Before unveiling the main differences between Agile IT governance and COBIT, you must have brief information about different frameworks of IT governance to understand these differences effectively. There are a number of frameworks maintained by different governing bodies that help a number of organizations in governing their IT projects. Brief information about commonly used IT governance frameworks is provided here under for your perusal. 

COBIT: COBIT or Control Objectives for Information and related Technology is an IT governance system that includes 34 generic processes to manage any IT project effectively. It defines each process along with its key process activities, inputs and outputs, performances measures, elementary maturity model and objectives of the process. COBIT 5 has been recently released by ISACA as the latest version of Business Framework for the Governance and Management of Enterprise IT having international recognition. A continuous business view of the governance of enterprise IT is provided in COBIT 5. It helps in creating value for enterprises by reflecting the central role of information and technology. This framework defines and aligns the IT goals and processes of the business to support its IT governance. Thought leadership and guidance from governance, business and IT experts from around the world is among the principles, practices, models and analytical tools found in COBIT 5.

COBIT 5 principles
ITIL: It is the widely accepted method used for IT service management. It provides a comprehensive set of best practices used by private and public sectors all over the world for the governance of IT services in any field. Until 2010, the set of practices for IT service management offered by ITIL or IT Infrastructure Library were maintained under the supervision of Office of Government Commerce, UK but now it is governed by British government. The IT service management practices offered by ITIL focused on arranging the IT services as per the needs of the business. In 2011 latest edition of ITIL was released as ITILv3 which covers the lifecycle stage of IT service management including Service Design, Service Strategy, Service Operation, Continual Service Improvement and Service Transition. 

ISO 17799: Information Technology – Code of Practice for Information Security Management is the full title of this IT governance framework released initially in December 2000. Its original publication based on British Standard 7799 (BS 7799) was published by UK government department with an intention to focus on creating an effective IT security plan for the security and help of the organizations. In order to reflect the changes in technology it was published as ISO 17799 in 2005.

All of these IT governance frameworks including COBIT, ITIL and ISO 17799 are considered as the traditional frameworks. They are respected among the IT professionals as strong and standard frameworks which can be made stronger by improving their principles like the latest IT governance framework-Agile.

Agile IT governance: This IT governance framework helps the senior executives and board members of an organization to work in collaboration. Its focus is to help the organizations in achieving their business goals by maximizing their technology advantages.
After getting brief introduction with different IT governance frameworks, it will be easy for you to understand the main points of difference between Agile IT governance and COBIT.

Key differences between Agile IT Governance and COBIT

  • COBIT IT governance framework deals with the plans, procedures and policies that drive a reviewed, documented, approved, maintained, communicated and stored IT process, which can be used for training purpose. This complete documentation can be devastating for the organization in case it cannot adopt the changes in the business or is defective. It can be beneficial for the documentation of baseline activities of the business and legal purposes. Agile IT governance, on the other hand, focuses on working governance instead of documentation of the processes of governance. 
  • COBIT is considered as a standard for IT governance as instead of execution IT focuses more on control. The control naturally encourages the need for contract negotiation and documentation. On the contrary, Agile IT governance focuses on collaboration between individuals to ensure execution.
  • According to COBIT, enterprises are made to adapt the things quickly with the help of tools and processes which can be effective like their creators but for a particular time period. But, in fact, the ability of the processes and tools to adapt the changes in the business systems lack with time. Agile IT governance defeats these challenges by emphasizing the interactions and individuals as they allow the teams to be flexible in handling the things and adapt the changes as per the prevailing circumstances. COBIT can also be helpful if it follows the principles of Agile of focusing on interactions and individuals instead of processes and tools.
  • In order to satisfy the objectives of the business COBIT focuses on the compliance with the rules, regulations and documented contracts for a business process instead of collaboration. In fact, the word contract leads to withholding productivity of a business instead of improving it. Agile, on the other hand, focuses on the collaboration between the individuals, even if it also appreciates the value of the contract. COBIT can also be an effective IT governance framework if it focused on collaboration also.
  • COBIT supports the strategy of an enterprise by delivering the services successfully. According to it the ownership of the deliverables and requirements should be clearly defined. There can be contradictory situation if you have to answer - How can you find out the individuals with the right level of expertise required in the presence of several managers in an organization? How to maintain organizational relationships to get direction of the requirement and define ownership clearly? The answers to these questions depend on to whom you are asking them. The identification of wrong ownership can cause faulty governance is the only point where COBIT can benefit the business. This risk has been reduced in Agile IT governance framework as it focuses on recognizing the right person as the suitable owner of the project at its right level.
Thus, after getting information about various IT governance frameworks and the main differences between COBIT and Agile IT governance you can easily decide which one can be suitable for your organization.

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