The range in the length, quality and readability of the skill and skill level descriptions 2. Readability 3. Could SFIA descriptors be presented as bullet points rather than sentences 4. Wide range in the number of skill indicators contained in the skill level descriptions1. There is a wide range in the length, quality and readability of the skill and skill level descriptions.  This becomes most apparent when organisations or individuals are reviewing or assessing a number of skills; as the comparisons between the different skills is more obvious  Some descriptions are long, wordy and appear quite convoluted  At the other extreme; some descriptions are a brief one sentence. This has the benefit of readability but requires more interpretation by the reader  It would help if there more consistency in the style / structure of all the skill and skill level descriptors. This would enable a more repeatable & reliable assessment of individuals’ skill levels.Page 1 of 4
  • 2. SFIA 4G Readability, Consistency & No. of Peter LeatherIndicators2. Readability  Generally for readability; descriptions should minimise the use of polysyllabic words and long, complex sentences  While much of the jargon and language of IT makes the use of some polysyllabic words unavoidable (and arguably not a problem as the IT professional will be familiar with the language)  However we can do something about the sentences - descriptions are easier to read when they use simpler diction and shorter sentences.  If descriptors “have” to be long then they should, generally, be composed of more sentences which don’t exceed the optimum no of words per sentence  From a consistency point of view the wide discrepancy suggest that the paragraph length is more to do with the author of each skill description rather than something directly related to the skill being described. Everyone knows it takes more time to write short concise documents. Although I would not suggest word count alone is the measure of quality it does provide an illustration of this point I suggest a review of all the skill and skill level descriptions is undertaken through the lens of a professional technical writer for clarity and concise use of words.  I have produced an analysis of the number of words per description and the number of sentences per description– see link.  As an indication of the range: Median no. of words Average no of Words Longest Descriptor Shortest Descriptor Skill Descriptions: 44 50 142 words 9 words Skill Level Descriptions: 44 50 174 words 5 words Sentences per paragraph Average words per sentence Average Most Least Average Least Average Skill & Skill Level 3 7 1 34.5 10.3 18.3 Descriptions:Page 2 of 4
  • 3. SFIA 4G Readability, Consistency & No. of Peter LeatherIndicators3. Could SFIA descriptors be presented as bullet points rather than sentences  Consideration should also be given to amending the format of the descriptions and use concise bullet points instead of sentences.  When individuals and organisations people use the framework they frequently split up descriptors into component parts anyway and bullet points would aid this as well as overall readability and ease of reference.4. Some skill level descriptions have many indicators contained within the text and others have far fewer.  By “Indicator” – I mean a descriptive phrase or dimension which is used to indicate if a particular skill or skill level is applicable  Within the framework the number of indicators varies greatly with an obvious link between the number of indicators and the number of words in the descriptor.  Whilst accepting (and supporting) the principle that the SFIA definition is intended to be diagnostic and it “is not intended as a complete definition” the fact remains that there is a significant variation in how many indicators are present in the skill level descriptors.  There does not appear to be an obvious pattern or reason why certain skills are documented in different ways. Although there is generally more words and more indicators for the higher SFIA skill level descriptors  A short sharp sentence may have the benefit of elegance and simplicity – but it may provide a limited number of indicators for assessment – and as such may not be as useful as a longer description.Page 3 of 4
  • 4. SFIA 4G Readability, Consistency & No. of Peter LeatherIndicators2 examples are given below – both describing a level 5 skill but in quite different levels of detail.Quality Standards Level 5 Project Management Level 5SFIA v4 Description: SFIA v4 Description:“Takes responsibility for the control, update and distribution of quality “Takes full responsibility for the definition, documentation and satisfactorystandards, and advice on their use.” completion of medium-scale projects (typically lasting 6-12 months, with direct business impact, teams of 3-5 and firm deadlines). Identifies, assesses and manages risks to the success of the project. Ensures that realistic project and quality plans are prepared and maintained and provides regular and accurate reports to stakeholders as appropriate. Ensures Quality reviews occur on schedule and according to procedure. Manages the change control procedure, and ensures that project deliverables are completed within planned cost, timescale and resource budgets, and are signed off. Provides effective leadership to the project team, and takes appropriate action where team performance deviates from agreed tolerances.”Approximate number of indicators – 5 Approximate number of indicators - 30For comparison: if this was written in the same style as Project For comparison: if this was written in the same style as Quality StandardsManagement Level 5 it may read something like this: Level 5 it may read something like this:“Takes responsibility for the control, update and distribution of quality “Takes responsibility for the definition, documentation and completion ofstandards. Provides advice and education on the documentation and use of medium-scale projects.”quality standards. Understands the requirements of all stakeholders andprovides effective leadership to ensure that quality standards are deliveredand used. Manages the change control process and ensures that qualitystandards are completed and signed off within agreed timescales andbudgets. Checks the progress and quality of the production of qualitystandards’ artefacts against targets, reporting as necessary and takingaction to resolve exceptions. “Which of these styles is most useful? Is there any underlying reason related to the skill which makes one style more applicable than the other?Page 4 of 4
  • 5. Readability stats for SFIA 4G Peter Leather Average for the skill descriptor & all skill level Word Count descriptors Avg Sentences per Words per Skill Description Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7 words paragraph sentenceAccount management 61 61 58 60 3.3 18.0Application support 107 16 26 33 31 43 3.0 14.1Asset management 71 76 50 81 70 2.2 30.8Availability management 59 57 51 33 50 2.5 20.0Benefits management 38 94 73 68 2.0 34.5Business analysis 73 33 62 90 94 70 3.4 20.7Business modelling 50 46 44 63 54 44 50 4.3 11.5Business process improvement 48 37 61 39 49 2.5 18.5Business process testing 74 52 85 58 67 4.2 15.8Business risk management 43 58 37 46 2.0 23.0Capacity management 42 15 38 61 39 2.2 17.3Change implementation planning and management 29 127 103 86 3.6 23.5Change management 48 14 12 55 24 31 1.7 21.8Client services management 22 38 52 37 2.6 14.0Compliance review 52 40 60 63 102 63 3.6 17.6Configuration management 109 22 31 30 27 59 46 2.5 18.5Consultancy 49 28 35 37 37 2.0 30.2Continuity management 76 12 85 58 2.6 21.6Corporate governance of IT 67 117 79 92 3.3 26.5Data analysis 38 25 51 47 62 45 1.8 24.7Database administration 11 5 20 29 50 23 2.2 10.4Database /repository design 23 37 48 46 73 57 47 3.1 14.9Education and training delivery 23 17 17 16 18 1.0 18.2Emerging technology monitoring 46 44 33 41 2.3 17.5Enterprise architecture 121 61 93 65 92 3.7 22.6Financial management for IT 37 53 59 59 52 1.7 29.7Human factors integration 22 16 23 32 20 1.0 23.0Information analysis 44 23 13 16 24 1.2 19.5Information assurance 38 31 60 48 43 2.2 19.6Information content authoring 44 65 36 69 38 49 50 3.8 13.0Information content publishing 44 41 23 28 74 87 50 3.1 15.6Information management 142 76 86 60 52 91 5.5 18.9Information policy formation 23 71 49 48 3.3 14.3Information security 36 78 58 64 53 58 3.5 18.0Information systems coordination 46 57 49 52 1.6 30.4Innovation 41 39 40 1.5 26.6IT management 106 82 106 142 98 5.7 18.9IT Operations 75 6 16 22 38 31 2.4 13.0Learning and development management 21 7 41 23 1.6 13.8Learning resources creation and maintenance 59 35 44 46 2.3 19.8Marketing 35 57 55 71 37 51 4.8 10.6 Page 1 of 4
  • 6. Readability stats for SFIA 4G Peter Leather Average for the skill descriptor & all skill level Word Count descriptors Avg Sentences per Words per Skill Description Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7 words paragraph sentenceMethods & tools 25 10 10 29 19 1.0 18.5Network control and operation 33 37 36 51 55 42 3.2 13.2Network design 47 56 31 45 2.6 16.7Network planning 66 30 36 44 1.6 26.4Network support 76 13 25 46 37 39 3.0 13.1Organisation design and implementation 47 52 59 53 1.6 32.4Portfolio management 115 44 174 163 111 7.0 17.6Porting /software integration 18 30 37 38 61 37 2.7 16.7Problem management 26 23 40 30 2.0 14.8Procurement 19 95 57 57 4.0 14.2Professional development 61 82 22 55 4.0 13.7Programme and project support office 117 19 43 84 70 67 6.2 13.2Programme management 75 86 112 81 4.3 21.0Programming /software development 19 26 29 41 54 34 2.0 16.9Project management 37 98 109 60 54 76 3.4 21.0Quality assurance 24 34 22 30 59 34 2.6 13.0Quality management 43 26 88 65 52 3.5 15.8Quality standards 9 13 9 12 16 12 1.0 11.8Radio frequency engineering 17 40 43 21 25 10 26 2.1 12.0Release management 44 41 50 38 68 48 4.2 12.9Requirements definition and management 28 55 88 111 106 39 71 4.1 17.0Research 28 46 64 67 60 53 2.6 20.3Resourcing 28 101 92 74 6.0 18.3Safety assessment 66 24 38 43 2.0 21.3Safety engineering 45 34 45 52 52 46 2.4 19.0Sales support 36 38 43 31 48 62 31 41 2.7 15.2Security administration 37 33 36 52 39 39 3.2 12.3Selling 41 69 69 60 60 4.0 14.9Service desk and incident management 31 17 38 37 34 36 32 3.2 12.0Service level management 50 15 34 42 64 94 72 50 2.8 18.5Software development process improvement 63 34 41 45 46 2.7 16.6Solution architecture 92 99 104 98 4.0 24.5Stakeholder relationship management 18 53 75 49 3.0 16.4Supplier relationship management 24 17 20 89 88 80 48 4.4 13.3Sustainability assessment 71 39 39 31 45 2.2 20.0Sustainability engineering 50 10 17 33 28 1.5 18.3Sustainability management for IT 78 54 39 57 3.0 19.0Sustainability strategy 82 46 35 54 4.0 20.3System software 30 18 54 72 44 3.7 11.6Systems design 37 49 39 53 84 30 49 3.1 15.3Systems development management 29 68 26 32 41 2.0 25.8 Page 2 of 4
  • 7. Readability stats for SFIA 4G Peter Leather Average for the skill descriptor & all skill level Word Count descriptors Avg Sentences per Words per Skill Description Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7 words paragraph sentenceSystems ergonomics 45 14 17 19 20 23 1.4 16.4Systems installation /decommissioning 57 21 68 88 114 41 65 4.0 16.2Systems integration 21 43 62 41 46 40 42 2.6 15.8Technical specialism 26 33 37 17 32 2.0 14.1Technology audit 86 41 96 131 103 89 5.2 17.5Testing 74 42 53 94 114 61 73 6.8 12.5Usability evaluation 29 18 12 14 20 19 1.8 10.3Usability requirements analysis 43 30 38 36 37 1.6 29.4 Average 21 33 37 45 54 58 68 No. of Words: 50 average 50 44 median 44 9 min 5 29 1st quartile 31 44 2md quartile 44 65 3rd quartile 62 142 max 174 Page 3 of 4
  • 8. Readability stats for SFIA 4G Peter Leather SFIA4G - length of sentence v no of sentences 40 35 30 Average no. of words per sentence 25 20 Words per sentence Linear (Words per sentence) 15 10 5 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Average no. of Sentences per paragraph