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Aligning Universities and Enterprises Using COBIT 5

Author: Bruno Horta Soares, CISA, CGEIT, CRISC, PMP, and Miguel Mira da Silva, Ph.D.
Date Published: 12, October 2015

The alignment of academic knowledge with professional skills is now one of the main challenges faced by universities around the world, particularly in the field of information systems management and governance, where the evolution of concepts and their application are constantly changing.

The Academic Advocate Program and Student Membership from ISACA are fundamental instruments for professors and students to access the same best practices used by professionals around the world, giving an important opportunity for today's students to become the competent and motivated professionals of tomorrow.


Instituto Superior Tecnico (IST) is the premier engineering school in (Lisbon) Portugal, graduating more than 1,000 master of science (MSc) students and 175 doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) students per year. The requirements for the master’s degree in IT and computer science, which include a major in information systems, were completely revamped in the last 2 years based on the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) reference curricula. Professor Miguel Mira da Silva has been innovating in his IT Governance course for several years, but now, as member of the ISACA Academic Advocate Program, he has taken the opportunity not only to design a course based on COBIT 5 (in particular, program and case studies), but also to introduce a group project focused on COBIT 5 in the real world.

The objective of the group project is mainly to prepare students to perform a COBIT 5 process assessment in a real organization, but that, of course, requires the students to learn COBIT 5 and the Process Assessment Model (PAM) prior to the project. This objective not only forces students to understand COBIT 5 and how to apply that knowledge in practice, but also helps spread COBIT 5 framework knowledge among practitioners and their organizations.

Professor Mira da Silva invited the ISACA Lisbon Chapter (ILC) to sponsor the project and together they approached the Instituto de Informatica, I.P., the IT organization of the Social Security Ministry in Portugal.


The project started in the middle of the course, so the students already had a basic understanding of COBIT 5 as well as the PAM. A meeting was held with all 40 students to present the organization that was to be the subject of the project (the Instituto de Informatica), the 8 chosen processes, the contact points (process owners) and the working method.

Each group then elected a group leader, scheduled 3 meetings and became responsible for assessing the assigned process. After each meeting, the group delivered a draft report that was reviewed and commented on by Professor Mira da Silva. The reports had a common template to make sure that all groups covered all the basic assessment steps, including an overview of the organization, the process as implemented in the organization, the results of the assessment, recommendations and, finally, insights about the project.

All groups performed the assessment successfully and delivered the final report on time. Reports were presented in a public workshop, and grades were assigned.


According to Joao Mota Lopes, board member at the Instituto de Informatica, I.P., “This was an important initiative to demonstrate that good practices can bring value creation, in particular to the optimization of resources in our organization. The collaboration between our teams and students recreated real scenarios of an assessment that, at one point, made us forget that it was a project undertaken by students.”

For IST, the project was important not only to more effectively instruct students about COBIT 5, but also to teach social, interpersonal and other soft skills that are difficult to learn in the classroom setting. The experience also helped students to understand IT governance in the real world and motivated students starting a career to use COBIT 5.

The ILC was very pleased to sponsor the initiative and it was a great way to improve local recognition of ISACA frameworks and programs, both in universities and enterprises. The class performance was excellent, and at the end they not only got great individual results, but also created a university students’ group. Based on the success of the endeavor, the project will be repeated next year.

At the end of the project, the advantages of close collaboration between universities and enterprises were clear to all parties involved. The project also demonstrated how good practices such as COBIT 5 are important tools to improve students’ knowledge around governance and management of enterprise IT (GEIT) and to help align their competencies with future employers’ needs.

Organizations Involved

ISACA Lisbon Chapter—With more than 200 members, the ILC’s mission is to ensure operational support to all members of ISACA in Portugal and the information systems community in general. The ILC develops activities related to the promotion and sharing of knowledge through communication, training and networking in the context of certification and best practices developed by ISACA. It supports IS professionals and business leaders as they broaden their competencies of IT governance and value creation through IT.

Instituto de Informatica, I.P.—The Instituto de Informatica, I.P. is a public institute in the indirect administration of the Portuguese state endowed with administrative and financial autonomy and its own assets. Its mission is to provide appropriate solutions that meet the needs of Portuguese citizens and enterprises related to information and communication technologies.

Instituto Superior Tecnico—Since its creation in 1911, the IST is the largest and most prestigious school of engineering, science and technology, and architecture in Portugal. IST aims to give students and alumni the education and the knowledge to improve, change and shape society through science, technology and entrepreneurship. IST provides top-quality higher education, and is strongly committed to research, development and innovation (RD&I) activities, immersing students in an exciting and global environment geared toward solving the challenges of the 21st century.

Bruno Horta Soares, CISA, CGEIT, CRISC, PMP

Is founder and senior advisor at GOVaaS (Governance Advisors as-a-Service) Governance Advisors, founder and president of the ISACA Lisbon (Portugal) Chapter and is enthusiastically engaged in teaching, training and coaching in the areas of governance, audit, risk, control and security of information technologies in Portugal, Angola, Mozambique and Brazil.

Miguel Mira da Silva, Ph.D.

Is professor of information systems in the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and leader of the Digital Transformation group at the INOV research institute. He has published more than 130 research papers in international journals and conferences, and graduated 5 Ph.D.s and more than 100 MSc students. His current research interests are digital transformation and IT governance, in particular using enterprise architectures for implementing best practices in real-world organizations.