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Change Enablement for GEIT Implementation and Improvement

Author: Peter C. Tessin, CISA, CRISC, CISM, CGEIT
Date Published: 11, October 2016

Frameworks, best practices and standards are useful only if they are adopted and adapted effectively. A successful governance of enterprise IT (GEIT) implementation or improvement requires an enterprise culture that is accepting and supportive of the changes that a GEIT implementation brings to the enterprise.

Often, enterprises focus on implementing the GEIT good practices (the change) and do not emphasize management of the cultural aspects of the change, which can ensure that stakeholders are motivated to buy into the change. Change enablement is one of the biggest challenges to GEIT implementation.

Change enablement ensures that all stakeholders are prepared for and committed to the changes. The objective of GEIT implementation change enablement is to remove barriers to change, and have business enterprise stakeholders lead by example and encourage all levels of staff to adopt the new ways of working. For example, the objective is for staff and leadership to:

  • Follow agreed-on processes.
  • Participate in defined GEIT structures, such as change approval and advisory boards.
  • Enforce defined guiding principles, policies, standards, processes or practices.

COBIT 5 adapts the 8-step Kotter1 approach (figure 1) to change enablement for the 7 phases of the GEIT implementation life cycle. Figure 2 shows the GEIT change enablement life cycle applied to the GEIT implementation life cycle.

Figure 1—Kotter Approach to Change Enablement

Figure 2—Seven Phases of the Implementation Life Cycle

Source: ISACA, COBIT 5 Implementation, 2012, p. 36

Change Enablement Life Cycle Phases

The change enablement life cycle phases create the culture and environment for a successful GEIT implementation.

Phase 1—Establish Desire to Change
The purpose of this phase is to understand the depth of the envisioned change and communicate the need for the change—the wake-up call. The various affected stakeholders, the nature of the impact on and involvement required from each stakeholder group, and the current readiness and ability to adopt the change should be understood. The wake-up call communication should describe the opportunity for change in a way that all employees can understand so they will want to engage. The message should include the benefits to be reaped if the change succeeds and the consequences if it fails. The wake-up call should be communicated by the chief executive officer (CEO) or executive committee to demonstrate the commitment of senior management.

Phase 2—Form Implementation Team
An effective core implementation team guides, coordinates, communicates and leads by example. The implementation team should include representatives from business and IT with knowledge, expertise, experience, credibility and authority. Including external parties can provide independent, objective views or can address skill gaps that may exist within the enterprise.

The implementation team should be committed to:

  • A clear vision of success and ambitious goals
  • Engaging the best in all team members, all the time
  • Clarity and transparency of team processes, accountabilities and communications
  • Integrity, mutual support and commitment to each other’s success
  • Mutual accountability and collective responsibility
  • Ongoing measurement of its own performance and the way it behaves as a team
  • Living out of its comfort zone, always looking for ways to improve, uncovering new possibilities and embracing change

Phase 3—Communicate Outcome
A high-level change enablement plan should be developed in conjunction with the overall implementation plan. A key component of the change enablement plan is the communication strategy, which should define the core audience groups, their behavioral profiles and information requirements, communication channels, and principles.

The desired vision for the implementation or improvement must be communicated in the language of those affected by it. The communication should include the “four Ps”—the rationale for and benefits of the change and the impacts of not making the change (purpose), the vision (picture), the road map to achieving the vision (plan), and the involvement required of the various stakeholders (part).2 Senior management should deliver key messages such as the desired vision. The communication strategy should address behavioral/cultural and logical aspects, and emphasize 2-way communication. Reactions, suggestions and other feedback should be acted on and captured.

Phase 4—Identify Role Players
When core improvements are designed and built, change response plans should be developed to empower various role players. For example, such change response plans may include:

  • Organizational design changes, such as job content or team structures
  • Operational changes, such as process flows or logistics
  • People management changes, such as required training and/or changes to performance management and reward systems

Quick wins are important from a change enablement perspective and should be communicated to help drive adoption and change. Visible and unambiguous quick wins can build momentum and credibility for the implementation or improvement and help to address any skepticism that may exist.

It is important to engage the stakeholders who are affected by a change in the actual design of core improvements (e.g., through workshops and review sessions) to increase buy-in.

Phase 5—Operate and Use
The change response plans are implemented when the initiatives are implemented within the core implementation life cycle. In this phase, quick wins are developed further, and the behavioral and cultural aspects of the broader transition are addressed (issues such as dealing with fears of loss of responsibility, new expectations and unknown tasks).

Balancing group and individual interventions will increase buy-in and engagement and ensure that all stakeholders obtain a holistic view of the change. When solutions are rolled out, mentoring and coaching are critical to ensure acceptance in the stakeholder environment.

The change requirements and objectives that were determined during the start of the initiative should be reviewed to ensure that they are adequately addressed.

Success measures must be defined and should include hard business measures and perception measures that track how people feel about a change.

Phase 6—Embed New Approaches
As the implementation or improvement achieves concrete results, the new ways of working become part of the enterprise culture and rooted in its norms and values by, for example, implementing policies, standards and procedures. It is necessary to track implemented changes and assess the effectiveness of the change response plans. Corrective measures must be taken, as appropriate, including enforcing compliance.

Maintaining the communication strategy will sustain ongoing awareness.

Phase 7—Sustain
Conscious reinforcement and an ongoing communication campaign will sustain the changes. This phase also includes implementing corrective action plans, capturing lessons learned and sharing knowledge with the broader enterprise. Top management commitment will ensure that changes are maintained.


Enterprises should focus as much on managing the cultural aspects of the change that GEIT implementation generates as on implementing the GEIT good practices. GEIT implementation change enablement, applied through the GEIT change enablement life cycle phases, creates the culture and environment for a successful GEIT implementation. A change enablement plan ensures that all stakeholders are prepared for and motivated to commit to the change.

Peter Tessin, CISA, CRISC, CGEIT

Is a technical research manager at ISACA where he has been project manager for COBIT 5 and has led the development of other COBIT 5-related publications, white papers and articles. He also played a central role in the design of the COBIT Online web site. Prior to joining ISACA, Tessin was a senior manager at an internal audit firm where he led client engagements and was responsible for IT and financial audit teams. Previously, he worked in various industry roles including staff accountant, application developer, accounting systems consultant and trainer, business analyst, project manager, and auditor. He has worked in many countries outside of his native US including Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, UK and Australia.


1 Kotter, J.; Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, USA, 1996
2 Bridges, William; Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, Addison-Wesley, USA, 1999