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Focus on COBIT Adoption Rather Than Implementation

By Pam Erskine, COBIT Implementation and Assessor, DevOps Fundamentals ITIL Expert, Kepner-Fourie, Lean IT, Six Sigma

COBIT Focus | 25 September 2017 Japanese

Pam Erskine Organizational change management (OCM) focuses on helping people adapt to change. Research shows that by acknowledging the importance of OCM and taking steps to address the people side of change, organizations will be 4 times more likely to be successful.1

There are several change management methodologies that can be used to help guide stakeholders when planning the steps to help people adapt to changes. The COBIT 5 materials mention John Kotter’s 8-step process,2 and the change enablement ring of the COBIT implementation life cycle is aligned to John Kotter’s work (figure 1).

Figure 1—The 7 Phases of the Implementation Life Cycle

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Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Each step within the change enablement process is interconnected and, when changes occur in one step, it is useful to evaluate the other steps because new activities or changes to tasks are often needed to appropriately address the issue.

When planning for change with COBIT or any best practice, it can be difficult to look at a methodology or even the change enablement defined in the COBIT 5 implementation life cycle and fully comprehend how to operationalize the guidance. The theory can be somewhat abstract and, when implementing the material, it is very easy to boil the planning down to merely creating and executing a communication plan relating to the project timeline and what is changing. Proceeding with implementation-related communications is very common as it seems logical, and this step ensures that critical information about what is changing is communicated to the team. Unfortunately, focusing on the implementation of the framework will not achieve the results that stakeholders are expecting.

To recognize the results, one needs to plan for the organization to adopt COBIT. Implementation focuses on a point in time when the project is complete. Often, organizations revert back to the old way of doing things after the project implementation is over. Adoption of the framework focuses on embedding the new way of working into the organization. The change becomes part of the organization’s DNA as the change becomes the new norm. Step 6 in the change enablement ring of the implementation life cycle is “Embed new approaches.” This step focuses on the adoption of the changes relating to COBIT.

Planning for Adoption Vs. Implementation

To embed new approaches within an organization, stakeholders need to take steps to anchor those approaches so they do not change or revert back to the old processes once the COBIT implementation is complete. It is similar to anchoring a boat: The anchor is thrown into the water and the boat does not float away. No one wants all of the time and effort spent and the results that have been achieved with COBIT to “float away.” The anchor needs to be dropped. The new approach needs to be embedded.

Within the COBIT 5 materials, there is a comprehensive way of understanding how to “anchor the boat” and operationalize the theory using the enterprise enablers. COBIT defines 7 categories of enablers (figure 2). Each category needs to be addressed to fully embed new approaches and anchor the changes and associated results.

Figure 2—COBIT 5 Enterprise Enablers

Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

To focus on adopting and embedding the new COBIT approach, stakeholders should use the enablers as a guide. For each of the 7 enablers, stakeholders should ask what needs to change with each enabler to embed the new approach.

For example, when adopting COBIT, what Principles, Policies and Frameworks need to be adjusted? It may be that the principles or policies relating to risk, priority or resources need to be updated.

If the same question is asked about the Processes enabler, it may be that processes relating to change management or incident management should be adjusted.

What about the People, Skills and Competencies enabler? Embedding new approaches may require the organization to update job descriptions or training plans.

To identify activities that will help to anchor or embed the new approaches, stakeholders should ask what needs to change for each enabler. Analyzing each enabler will help with developing a well-rounded view of the tasks necessary to ensure the positive momentum that has been achieved with COBIT is sustained going forward.

Pam Erskine, COBIT Implementation and Assessor, DevOps Fundamentals ITIL Expert, Kepner-Fourie, Lean IT, Six Sigma

Has more than 15 years of leadership experience in IT and service transformation with responsibility for providing best practice, thought leadership and guidance relating to IT innovation, operations, and business alignment and integration. Her passion for transformation led her to write ITIL and Organizational Change, which covers best practice in gaining acceptance of changes in the workplace and gives practical advice on applying organizational change models to a service management initiative. Erskine is accredited in visual strategic planning and in Kepner-Fourie. Follow her at @adopt_itsm or email her at


1 Boaz, N.; E. A. Fox, “Change Leader, Change Thyself,” McKinsey Quarterly, March 2014
2 Kotter, J.; Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, USA, 1996