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