Differences between ITIL and COBIT

For those who intend to grow professionally in an IT career, it is important to have good knowledge of these frameworks that guide service governance and management, including an understanding of the differences between ITIL and COBIT, both in theory and practice.

In this article, you’ll see the definitions of both frameworks and how they complement each other to optimize IT management.

Definitions of ITIL and COBIT

The first step to understand the differences between ITIL and COBIT is to remember the purpose of each framework.

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a set of best practices for IT services, including standardized operating processes and procedures to improve the quality of support service.

On the other hand, COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies) is a guide for management models. In other words, it’s a tool that helps audit IT processes, practices, and controls to keep them aligned with business goals.

Then, in summary, ITIL is focused on guiding service performance, while COBIT provides general management guidelines.

Differences between ITIL and COBIT in practice

Although ITIL and COBIT have distinct focal points, one does not exclude the other. In fact, they complement each other and can be implemented together. Because they are highly adaptable, it is possible to take full advantage of their characteristics in the same IT governance model.

A critical difference is that COBIT explains what to do while ITIL tells how to do it. The first helps define goals, establish processes, and track results. The second guides how these processes are performed.

As a reference framework for management as a whole, COBIT includes guidelines for five IT governance pillars, which are described below:

  1. Service management

ITIL can be adopted as an internal component of this pillar, so its set of good practices will help implement the controls proposed by COBIT for:

  • customer satisfaction;
  • operational efficiency;
  • helpful support;
  • cost reduction;
  • alignment with the business area.
  1. Project management

COBIT offers disciplines and tools which are contained in the PMBOK (Project Management Base of Knowledge), a guide of good practices for project management that aim to standardize and replicate the most efficient methods. The PMBOK guide was first published in 1996 and has been updated every four years by the PMI (Project Management Institute).

  1. Maturity levels in development

This pillar focuses on raising the maturity level of development to reduce IT management errors that can generate risks and cause rework. The set of good practices related to this tool is in the CMNI (Capability Maturity Model Integration).

  1. Process management

The idea here is to implement an approach to identify, design, perform, document, measure, monitor, manage, and improve business processes.

The set of good practices regarding this pillar is in the BPM CBOK (Business Process Management Common Book of Knowledge).

  1. Information security management

Finally, we have a pillar that has attracted increasing attention in recent years. For information security, the guidelines are described in ISO 270001 standard.

For financial transactions, organizations should focus on obtaining the PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) certification.

With everything we’ve seen so far, the differences between ITIL and Cobit should be clear now. ITIL is for a specific pillar of IT governance – service management, while COBIT covers broader aspects and helps integrate all pillars and their respective sets of good practices with the general objectives of an organization.

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