Thanks to the ever-increasing rise in the importance of data and the internet, information technology (IT) plays a critical role in today’s business world. Therefore, it’s imperative for every business that wants to achieve success and stability must ensure that its IT resources are optimized.

That’s why today we are going to explore two popular best practices—COBIT and ITIL®. This ITIL® vs. COBIT comparison will give you the information you need to make the best choice for your enterprise. We’ll explore some definitions, a few of the basics, and touch upon implementation.

There are many resources out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This article will help you to better navigate around these two popular choices in IT service management.

Now before we look into the differences between COBIT and ITIL®, let us first understand what is the IT service management.

IT Service Management Defined

Speaking of IT Service Management, we should start by establishing what the term means. IT Service Management (ITSM) is defined as the practice of managing, implementing, supporting, and delivering IT services to meet an organization’s needs and best serve its customers. It’s relatively common to bring up ITSM when talking about IT governance.

IT governance involves strategic decision-making for creating the organization’s direction, goals, limitations, and accountability frameworks. IT service management encompasses the activities that support the objectives that IT governance sets up. So, for the bottom line, both concepts have the same goal—leverage IT resources for the good of the organization.

Now before we look into the COBIT vs ITIL® differences, let us understand what is COBIT.

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What is COBIT?

First introduced in 1996, COBIT, short for Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies, is a set of practices and guidelines to help management get the most out of IT resources. Also referred to as a framework or a methodology, COBIT bridges the gap between IT goals and business goals, providing resources to build, oversee, and improve its implementation, while reducing costs, maintaining privacy standards, and giving both structure and oversight to the IT functions within the organization.

COBIT’s core components include:

  • Control objectives
  • Frameworks
  • Management guidelines
  • Maturity models
  • Process descriptions

COBIT’s framework embraces these principles:

  • Applying a single integrated framework to the organization
  • Enabling a holistic approach
  • End-to-end coverage of the enterprise
  • Meeting stakeholder needs
  • Separating governance from management

Now before we look into the COBIT vs ITIL® differences, let us understand what is ITIL®.

What is ITIL®?

ITIL® stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It’s a framework designed to manage an organization’s IT services using a set of best practices, planning, and selection, across the entire lifecycle. ITIL® focuses on IT service management—handling issues from the perspective of the IT department. ITIL® helps businesses organize an IT team’s daily processes and routines.

ITIL® breaks down into the following five components:

  • Service strategy - Focusing on mirroring the entire IT Service Delivery model so that it perfectly matches and handles the organization’s structure and needs, while simultaneously establishing the processes necessary for monitoring and updating configuration items according to the organization’s needs and impact
  • Service Design - Designing and continuously assessing a set of IT processes and service processes that best fits the company’s needs
  • Service Transition - Defining and mitigating risk factors using proper planning and change management
  • Service Operation - Assuring daily operations by delivering recursive support tasks through resources such as a service desk or backups, to name a few
  • Continuous Service Improvement - Looking at established key performance indicators (KPIs) and their evolution, including any problems and bottlenecks, and performing the needed analysis to develop optimization proposals

After having learned what is ITIL® and COBIT, let us next understand the COBIT vs ITIL® differences.


What are the Differences Between ITIL® and COBIT?

At a basic level, COBIT provides the roadmap for what needs to be done, and ITIL® offers the means of achieving those ends. For instance, managers could use COBIT to decide what processes the organization needs, and ITIL® tells them how to carry them out.

Additionally, COBIT handles the IT resource questions from the perspective of the business as a whole, while ITIL® approaches the issues strictly from the perspective of IT. COBIT takes the “from the top down” route, and ITIL® uses the “from the bottom up” path.

This chart best illustrates the differences between the two approaches.





A set of guidelines for any organization to develop, implement, monitor, and improve technology governance.

A framework for best practices, planning, and selection, geared to improving IT services to better meet the company’s needs.


Focuses on ITSM, but has a broader scope than ITIL®, since it studies the entire organization.

Focuses on ITSM, and not on the whole company. It remains within the domain of IT.


A top-down approach, focusing more on IT service governance.

A bottom-up approach, focusing more on IT service management.

Goals and Objectives

1.   Effectively manage the IT department to the company’s advantage and set it in the right direction.

2.   Align IT goals and business goals.

3.   Bring IT values to the business.

4.   Manage resources, risks, and IT efficiency.

1.   Organize all the IT services within the company and make them run smoothly.

2.   Create opportunities for constant operational perfection.

3.   Reduce the company’s IT costs without sacrificing effectiveness.

4.   Improve the decision-making within the company.

The Big Question

How do I best leverage my IT department’s resources for the benefit of the company?”

“How do I organize my IT teams and their workload in the most efficient way?”

After going through the COBIT vs ITIL® differences, let us next understand the objectives of COBIT and ITIL®.

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What are ITIL® and COBIT’s Objectives?

As mentioned before, ITIL® and COBIT have the same overarching purpose—to better tackle the challenges of IT service management implementations. They are frameworks used for governance in ITSM.

Nevertheless, each framework has its distinct set of objectives and goals, though there is often a significant overlap.

  • COBIT’s Objectives 

    COBIT’s ultimate objective is to align IT goals with business goals, leveraging IT’s value for the good of the organization, and ultimately resulting in higher profits. COBIT also seeks to efficiently manage risks, resources, and the IT department.
  • ITIL®’s Objectives

    ITIL® strives to organize IT services company-wide, as well as the IT department’s workload. It also attempts to create an environment conducive to continuously oversee the processes to ensure constant operational perfection.

As yet another aspect in our learning of COBIT vs ITIL® differences, let us learn how to implement them.

How Do You Implement ITIL® and COBIT?

Since each framework is designed to handle specific challenges, it’s logical that the implementations vary. COBIT focuses on how IT can best benefit the company, while ITIL® looks for the best practices to make the IT department itself function better as a unit.

COBIT Implementation 

Let’s say, for example, that a business is having problems leveraging their IT department effectively. There are numerous delays, miscommunications, and unforeseen downtime.

The first stage of COBIT implementation would be to arrange for the stakeholders to meet, define, and map out the goals. These are goals made to specifically address the problems at hand and help pinpoint what IT processes will be required.

Then, create a series of benchmarks that help the IT department meet the established goals. Each benchmark moves the team closer to achieving the goals, and if there’s an established timeframe, it will be easy for stakeholders to check on the progress and adjust accordingly.

Finally, bring in any extra resources. Perhaps the goals can’t be met unless new software or other infrastructure is acquired.

The result should be a set of procedures tailor-made to address the organization’s pain points, and with the required resources on-hand to ensure success.

ITIL® Implementation 

Unlike COBIT, which requires feedback from stakeholders, c-level executives, and other managers, the ITIL® process is contained entirely within the IT department.

For instance, say the organization’s network has frequent connectivity problems due to heavy traffic. In this case, the service operation and service transition components of the IT department work together to restructure and reschedule network usage to help alleviate overloading. This condition could cost a company big money if not mitigated.

Or, perhaps there is a problem with monitoring the IT staff’s performance—something required to best gauge where there is redundancy or inefficient use of personnel. The continuous service improvement component has many KPIs that help measure efficiency and help pinpoint areas that need improvement.

To learn more about ITIL®, including its implementation, check out Simplilearn’s ITIL® Foundation training course.

Enroll today for the COBIT-5 Certification Course that covers the principles and enablers that form the basis of the COBIT 5 business framework.

Do You Want a Career in IT Service Management?

Organizations that utilize their IT resources wisely will move to the head of the pack and be more competitive in today’s digital world. Consequently, there is a strong demand for professionals in the ITSM field.

Whether you want to focus on the “big picture” as referenced by COBIT, or narrow your focus to the IT department with ITIL®, Simplilearn has what you need to further your ITSM-related career.

The COBIT-5 Certification training course is designed for professionals who are looking for an in-depth understanding of an enterprise IT team’s governance and management. The course includes six lessons that cover the five principles and seven components that form the core of the COBIT 5 business framework.

The ITIL® Managing Professional Master’s program provides the practical and technical knowledge needed to pass the ITIL® Managing Professional exam and obtain ITIL® Managing Professional designation. The program teaches the key concepts necessary to run IT-enabled products, services, teams, and workflows.

Whichever path you want to take (and there’s no reason why you couldn’t do both!), Simplilearn is ready to teach you all the necessary and valuable skills required for a challenging and ultimately rewarding career in IT service management.

Visit Simplilearn today and take your career in a better direction!

About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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