What Is COBIT (Control Objectives for Information Technology)?

Written by David Worthington on March 31, 2023

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Control Objectives for Information Technology (COBIT) is a framework for IT management and governance. It helps IT managers and financial auditors to meet compliance regulations while minimizing risks.

This post provides an overview of COBIT, its governance system properties, the evolution of COBIT, the benefits of implementing COBIT in your company, and how COBIT can integrate with other compliance standards. You’ll also learn more about how you can leverage JumpCloud’s open directory platform to implement COBIT in your organization.

What Is COBIT?

COBIT is an IT governance and management framework organizations can use to implement, monitor, and enhance their business processes. ISACA initially published COBIT specifications in 1996 as a tool for guiding financial auditors to navigate IT environments. 

ISACA is a global body of professionals that sets and develops IT governance, security, and audit controls.

In 1998, ISACA launched a more comprehensive iteration of the framework whose scope extended beyond audit controls. In the 2000s, the professional body released COBIT 3 and COBIT 4 versions, which provided the best management guidelines for cybersecurity. COBIT 5 was released in 2013 to provide a better framework for integrating with other International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-based standards, such as ISO 20000 and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

COBIT 19, the latest iteration of the framework, was launched in 2018. This version is a more generic and comprehensive framework that any organization — regardless of size or immediate goals — can use to address governance issues in a fast-paced IT environment. 

COBIT 5 vs. COBIT 2019

 The COBIT framework has evolved to provide extra features and services when it comes to IT governance system principles. These principles allow organizations to set goals based on priorities and decision-making structures while monitoring performance and compliance against the set objectives. 

Let’s examine the differences between COBIT 5 and COBIT 19

COBIT 5 Governance System Principles

There are five basic governance system principles that COBIT 5 defines:

Meeting Stakeholder Needs

Organizations exist to generate value for their stakeholders. Whenever making decisions for your organization, for example, you need to consider which stakeholders stand to benefit from such decisions and which ones take the majority of risks.

Covering the Enterprise End to End

COBIT’s benefits aren’t confined to IT; you can apply the COBIT 5 framework to the entire enterprise to maximize its value to the organization.

Applying a Single Integrated Framework

COBIT 5 is an integrated framework that covers all IT governance and management aspects affecting an entire organization’s teams, employees, and departments. You can leverage this integrated approach to identify potential risks and threats to the company and design processes that operate more efficiently. 

Enabling a Holistic Approach

COBIT 5 takes a holistic approach to the management and governance of IT, allowing organizations to achieve their goals through greater collaboration. The intention is to achieve higher productivity and generate more customer value. 

Separating Governance from Management

COBIT 5 differentiates IT governance from management, as these two elements encompass different activities. This distinction aligns the framework with other predefined guidelines, such as ISO 27000.

COBIT 19 Governance System Principles

COBIT 19 extends the framework with a total of six governance system principles, as outlined below:

Provide Stakeholder Value

Like “meeting stakeholder needs” in COBIT 5, this governance system principle allows the framework to create value for stakeholders when implemented. You can leverage this principle to meet the conflicting requirements of different stakeholders by considering the benefits and risks associated with making decisions regarding IT governance and management. 

Holistic Approach

This principle recognizes that an enterprise governance system is built from many components. A successful enterprise governance system requires these components to work together seamlessly in a holistic manner to achieve the business’s intended goals. 

Dynamic Governance System

The COBIT 19 framework recognizes the need for an enterprise governance system to be dynamic and respond to unexpected challenges. For example, each time you change one or more design factors, such as a change in technology or strategy, you should also consider the impact of these changes on the Enterprise Governance of Information and Technology (EGIT). 

Governance Distinct From Management

Like COBIT 5, the COBIT 19 framework isolates IT governance from management because they have various roles, responsibilities, and activities. For example, IT governance evaluates the stakeholder requirements and prioritizes them based on the organization’s objectives. IT management monitors organization activities to ensure that they align with IT governance. 

Tailored to Enterprise Needs

COBIT 19 requires organizations to tailor their governance systems based on their needs and characteristics. You can use a set of design factors to customize and prioritize various governance system components to adapt to different organizations.

End-to-End Governance System

The COBIT 19 framework recognizes the need for an end-to-end enterprise governance system comprising all organization functions, with a strong focus on IT functions. The framework can help achieve consistency and coverage when it comes to managing and governing IT operations within the organization. 

Benefits of COBIT Implementation

The COBIT framework can help organizations of all sizes to:

  • Align IT with organization goals. Using the COBIT framework makes it easy for companies to identify and bridge any gaps hindering them from achieving their strategic goals. For example, by integrating IT goals within the larger key strategic objectives, COBIT ensures that IT investments support business goals. 
  • Improve IT efficiency and maximize the value of resources. The COBIT framework helps organizations derive value from their IT investments by creating and balancing the resources and risks involved. By implementing the COBIT framework’s principles and best practices, an organization can enhance its efficiency and productivity while increasing the value of its IT resources. 
  • Manage IT risks. COBIT framework can help an organization improve its IT-related capabilities, decision-making, and outcomes by providing stakeholders with an accurate and validated assessment of their current levels of IT risks and their impacts on the business. 
  • Achieve compliance. Complying with standards has increasingly become the defining component for any responsible IT management. By implementing COBIT, an organization can better comply with some regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

COBIT Integration with Other Frameworks and Standards

The COBIT framework aligns well with other frameworks and standards, such as:

  • ITIL. At the outset, the COBIT framework provides a roadmap for managers detailing what needs to be done. ITIL provides the means for achieving these ends. Managers can use the COBIT framework to define what processes the company needs to implement and use ITIL to execute them. 
  • ISO 20000. This standard allows organizations to ensure their IT service management (ITSM) processes are aligned with the business goals and best practices. As a generalized framework, COBIT enables an organization to adopt ISO 20000 with reduced efforts. 
  • ISO 27000. This is an ISO-based information security standard that provides guidelines for implementing and managing information security management systems (ISMSs). Both ISO 27000 and COBIT frameworks provide frameworks that organizations can leverage to manage and oversee their IT systems. However, while ISO 27000 standard relates mainly to security, COBIT provides an overall IT governance and management framework.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). Many SOX auditors rely on frameworks and standards, like the COBIT framework, to allow them to gauge and properly audit IT governance and control measures within the organization. COBIT is commonly used to achieve SOX compliance.

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COBIT Implementation and JumpCloud

As organizations shift to remote and hybrid working environments for their employees, it can be challenging to manage IT security, risks, and governance.  COBIT is an excellent framework for ensuring good governance over critical IT resources. However, you still need an effective IT-compliant solution, such as Jumpcloud Directory® Platform, to help you navigate compliance challenges in both on-prem and cloud-based environments. 

JumpCloud’s open directory platform serves as a cloud-compliance solution to help you secure access to critical resources from heterogeneous endpoints — whether such resources are hosted on-prem or in cloud-based setups. This specifically helps to achieve optimized results on COBIT’s identity and lifecycle management maturity model.  JumpCloud also includes built-in reporting tools and reports.

The open directory unifies identity, access, and device management capabilities, regardless of the underlying authentication method or device ecosystem. JumpCloud authenticates users whether they use biometrics, digital certificates, passwords, or SSH keys. It treats identities as the new perimeter, delivering secure, frictionless access and ensuring that every resource has a best way to connect to it. Here are some examples:

COBIT also governs the addition and modification of user identifiers, user credentials, or other authenticators. JumpCloud is able to provision users from HR systems and delivers mature entitlements management through attribute-based access control (ABAC). Membership or entitlement changes are either suggested and can be automated. 

Ready to start getting compliant? Read our IT Compliance Quickstart Guide to give you more insights as you prepare to shore up your IT security baseline.

In the meantime, if you need to get going fast and be sure everything is set up correctly the first time, our Professional Services team is here — just find a 30-minute slot that works for you.

David Worthington

I'm the JumpCloud Champion for Product, Security. JumpCloud and Microsoft certified, security analyst, a one-time tech journalist, and former IT director.

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