Project Management in a COBIT 5 World


When people think of IT Governance, and even IT Management, few think naturally of project, programme or portfolio management. Conversely, when people think about project, programme or portfolio management in IT environments, few think of IT Governance or Management. Even today, yes even in this post millennium day and age of integration and alignment, IT Governance and Management, and project, programme, portfolio management seem to many to be parallel universes which, in their minds, never meet.

In fact when I talk to IT executives and managers, and IT project managers alike, I am still frequently surprised by how many have little knowledge about their interdependencies when it comes to Enterprise IT and the creation of value for the organization. “Project Managers, they just manage our IT projects for us”… said the IT Manager. “IT Managers, we just handover to them when we’re done with our projects”… said the Project Manager. “They follow their standards and frameworks and we follow ours” … said both of them. Sound familiar?

The truth is that any organization looking to improve the governance and management of Enterprise IT, and maximize value from their investments in IT, needs a holistic, all inclusive framework providing for all facets of value creation - realizing benefits, optimizing risks and optimizing resources. COBIT 5 is designed to provide exactly this, a single integrated framework for governance and management of Enterprise IT, spanning all IT activities in the organization and aligned to industry best practices, standards and frameworks – in the case of project and programme management, being the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) and Projects in Controlled Environments version 2 (PRINCE2).

It is I suppose understandable, but none the less still an unfortunately common misperception, that IT Governance and Management excludes the domains of project, programme and/or portfolio management. Reality is quite to the contrary. COBIT 5, arguably the globe’s leading and most widely used business framework for the Governance and Management of Enterprise IT, incorporates portfolio, programmes and project management into its very process fabric end to end.

The primary governance objective for the Enterprise is value creation. Within the Governance area of COBIT 5, where this focus rests, the Ensure Benefits Delivery process is one of the five Evaluate Direct Monitor (EDM) domain’s processes. The purpose of this process is:

  • Securing optimal value from IT-enabled initiatives, services and assets
  • Cost-efficient delivery of solutions and services
  • Reliable and accurate picture of costs and likely benefits so that business needs are supported effectively

Governance is essential to ensure that these initiatives, the programmes and projects, deliver benefits which provide optimal value contribution to the business.

Within the Management area of COBIT 5, portfolio management, and programme and project management, feature in the Align, Plan and Organize (APO) and Build, Acquire and Implement (BAI) domains respectively.

In the APO domain, there is the Manage Portfolio process to:

  • Execute the strategic direction set for investments in line with the enterprise architecture vision and the desired characteristics of the investment and related services portfolios, and consider the different categories of investments and the resources and funding constraints.
  • Evaluate, prioritize and balance programmes and services, managing demand within resource and funding constraints, based on their alignment with strategic objectives, enterprise worth, and risk. Move selected programmes into the active services portfolio for execution.
  • Monitor the performance of the overall portfolio of services and programmes, proposing adjustments as necessary in response to programme and service performance or changing enterprise priorities.

The purpose of this process is to optimise the performance of the overall portfolio of programmes/projects in response to programme/project and service performance and changing enterprise priorities and demands.

The Build Acquire Implement (BAI) domain within the Management area of COBIT 5, which covers identifying IT requirements, acquiring the technology, and implementing it within the company‘s current business processes, contains the Manage Programmes and Projects process.

This process can be described as the capability to:

  • Manage all programmes and projects from the investment portfolio in alignment with enterprise strategy and in a co-ordinated way.
  • Initiate, plan, control, and execute programmes and projects, and close with a post-implementation review.

As with each of the 37 processes within COBIT 5, the Manage Programmes and Projects process has a specific purpose, in this case being to:

  • Realize business benefits and reduce the risk of unexpected delays, costs and value erosion by improving communications to and involvement of business and end users, ensuring the value and quality of project deliverables and maximizing their contribution to the investment and services portfolio.

So, far from not containing any processes, practices or activities for portfolio, programme or project management, COBIT 5 comprehensively encompasses and integrates these mission-critical management functions into both the Governance and Management areas. IT Governance and Management is more than just Operations and the day to day provision of IT services and utilization of IT assets. In any twenty-first century organization, change is the only constant, and Enterprise IT is constantly required to deliver change for the benefit of the business. These changes are typically delivered in the form of programmes and projects, the governance and management of which is part and parcel of the Governance and Management of Enterprise IT.

As such, the demand on CIOs, IT Executives and IT Managers includes the governance and management of a portfolio of Enterprise IT investments and services for creating maximum value through benefits realization and optimization of risks and costs. And within that portfolio are programmes and projects, all of which need to be managed as efficiently and effectively as possible for the benefit of the business. With this broad span of governance and management required, it may certainly seem a significant challenge to find processes, practices and activities covering all the essential components – not least of all to provide the capability to manage a portfolio, programmes and projects. But there need be no concern, as COBIT 5, the single, integrated business framework for the governance and management of Enterprise IT includes key processes to help organizations of any size or form Ensure Benefits Delivery, Manage their IT Portfolio, Manage their IT Programmes and Projects and everything else required to create maximum value for the Enterprise from their investment in IT. In the galaxies of IT Governance and Management, and Portfolio, Programme and Project Management, one need not look to the stars, but only as far as COBIT 5. And the next time you see IT Managers and Project Managers working worlds apart, take the opportunity to tell them all about Project Management in a COBIT 5 world!