Aligning IT goals using the COBIT5 Goals Cascade

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Aligning IT goals using the COBIT5 Goals Cascade

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Added by April 8, 2013

IT is no stranger to pressure: complex technologies, new and often confusing regulatory and compliance concerns, and above all how to ensure value creation. One technique that I’ve found valuable is cleverly designed in COBIT5. The COBIT framework is designed around five core principles: 1) Meeting stakeholder needs, 2) Covering the enterprise end-to-end, 3) Applying a single integrated framework, 4) Enabling a holistic approach, and finally 5) Separating governance from management. I’ve talked about COBIT5 in previous posts, so I’ll assume you know a little about the background. What I want to do is give you a deeper dive into the goals cascading feature which can be found under principle number one, Meeting Stakeholder Needs.

COBIT principle #1, Meeting stakeholder needs.

One of the pressures I mentioned above is the need to create value for stakeholders. This is done through a balance between the realization of benefits and the optimization of risk and use of resources. You will find that COBIT 5 describes the required processes (and other enablers) to support value creation through the use of IT and allows you to transform stakeholder needs into an actionable strategy. The COBIT 5 goals cascade is the mechanism used to translate these needs into customized enterprise goals, IT-related goals, and enabler goals. This ‘mapping’ of needs to goals is the key to supporting alignment between an enterprise’s needs and IT solutions and services, and can be applied at several levels.

Here’s how the goals cascade works (also, see the figure below):

Step 1. Stakeholder Drivers Influence Stakeholder Needs. Stakeholder needs are influenced by strategy changes, the business/regulatory environment, new technologies, etc.

Step 2. Stakeholder Needs Cascade to Enterprise Goals. Stakeholder needs can be related to a set of enterprise goals. The COBIT5 goals cascade nicely organizes these into the four balanced scorecard dimensions, with 17 generic goals that can also be easily mapped to specific organizational goals.

Step 3. Enterprise Goals Cascade to IT Related Goals. Often, enterprise goals can only be achieved if the IT-related goals are met (where IT stands for Information AND Technology). In the goals cascade, each of the 17 enterprise goals are mapped to a number of relevant IT-related goals. There are 17 IT-related goals and they are also organized into the four balanced scorecard dimensions.

Step 4. IT-related Goals Cascade to Enabler Goals. In order to achieve IT-related goals, a number of enablers must be successfully applied. One of these enablers is processes. Similar to earlier steps in this cascade, each IT-related goal is then mapped to one or more processes. The COBIT 5 framework has 37 processes.

COBIT5, Goals Cascade Overview


Reference: COBIT5, Goals Cascade Overview, Page 18.


Tips and uses.

The COBIT goals cascade is much more flexible than you might think. Because every enterprise has different objectives, you can customize COBIT 5 through the goals cascade, translating high-level enterprise goals into manageable, specific, IT-related goals and mapping these to specific processes and practices. Here’s the list of my five favorite aspects of the cascade:

  1. Relevant and tangible goals and objectives can be identified at multiple levels.
  2. Improvement initiatives can be essentially driven by results of the mapping, for example: focus on the important things first.
  3. Flexible enough to fit any type of organization.
  4. A very good tool to validate value creation and strategic alignment.
  5. The mapping work is already done for you!

I hope you get some time to dig into this, and that you find the cascading technique as helpful as I have. As always, your thoughts are welcome.


Mark Thomas – Director of Business Services
Interface Technical Training

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