Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT) is an internationally recognized IT governance framework published by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). 

As a best practice framework, COBIT helps enterprises govern and manage information technology to achieve strategic business objectives. Think of it as a methodology for connecting business goals to IT goals.

Essential functions and focus areas include:

  • Optimizing IT investment and value delivery
  • Managing IT-related risks and controls
  • Defining IT performance measurement metrics
  • Enabling IT compliance with laws and regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • Supporting IT management processes and practices

By implementing the COBIT framework, organizations can assure that IT resources and systems effectively support core business functions such as financial reporting and other strategic activities while operating within defined levels of control. More simply, COBIT helps to make sure that your IT systems support better decision-making.

What is an IT governance framework?

An IT governance framework provides guidance to help enterprises manage their IT operations. It establishes procedures for optimizing and controlling IT processes, resources, risks, and investments, and as well as for delivering business value.

Key functions include:

  • Outlining focus areas such as application controls and security policies
  • Setting good practice standards and management guidelines
  • Defining internal controls per compliance needs (SOX, ISO, HIPAA, and the like)
  • Enabling audit trails for inputs, outputs, and performance indicators
  • Facilitating optimal IT management processes and decisions
  • Issuing toolkits to support framework adoption
  • Benchmarking maturity levels for continuous improvement

A practical governance framework helps align IT activities to strategic business goals. It provides the structure organizations require to derive maximal value from IT investments in a controlled and risk-optimized way.

All about COBIT: History and beyond

First introduced in 1996 by the Information Systems Audit and Controls Association (ISACA), the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT) has become an internationally recognized framework. It focuses on the governance and management of enterprise information technology to enable business objectives.

This evergreen framework helps organizations act as digitally driven businesses. It helps you to integrate IT control objectives across your strategy and operations. For more than 20 years, ISACA has offered COBIT as the premier IT governance tool for long-term success.

How long has COBIT existed?  

  • 1996: First version released, initially designed to help the financial audit community in IT environments
  • 1998: COBIT 2 released, expanding to include other communities beyond financial auditing
  • 2000: COBIT 3 released, incorporating IT management and information governance techniques
  • 2005: COBIT 4 released
  • 2007: COBIT 4.1 released, offering more governance for information and communication technology
  • 2012: COBIT 5 released, including risk management and information governance
  • 2018: COBIT 2019 announced, streamlining previous updates so that the framework can be implemented more flexibly with changing technology

What is the main goal of COBIT?

COBIT is best used as an overall framework in businesses. It works well with IT management frameworks such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).  

It addresses most of the latest information security and systems trends, business processes, and IT risk management. It has more than 40 governance and management objectives, and provides flexibility in the performance management system when using maturity and capability measurements.  It is designed to provide flexibility to businesses when developing an IT governance system.

COBIT’s primary purpose is to help executives align business goals and IT goals by bridging the gap between IT and other business functions. Security, risk management practices, and information governance are also priorities. It’s used as a framework for governance and management of IT enterprises.

How do COBIT versions 4.1, 5, and 2019 differ?

COBIT has undergone several iterations in the last decade or so, with significant changes in the shift from version 4.1 to 5 in 2012. While COBIT 4.1 centered on IT control and audit, COBIT 5 took a broader governance approach focused on value creation.

Some key differences include:

  • COBIT 5 aligns IT governance with business goals
  • Introduces a process assessment model with maturity levels
  • Defines IT governance and management more clearly
  • Expands metrics from 210 in version 4.1 to 55 critical success factors and 28 KPIs in version 5

The launch of COBIT 2019 builds on version 5, integrating more recent technologies and business practices such as DevOps and Agile. Although the core COBIT 5 framework remains relevant, updates in 2019 include added guidance for digital transformation and disruption.

What is the current version of COBIT?

The most recent version of the COBIT framework is COBIT 2019, published by the IT Governance Institute (ITGI).

COBIT 2019 provides guidance, tools, and standards for managing enterprise IT resources and delivering value. It focuses on enabling business strategy through IT governance.

Key additions in COBIT 2019 include support for emerging technologies such as AI, updated regulatory compliance audits, and new case studies. The fundamentals of COBIT 5 still serve as the foundation.

About COBIT 2019

COBIT 2019 positions governance and management guidelines as drivers of strategic business decisions, rather than as restrictive controls. It provides the foundation enterprises need to derive optimal value from IT investments and innovation.

Why is COBIT 2019 critical?

The latest version of the COBIT framework is essential for enterprises to implement due to several key improvements:

  • Rolling updates allow more frequent changes, rather than waiting for the next major release. This enables faster updates to information security and IT governance.
  • New collaborative features such as open source-style commenting facilitate suggestions for enhancements and faster iterations. This holistic approach improves stakeholder engagement.
  • Online COBIT tools cover small and medium enterprises, cloud computing, and cybersecurity governance. More areas and IT services are added continually to suit business requirements.
  • Global standards and best practices give broader relevance to the updated COBIT 2019 control framework. It includes models such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO).
  • Per ISACA, COBIT 2019 better suits enterprises with diverse compliance requirements — which, really, is just about every enterprise these days.
  • Updated executive dashboards better showcase IT ROI, value of IT, and alignment to business-focused outcomes. This enables control-driven IT investments tied to strategic planning.

Maintain COBIT compliance with ZenGRC

As a leader in IT governance platforms, ZenGRC provides enterprises with solutions designed to implement COBIT principles for enhanced compliance and optimized value realization.

With customizable workflows, integrated risk management capabilities, and automated control testing, ZenGRC gives you the tools needed to incorporate COBIT frameworks into your existing governance strategy. 

By leveraging ZenGRC’s intuitive SaaS platform, your organization can continuously monitor, report on, and improve the effectiveness of critical IT control objectives tailored to your unique IT assurance ecosystem. Ultimately, it helps drive better decision-making while proactively improving maturity.

Schedule a demo now to see ZenGRC in action and learn more about maintaining COBIT compliance confidently.