What is COBIT? Understanding the COBIT Framework

Have you been hearing all about COBIT but need to be more knowledgeable about what all this tech talk means?

This article breaks down COBIT and its importance in today's IT-centred world.

What is COBIT?

COBIT acronym represents "Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology." It is a support structure or framework for managing IT operations across industries. Enterprises today almost always have an IT groundwork that enables operations. COBIT provides a standard way of communicating to ensure safety, profitability, and operational best practices across departments that are linked by IT. IT processes significantly impact how the business is conducted and its outcomes. COBIT deals with and has implications for three operation levels − IT resources, IT processes, and business needs.

History of COBIT

COBIT was formulated by ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), an international association that superintends IT governance. It was first launched in 1996 as a basic set of rules/guidelines for IT companies and their financial auditing needs. Further versions were released in 1998, and the early 2000's that expanded COBIT's reach to industries other than IT and for the governance of other facets of business beyond IT audits to overall management. Version 4, released in 2013, further branched out to include best practices, incorporating tools like ITIL that were more broadly applicable. The current version, v5, released in 2019, continued this trend, making COBIT almost universally adaptable and expanding the scope of IT governance. Features for feedback loops and update mechanisms were added alongside design and implementation options for governance strategies.

Guiding Philosophy and Components of COBIT

Framework and Process Description

The COBIT system merges with the business process, the success of which is closely bound to the effectiveness of the underlying IT set-up. With the interlinkage between IT systems and business activity, COBIT generates benchmarks by which the company can measure how far the existing IT system helps the company to achieve its goals and optimize its processes. Stakeholders can gauge the value-addition IT systems have made to the business processes and how congruent IT-business processes are for all units by making comparisons against a COBIT reference model.

Control Objectives

COBIT is used for risk audits so that remedial actions are taken to minimize them through strict business oversight and control. COBIT allows the assessment of whether the IT governance model has met the standards of different stakeholders and passed the compliance audit or whether there were lapses leading to procedural flaws/ threat situations.

Management Guidelines

COBIT metrics can also be used to evaluate workforce performance and re-organize spheres of accountability and responsibility. These metrics could include integrity, availability, effectiveness, and confidentiality. It creates a commonality of objectives to encourage cooperation amongst departments.

Maturity Models

Maturity models enable comparison of current performance vis-à-vis projected/ideal performance, further prompting managers to make the necessary changes. Each level in the barometer indicates greater cost-effectiveness and growth potential. Management can address the gaps in process maturity for further advancement.

Through COBIT, the business side stakeholders and the IT side communicate easily and function in tandem. System feedback is crucial to enhance quality control and maximize the dependability of the IT structure. COBIT is the glue that keeps compliance auditors, business executives, and IT professionals on the same page.

Aims of COBIT

The COBIT framework has 5 primary principles (the 6th is discretionary), which are −

  • Single, Integrated Framework − COBIT applies an over-arching system of information governance and management, technology regulation, and risk appraisal to the entire organization.

  • Fulfilling Stakeholder Requirements − COBIT can balance resource availability, utilization, and allocation to achieve maximum value-add for all stakeholders.

  • End-to-End Organization Coverage − This entails considering all the business components, IT operations, and stakeholders as one interconnected unit since decision-making affects each separately and together.

  • Take a Holistic Approach − COBIT addresses an enterprise's vital constituents, i.e., enablers that impact the business, consequently demanding observation and modulation. Enablers include categories like "People and Skills," "Principles and Policies, "Infrastructure, Services," and "Culture and Ethics."

  • Divide the Organization and Management − COBIT creates a separation between the management tasks- Plan, Build, Run, and Monitor (PBRM)- and those relegated to governance, namely Evaluate Direct, and Monitor (EDM). Separating functional jurisdictions provides organizational clarity and cohesion.

What to Consider Before Employing COBIT?

The sixth principle of COBIT is that it can be tailored to fit the unique needs of each enterprise. Before installing a made-to-order COBIT system, here are a few points to ponder.

  • Have a clear idea of how the business processes and IT requirements mesh and influence each other. This is also called "goals cascade."

  • Outline the business process domains whose objectives will be met by incorporating the COBIT system. For example, will COBIT inform planning or evaluating, or both?

  • The latest COBIT version has about 40 objectives since it caters to all types of enterprises. Clearly identify the objectives that are relevant for your business to maximize benefits.

  • COBIT will be designed in keeping with the needs and context of your particular business and its short, medium, and long-term agendas.


COBIT is the prime option for IT governance systems, irrespective of the nature of the project. Alternatives like ITIL and TOGAF exist but don't approximate the advanced level of service COBIT provides.

COBIT is an upgrade of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). ITIL restricts itself to handling only IT processes/services, whereas COBIT has an expanded range of control functions covering all business departments. The COBIT governance ecosystem involves generating investment from IT, not just maintaining the IT core.

TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) is better used to supplement COBIT. It is an information architecture system, not an IT governance framework like COBIT. It only creates a common information base that integrates departments, but COBIT has a more extensive portfolio of company-wide facilities.