COBIT Focus Volume 3: July 2014 

 
COBIT Focus Newsletter

Come join the discussionCome join the discussion! Alberto León Lozano will respond to questions in the discussion area of the COBIT 5—Use It Effectively topic beginning 21 July 2014.

 

Mapping COBIT 5 With IT Governance, Risk and Compliance at Ecopetrol
By Alberto León Lozano, CISA, CGEIT, CIA, CRMA

As part of an updated strategy, Ecopetrol S.A., a vertically integrated energy company, began a corporate transformation with the goals of growth and strengthening its internal control system. It knew it needed a clear approach for governance and management of IT services as well as best global reference standards and a framework, so it used the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) and COBIT frameworks, which helped consolidate strong IT governance practices that were totally aligned with the corporative internal control initiatives.

In 2007, Ecopetrol updated its corporate strategy, which required important changes and improvements in the organizational structure and processes that support the strategic objectives. Consequently, important milestones, such as the transformation of the legal nature of the company, the initiation of international operations and the adoption of the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework, were put in place to strengthen the internal control system. The company listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) beginning in September 2008.

Aligned with the strategic deployment and to provide timely and effective responses to the requirements generated by the company's situation, Ecopetrol’s Information Technology Division (DTI) decided in 2008 to integrate an IT management system, based on a proper framework. COBIT was selected as the appropriate IT governance framework to implement its IT management system.

The IT management system incorporated the COBIT 4.1 framework to cover the key IT control objectives that support the reliability and security of the company’s information. During the last five years of the IT management system operation, IT risk management and compliance have been successful. However, DTI has remained on constant alert to the challenges of growth and operational excellence that the company established. The objective is to incorporate the best practices that promote the sustainability of these results.

Following the release of COBIT 5, DTI established a strategy to extend the current practices, ensuring the alignment and stability of the system, by expanding to new management and governance practices.

This article will:

  • Present the results of the implementation and sustainability of a process management system based on COBIT and its positive impact on the reliability of the enterprise internal control system
  • Submit an approach to implementing COBIT 5 as an extension of that operating model by identifying gaps to be closed with the updated practices to promote continuous and sustainable improvement in the governance and management of enterprise IT (GEIT) in the company
  • Present the results of a processes maturity assessment, covering capability and performance, made by incorporating the new processes assessment model and how this evaluation allows enterprises to set clear actions for closing gaps to achieve and maintain the expected levels in processes maturity

Background

Ecopetrol focuses on good ethics and transparency. As Colombia’s largest integrated oil company, with about 7,000 direct employees, Ecopetrol is among the top 40 oil companies in the world and the four largest oil companies in Latin America. In addition to Colombia, which accounts for 60 percent of Ecopetrol’s total production, the company is involved in exploration and production activities in Brazil, Peru and the US (Gulf of Mexico). Ecopetrol is also increasing its participation in bio-fuels considerably.

The Corporate Governance Code of Ecopetrol comprises the best corporate practices needed to preserve the business ethics and the correct administration and control of the company. This enables the company to compete through recognition and respect for the rights of shareholders, investors and other stakeholders based on clear policies for transparency in the management and disclosure of information about the business, which will, in turn, generate greater confidence among stakeholders and the market in general. The internal control system of Ecopetrol is framed within international standards (COSO).

Ecopetrol’s IT function reports to the vice president of innovation and technology. Its responsibility is to govern the IT processes for the company, including strategy, architecture, portfolio, implementation and operation of IT solutions, and provisioning of IT and infrastructure services to support business processes.

DTI and the IT shared services unit (UTI) are responsible for ensuring IT governance and management, respectively. Both have strong organizational structures distributed in a manner that meets the business’s needs related to IT. In addition, the IT function contains a management and architecture unit and an information security unit, which report to the highest level of the IT division to guide the processes related to IT governance, risk and compliance (GRC).

Why Ecopetrol Chose COBIT

When choosing COBIT as the proper IT governance framework to integrate an IT management system, DTI did so based on the following characteristics of COBIT:

  • Mapping of IT goals to business goals
  • Better alignment based on a business focus
  • A view of what IT does that is understandable to management
  • Indication of clear ownership and responsibilities based on process orientation
  • General acceptance by third parties and regulators
  • A shared understanding among all stakeholders based on a common language
  • Fulfilment of the COSO and US Sarbanes-Oxley Act requirements for the IT control environment

In the last quarter of 2008, Ecopetrol’s IT division defined the guidelines, processes and control objectives to implement. Similarly, the division identified the internal resources that would support the implementation of the system and allocated resources to hire the required external consultants.

The team established a project, giving special consideration to the following issues:

  • Addressing resource allocation and creating an interdisciplinary team with representatives from the involved areas within IT
  • Defining the points of relationship with business units and other support units and interacting with key areas—finance, risk, strategy, quality, and internal and external audit—on an ongoing basis
  • Integrating and converging with the IT support team in transport operations that was anticipating a COBIT implementation effort
  • Aligning with business projects—strengthening the internal control system (COSO) and compliance (Sarbanes-Oxley). DTI considered the various business initiatives and ongoing projects to ensure the coordination and integration of efforts.
  • Establishing a line of reporting at the highest level of management, with weekly follow-up meetings on the project
  • Identifying prior applications (Sarbanes-Oxley, high component in SAP) and others critical for business processes, with equal understanding of the people, resources and infrastructure associated with these applications

Ecopetrol chose to implement 28 COBIT 4.1 processes, giving priority to the control objectives that support Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. The IT division developed an internal exercise to determine the maturity level of these processes. After concluding that they were at an average maturity level of 2, the team identified the gaps and set up action plans to reach level 3 for the most critical processes.

Since the second half of 2009, internal and external annual audits had been developed for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Several measures were implemented for remediation and improvement of key IT processes and controls. As a result, the external auditor reported that there were no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in IT controls that need to be reported by the chief information officer (CIO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief executive officer (CEO) or auditor.

In December 2009, the COBIT project implementation received a company award for excellence, recognizing the project team’s results, performance, initiative and teamwork. The financial, management and growth results of the company have been internationally recognized during recent years.

From 2009 through the end of 2013, the company showed significant results in the management of IT risk and control, key performance indicators, and internal and external audits and assessments related to maturity of capability and performance in the IT processes.

As part of the challenges of operational excellence, the IT function at Ecopetrol maintained a clear approach toward governance and management of IT services and processes and assesses them based on the best global reference standards and by running ongoing sustainability and optimization actions. Additionally, DTI developed a plan to adopt new versions of practices, such as COSO 2013 and COBIT 5, looking for the consolidation of strong IT governance practices totally aligned with the corporative internal control initiatives.

Key Success Factors

In 2010, the IT function structured a sustainability and optimization plan for its IT management system, based on the premise of having a comprehensive vision, as well as organizational and operating model, and leveraging IT to achieve automation in IT processes and controls.

Ecopetrol also structured the IT compliance area, referencing the good practices of the COBIT framework and integrating the risk management cycles.

Key issues that led to the excellent results of the use of COBIT in Ecopetrol’s IT management system include:

  • The use of COBIT was structured as a project with a detailed work plan, clearly defined milestones, allocation of team work with dedication and reliance on project management, risk management, and control of project timing and deliverables.
  • The team had the full support of management, provided progress reports, and brought up any deviations and actions that required assurance.
  • The company hired well-known, specialized consulting firms that integrated teams with extensive knowledge and experience.
  • The project planning, development and results were communicated effectively within the company.
  • The appropriation of practices by the process owners and control responsibilities were assured and formalized.
  • The project was well integrated, with all areas involved, and synergies were leveraged, especially with the IT support team in transport operations, which provided the results of previous efforts and guaranteed the perspective of business users
  • A community of practice and management of lessons learned were established.
  • Sustainability strategies and further optimization of processes were defined.
  • The IT function interacted effectively with the audit teams.
  • Particular focus was given to segregation of duties, access control, continuity planning, software development and information security issues.
  • Maturity level assessments were conducted by a competent and independent third party.
  • More than 20 employees passed ISACA’s COBIT Foundation Exam.
  • Several employees were or became members of ISACA, which gave them easier access to more detailed guidance

By 2013, Ecopetrol had updated the design of the IT processes and they had been embedded in the integrated business processes model. This led to important optimizations in transversal activities and propitiating standardization and simplification. Ecopetrol is now extending the practices of its IT governance and COBIT implementation to the companies in its business group.

During the last five years, the IT division contracted with an external consultant to conduct the capability maturity level assessment for the critical IT processes. These annual assessments confirmed the sustainability in the achievement of maturity levels 3 and 4 in the company’s processes, according to the goals. In addition, the IT division has incorporated the principles of the updated COBIT Process Assessment Model (PAM): Using COBIT 5 to include the assessment not only of the processes’ capability, but also their performance under the ISO 15504 standard.

The results of the most recent assessment reported an average of 3.8 in the capability maturity of the company’s 16 IT processes (figure 1) and an average of 3.6 in the performance maturity of the same processes (figure 2).

Figure 1
Figure 2

Moving Forward With COBIT 5

Aligned with the challenges of growth and operational excellence, commitment to transparency and guaranteeing the reliability of information in its processes and to its stakeholders, the IT function endeavored to extend the IT processes to COBIT 5 by integrating the efforts and ensuring alignment with ongoing corporative initiatives related to the design and implementation of the Shared Services Center (SSC), integration of management processes (business process management [BPM]), enterprise risk management (ERM) and the internal control system (COSO ERM).

With the extension of the control objectives mapped with COBIT 5 practices and the structuring of sustainability and process-based optimization model, Ecopetrol maintains a strong foundation for the sustainability and improvement of its IT processes.

To ensure the alignment and stability of the COBIT 4.1-based system, the strategy has been designed to expand to new management and governance practices and includes the key practical aspects of the integration of COBIT 5 practices to improve the IT GRC capabilities. Through all of this, the stakeholders maintain an understanding that the new practices are broader in scope and the implications of incorporating these practices are an extension of the COBIT 4.1 control objectives that are already implemented on the previous IT processes.

The plan includes mapping items between current processes and COBIT 5 practices to identify gaps to close and also contains an approach to establish a relationship and communication plan to interact with stakeholders and people involved in leveraging the optimization of the IT GRC processes.

Figures 3 through 7 show the evolution of some issues and results related to IT compliance at Ecopetrol:

  • IT key controls and their distribution between governance and management units have evolved through the application of optimization, prioritization and rationalization practices. This evolution is also a consequence of processes maturation and integration (figure 3).
    Figure 3
  • IT key controls compliance reported by ongoing monitoring, before remediation plans and audits, has evolved by the sustainability of the processes (figure 4).
    Figure 4
  • Audit findings related to design and operation of IT controls, reported before remediation plans, have been decreasing according to the optimization of controls and processes maturation (figure 5).
    Figure 5
  • Action plans have been developed to cover key findings related to IT controls by ongoing monitoring (figure 6).
    Figure 6
  • In relation to IT GRC practices, Ecopetrol has adopted best practices and, particularly, global frameworks (figure 7).
    Figure 7

Conclusion

The implementation and sustainability of GRC processes based on COBIT are very urgent initiatives that imply important efforts, but that propitiate very positive impacts on the reliability of the enterprise internal control system, clearly generating reliable information that supports business strategy.

Implementing COBIT 5 on a processes operating model based on a previous version requires a clear strategy that permits leveraging the newest practices without affecting current results. It could be made by identifying gaps to be closed and considering key issues like communication; it is necessary to identify and report benefits. This migration promotes the continuous and sustainable improvement in the governance and management of information technology in the enterprise.

The maturity assessment over the processes capability and performance, using the COBIT 5 PAM and referring to ISO 15504, is an important source to validate the achievement of the current maturity level and to identify gaps to set actions to improve the processes maturity in order to accomplish objectives. However, development of these assessments should be permanent and strict in their methodology, the assessor´s competencies and processes owners involvement.

Finally, in the context of COBIT 5’s use and sustainability process, the impact of the results on the information reliability, the strong confidence of IT in the internal control system, the integration with organizational associated issues, the ongoing external assessment, the management of culture and people, and the effective support of consulting services are key success factors.

Alberto León Lozano, CISA, CGEIT, CIA, CRMA
Is IT compliance officer of the information technology division at Ecopetrol S.A. He can be reached at Alberto.Leon@ecopetrol.com.co

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COBIT 5 Helps Find Value in the Cloud
By Sai K. Honig, CISA, CIA

Cloud computing continues to gain popularity as an option to improve IT-related services with minimal investment. In the past five years, cloud adoption has changed from an idea that met resistance to a solution that is growing exponentially and globally. To help companies find value in this solution and avoid an information security nightmare from the loss of control over their information, Controls and Assurance in the Cloud: Using COBIT 5 provides practical steps for governance, assurance and control in the cloud.

Based on the positive reception of the 2011 publication IT Controls Objectives for Cloud Computing, ISACA built on it by updating concepts, identifying new risk and providing practical guidance using COBIT 5 products. Controls and Assurance in the Cloud: Using COBIT 5 was published in April 2014 to assist enterprises in assessing the cloud’s value vs. its business risk. Additionally, the 2014 book provides guidance on how to determine whether the risk aligns with the enterprise’s established risk levels and whether the rewards and benefits are worth the cost and effort to mitigate that risk.

Controls and Assurance in the Cloud includes governance and risk management practices to guide the cloud management life cycle (evaluation and selection of cloud services, transition to the cloud, cloud service provider [CSP] management, assurance and decommission), security practices to protect enterprise assets, and assurance practices to determine whether the cloud services in use meet enterprise goals and compliance requirements. The appendices offer tools that can be used to accomplish many of the objectives mentioned throughout the book.

The book’s appendices include the following:

  • A cross-reference of the COBIT 5 enabling processes to the Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix version 3 (CSA CCMv3). This reference identifies process practices that are relevant to users, CSPs and integrators to implement security and assurance programs.
  • An example of an audit program based on COBIT 5 for Assurance
  • An example of a process capability assessment based on COBIT Process Assessment Model (PAM): Using COBIT 5
  • A list of risk scenarios based on COBIT 5 for Risk
  • Examples of contractual provisions that should be included in cloud services contracts and reviewed during assurance assessments
  • A cloud enterprise risk management and governance checklist
  • A practical approach to measure return on investment (ROI)

The guidance provided in Controls and Assurance in the Cloud will benefit CSPs, customers, cloud integrators and third-party assessors the same way. CSPs can use the risk management and security recommendations to design secured service offerings, customers can use the governance and assurance recommendations to select the services that best fit their needs and obtain assurance that their assets are protected as expected. Cloud integrators and third-party assessors can use the tools included in the appendices to evaluate CSPs’ environments and issue reports attesting their capabilities to provide secure services.

Sai K. Honig, CISA, CIA
Has more than 10 years of experience preparing and executing financial, operational and IT audits as well as enterprisewide risk assessments. Honig is familiar with software life cycle development, COBIT, ITIL, the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act, business continuity, and cloud implementations (SaaS). Honig is currently focusing on these efforts by assisting the Grameen Foundation as it prepares its internal audit processes.

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Come join the discussionCome join the discussion! Juan Carlos Morales will respond to questions in the discussion area of the COBIT 5—Use It Effectively topic beginning 21 July 2014.

 

6 Tips for Implementing IT Governance With COBIT 5
By Juan Carlos Morales, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC

IT has become a strategic element to create opportunities, innovation and competitive advantage. However, it entails inherent risk related to confidentiality, integrity and availability of information that requires attention.

Delivering value to stakeholders requires good governance and management of IT (GEIT). COBIT 5 provides a comprehensive framework that helps organizations to achieve their goals and create value through effective GEIT. The following are several tips for implementing IT governance or continuous process improvement using the COBIT 5 framework:

  1. Obtain senior management support.1 A key success factor for COBIT 5 is top management providing the direction, mandate and ongoing commitment for the initiative, and all parties supporting the governance and management processes should understand the business and IT objectives. IT governance principle 1 (in chapter five of the King III report) states that the board is accountable for IT governance, should understand the strategic importance of IT, takes responsibility for IT governance and includes it on the organization’s agenda. King III further states, “International guidelines have been developed through organisations such as ITGI and ISACA (COBIT and Val IT), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) authorities (e.g., ISO 38500) and various other organisations such as OCEG. These may be used as a framework or audit for the adequacy of the company’s information governance for instance, but it is not possible to have ‘one size fits all’.”2
  2. Understand the external and internal organizational context and identify the relevant factors that may affect the ability to achieve business objectives.3 Whether one is engaged in an audit or implementing IT governance, a management system or a continuous improvement initiative, before starting, one needs to understand the organizational context and stakeholders’ needs. Principle 6 of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) Internal Control—Integrated Framework states that the organization must specify objectives with sufficient clarity to enable the identification and assessment of risk.4 The COBIT 5 framework focuses on business objectives using the goals cascade model and balanced scorecard (BSC) domains.
  3. Identify pain points.5 Pain point identification creates the desire for change at the management level as the starting point for IT governance initiatives. It contributes to recognizing and accepting the need to implement an improvement initiative and create the required sense of urgency. Sometimes IT issues are only symptoms of a larger problem: poor or nonexistent IT governance.
  4. Justify the project with a business case.6 A practical solutions implementation defines projects justified by business cases. A business case identifies the project benefits and enables compliance monitoring. The business case is a valuable business management tool to focus on value creation. A business case should include: business benefits, business changes needed, investment required, constraints and dependencies, roles, responsibilities and accountability, and a plan to monitor/measure benefit realization.
  5. Focus on quick wins and prioritize the most beneficial improvements that are easiest to implement.7 Quick wins help to build credibility. Among the various improvement options, prioritize those that are most beneficial while also considering that it is necessary to give short-term results; therefore, select the easiest to implement. Principle 11 of the COSO framework indicates that the organization must select and develop general controls on IT. Control activities are part of the activities of the 37 COBIT 5 processes. Specifically, DSS06 Manage business process controls ensures that the control activities incorporated into business processes’ automated controls or application controls are properly managed.
  6. Adopt and adapt the COBIT 5 framework to the unique context of the organization.8, 9 Adopt and adapt best practices to meet the business approach to changes in policies and processes. COBIT 5 process guidance includes how the IT-related enterprise process practices and activities support the IT-related goals of “Managed IT-related business risk,” “IT compliance and support for business compliance with external laws and regulations,” and “IT compliance with internal policies.” Principle 10 of the COSO framework indicates that the organization must select and develop control activities that contribute to the mitigation of risk to the achievement of objectives to acceptable levels. The COBIT 5 processes enabler guidance for the 37 COBIT 5 processes supports enterprises in their selection and development of control activities and other arrangements (e.g., structural segregation of duties), particularly with the practices and activities to consider for IT-related enterprise processes.

Juan Carlos Morales, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC
Is an IT governance and risk management consultant and trainer and COBIT 5 instructor accredited by APMG.

Endnotes

1ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 3
2 King Committee on Corporate Governance, The King Report on Corporate Governance (King III), South Africa, 2009
3ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 3 and chapter 6
4The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), Internal Control—Integrated Framework, 2013
5ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 3
6ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 6 and Appendix D
7ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 3
8ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, USA, 2012, chapter 3
9ISACA, COBIT 5: Enabling Processes , USA, 2012

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Are COSO 2013 and COBIT 5 Compatible?
By Steven Babb, CGEIT, CRISC, ITIL

Many enterprises ask, “With the update of the 2013 COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework (COSO framework) and the 2012 release of COBIT 5, are they still complementary and compatible?”

ISACA recently published a white paper, Relating the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework and COBIT, which examines how the relevant components and content of the COBIT 5 framework and its supporting guidance deliverables relate to the COSO framework. Through the efforts of many (including ISACA), the refreshed COSO framework places a stronger emphasis on the importance of IT, in addition to other enhancements within its principles.

The ISACA white paper highlights areas of alignment and differences in the content of the frameworks and also presents the relationship between the COSO framework guidance and the COBIT 5 framework guidance. First, the paper introduces the COSO and COBIT 5 frameworks and their main components. Next, it examines how the COBIT 5 framework components and content relate to the COSO framework’s fundamental concepts and objectives. Finally, the paper looks at how COBIT 5 framework components and content relate to each of the 17 COSO framework principles. An appendix documents the relationship between the COSO principles and COBIT 5 process guidance.

Ultimately, the paper concludes that the answer is yes—the frameworks are complementary and compatible as guidance to support the assessment and improvement of internal control practices and activities within the governance and management arrangements of an enterprise. However, the use of both frameworks continues to require professional judgment and work by enterprise management and its auditors/advisors to comprehend, adapt and apply the principles and guidance to specific enterprise goals and enterprise capabilities. Relating the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework and COBIT provides support for such professional judgment.

Steven Babb, CGEIT, CRISC, ITIL
Is the technology risk management, compliance and assurance leader at Vodafone and international vice president of ISACA.

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Framework Committee

David Cau, GRCP, ITIL, MSP, France
Sushil Chatterji, CGEIT, CEA, CMC, Singapore, chair
Joanne De Vito De Palma, CISM, BCMM, USA
Jimmy Heschl, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, ITIL, Austria
Katherine McIntosh, CISA, CIA, CRMA, USA
Andre Pitkowski, CGEIT, CRISC, CRMA, OCTAVE, Brazil
Paras Shah, CISA, CGEIT, CRISC, CA, Australia
Sylvia Tosar, CGEIT, PMP, Uruguay
Tichaona Zororo, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CIA, CRMA, South Africa

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