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Implementing COBIT 5 at ENTSO-E

Author: Greet Volders, CGEIT, COBIT Certified Assessor and Kees de Jong, CIPM, CISSP, SIPP/E
Date Published: 6, April 2016

The IT director of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) undertook a pragmatic approach toward implementing COBIT 5 at the organisation beginning in 2014. Now, 2 years later, it is time to share this successful collaboration between the internal IT department, the business organisation and the external consultants and to share how the results were achieved.

Taking a practical approach towards implementing a programme for governance of enterprise IT (GEIT) based on COBIT 5, ENTSO-E focused on prioritising the processes, the development of these processes and—most important—the practical issues to overcome during the implementation of a new way of working.


ENTSO-E represents 42 electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) from 35 countries across Europe (figure 1). ENTSO-E was established and given legal mandates by the EU’s Third Legislative Package for the Internal Energy Market in 2009, which aims at further liberalising gas and electricity markets in the EU.

ENTSO-E promotes closer cooperation across Europe’s TSOs to support the implementation of EU energy policy and achieve Europe’s energy and climate policy objectives, which are changing the very nature of the power system.

Through its deliverables, ENTSO-E is helping to build the world’s largest electricity market, the benefits of which will be felt by all those in the energy sector as well as by Europe’s overall economy, today and into the future.1

IT Strategy Background at ENTSO-E

ENTSO-E requires the following to be in place to meet its objectives:

  • Infrastructures to enable the passage of huge electricity flows through Europe
  • A 10-year network development plan
  • Publication of summer and winter outlook reports for electricity generation
  • A legal framework for handling energy in Europe
  • An information platform that provides free and equal access to fundamental data and information on pan-European wholesale energy generation, transmission and consumption
  • Technical cooperation between TSOs who are responsible for the bulk transmission of electric power on the main high-voltage electric networks and provide grid access to the electricity market players2

Figure 1—ENTSO-E Customers and Energy Sources

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

Some of the most notable and relevant characteristics of ENTSO-E include:

  • Multi-national staff representing 20 different nationalities
  • Highly professional, motivated, educated and knowledgeable staff
  • Open to and able to cope with change
  • Political components to organisation
  • Facilitate more than 100 working groups cover topics from legal issues to IT architecture design with members from across Europe meeting between 3 and 8 times per year3

Figure 2 shows the organisational structure with particular emphasis on the IT function.

Figure 2—ENTSO-E IT Function Structure

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

The IT manager reports to the 3 governance levels in the organisation (figure 2):

  • The assembly is made up of representatives from the 41 member TSOs from 34 European countries at the chief executive officer (CEO) level.
  • The board consists of 12 elected members.
  • The ENTSO-E secretary general is the highest executive responsible for the daily operation of the secretariat.

As the IT director began to develop the IT strategy, issues to overcome included:

  • The current IT manager started in September 2013, and he was the third in a relatively short period.
  • The board had insisted 1 year earlier on a new IT strategy.
  • As a result, a concept IT strategy had been defined with the help of 6 TSO IT managers

At the beginning of 2014, the perception at the ENTSO-E Management Team was that the IT strategy was 99% ready, but the new IT manager wanted to change it and make it more specific. This required some delicate manoeuvring.

IT Strategy Development

The revised IT strategy was based on a governance structure with 3 focus areas, which were presented to and approved by the assembly. Figure 3 shows the governance structure.

Figure 3—ENTSO-E Governance Structure

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

More detailed targets were then defined in the IT strategy, including:

  • Pragmatic selection and implementation of best practices and standards
  • Reviewing all major IT suppliers
  • Moving all data centre activities to 1 permanent supplier
  • Moving all application operations to 2 or more permanent suppliers
  • Focusing on size of IT department (number of staff, ratio of internal/external personnel, refocused data management development activities)

The overall objective was to develop an IT organisation ready to support the TSO members in the best possible way.

The selection of best practices and standards was one of the detailed targets defined by the IT strategy. The selection results included:

  • ITIL as the guiding framework for IT Service Management (ITSM). All IT staff would participate in the foundation training and obtain their certification, so that a solid knowledge base will be present within the IT staff.
  • Project management based on PRINCE2, in order to introduce a more structured project management approach, which will result in more clearly documented relation between the business benefits and the IT deliverables at the beginning of each project. This decreases the risk of not delivering on time and within budget.
  • ISO 27002:2013 as guide for information security, in order to comply with external requirements regarding security management at ENTSO-E.
  • Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) for data management to support the move from a Network Code delivery organisation towards a data management support organisation.
  • COBIT 5 for having an overarching governance and management framework and to enable ENTSO-E to identify the major IT processes that need to be in place to fulfil the enterprise goals. (Notably, COBIT was not selected in January 2014; the decision was made to start working with COBIT 5 in June 2014.)

Progress Management

A structure was set up to manage the progress of this IT strategy (figure 4).

Figure 4—Progress Management Structure

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

The project steering group consisted of 2 internal managers, the IT manager and the IT strategy programme manager, who reported to this steering committee.

The working group, responsible for data strategy, consisted of representatives from several TSOs, managed by the internal data management team.

The peer reviews from chief information officers (CIOs) of 6 TSOs were important to validate the IT strategy and follow the progress and outcome of this IT strategy programme.

The IT manager implemented monthly meetings with his peers to understand what was required from a business perspective and also keep them in the loop. This was (and still is) done through monthly face-to-face meetings.

After a few months, the need to develop a dashboard to plan and monitor the progress of this program became clear, and resulted in the development of the dashboard tool described in the next section.

Prioritisation of the Processes by Goals Cascade

For the prioritisation of the IT processes, the COBIT 5 Goals Cascade was applied and the team developed its own tool to manage the different steps in this cascading process.

Most often, the Goals Cascade is used to select those COBIT processes with the highest priority, to develop and implement, or to perform a process assessment, starting with the goals at the enterprise level. In this case, it was used to define the prioritisation of the COBIT 5 processes in order to prepare a plan and ensure focus on the right processes.

This was a 6-step selection process:

  • Step 1—Identify relevant business drivers for the IT processes.
  • Step 2—Prioritise the enterprise’s IT processes.
  • Step 3—Perform a preliminary selection of target processes based on the above prioritisation.
  • Step 4—Confirm the preliminary selection of target processes with the project sponsor and key stakeholders.
  • Step 5—Finalize the list of processes.
  • Step 6—Document the scoping methodology in the IT strategy document.

Step 1: Identify Relevant Business Drivers

To identify the business drivers, the IT manager had several discussions with different business partners and stakeholders, explaining that it is not about IT change, but enabling the business to work better. While doing this, he had to change the language from IT language to business language, in order to “speak their language”, and also to highlight that this is not about technology, but about information—their information.

To define the enterprise goals, the IT manager organised meetings with the 6 TSO IT managers to identify the external priorities and with the IT strategy steering committee to identify the internal priorities and then to come to a consensus within the ENTSO-E management team, based on the internal and external priorities.

This resulted in the following selection of enterprise goals:

  • External priorities, defined by the 6 TSO IT managers:
    1. Financial transparency
    2. Customer-oriented service culture
    3. Business service continuity and availability
    4. Operational and staff productivity
    5. Skilled and motivated people
  • Internal priorities, defined by the IT strategy steering committee:
    1. Stakeholder value of business investments
    2. Optimisation of service delivery costs
    3. Optimisation of business process functionality
    4. Optimisation of business process costs
    5. Managed business change programmes
  • Balanced, and final, priorities as approved by the ENTSO-E management team:
    1. Stakeholder value of business investments
    2. Financial transparency
    3. Business service continuity and availability
    4. Optimization of service delivery costs
    5. Optimization of business process functionality
    6. Operational and staff productivity

These priorities were selected from the list of generic enterprise goals, as listed in the COBIT 5 framework.4

Step 2: Prioritize the Enterprise’s IT Processes

The final list of enterprise goals was used to start the Goals Cascade. Based on the 2 mapping tables5 found in the COBIT 5 framework, a tool through which the cascade was run automatically after having indicated the 6 selected goals was developed.6

Step 3: Perform a Preliminary Selection of Target Processes

The first selection resulted in the following priority range using different colours to indicate the priority of each process (figure 5).

Figure 5—Preliminary Priority Range of Target Processes

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

Steps 4 and 5: Confirm the Preliminary Selection With the Project Sponsor and Key Stakeholders and Finalize the List of Processes

The preliminary priority range of target processes was not found by the management team to be very clear, so another way of presenting the priorities, with 3 priority levels, was developed. In addition to the presentation format, some of the high-priority processes seemed illogical places to start.

For example, problem management had a high priority, compared to e.g., service request and incident management, configuration management and change management. Without a proper incident management, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to develop and implement problem management, since the analysis of the incidents is used as a possible source to identify problems. And in order to solve problems, changes can be initiated, so proper change management is needed to solve the problems identified.

So, with the IT manager, we re-evaluated the importance and priorities. The outcome was the figure with the revised prioritisation overview (figure 6)

Figure 6—Revised Process Prioritisation Overview

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

Step 6: Document the Scoping Methodology in the IT Strategy Document

The developed and applied approach was documented in the IT strategy document, which was used to further detail the actions needed to implement the IT strategy. In addition to developing the IT processes, priority focus was put on data management. Based on the priorities and other regulations ENTSO-E needed to comply with, a road map was developed.

The first step in defining the road map was to define the roles and responsibilities for the major data management stakeholders. Figure 7 shows that ENTSO-E will lead IT in directions and priorities of the data management road map, the work groups will inform IT on what to do, and the IT manager will ask for advice and reviews from the TSO IT managers and the governance boards to ensure that all data management initiatives are well aligned with other initiatives within the TSO member community.

Figure 7 —Roles and Responsibilities for Major Data Stakeholders

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

The data management strategy will be based on the following principles:

  • ENTSO-E management will approve projects. Decisions within the projects will be made by the project steering committee.
  • Work groups will define requirements to support stakeholders needs and to create benefits realisation:
    • The project manager will present the work groups to ENTSO-E management.
    • Work groups will be supported in the beginning of a project through a high-level impact analysis from data management perspective.
    • Work groups will be supported by IT to define business requirements, if needed.
    • Work groups will inform IT on related regional and local initiatives.
    • Work groups will be involved in the design of the solution and will be informed on the proposed solution to support the requirements of IT.
  • TSO IT managers will review the solution from an integration perspective and TSO collaboration perspective:
    • TSO IT manager will review the data management reference architecture, identify integration risk and quality risk, and review whether proposed solutions could be supported by TSOs.
    • The IT manager will advise ENTSO-E on risk identified by the TSO IT managers.
    • TSO IT managers will inform their board on advice and risk factors as well.
  • The governance board (composed of committees, expert groups and TSO managers) will perform quality reviews and control the delivery process. The results of their analysis will be forwarded to the project steering committee or the ENTSO-E board, depending of their findings. On request, IT will present their data management initiatives and/or solutions to these boards.

How to Visualize the Plan and the Progress

In the beginning of the program, an overview of all 37 COBIT processes was developed, which was available on the extranet and managed on the intranet, to show the progress in a simple, visual way—through links to the process descriptions and other supporting documents.

In addition to this overview, detailed plans for each process were developed. As working from the detailed plans became cumbersome, one dashboard for the 37 processes was developed.

The starting point for the dashboard was the COBIT 5 Process Reference Model. The dashboard is completely managed in a single Excel-file (figure 8).

Figure 8—Process Progress Dashboard

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

For each COBIT 5 process, a specific action plan was developed with targets for five specific questions. These questions were related to the five levels of the COBIT Process Assessment Model (PAM) (figure 9).

Figure 9—Example status for 1 process

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

The action list (figure 10) of all processes was consolidated into one sheet to make it easy for all people involved to check the status and follow up on their own actions.

Figure 10—Action List

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

The planning and follow-up for each achievement is also reported on a single sheet (figure 11), which is based on the details of each process.

Figure 11—Process Planning and Follow-up

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

The end result is the monitoring of the status of each process in the process progress sheet (figure 12).

Figure 12—Process Progress Sheet

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

Increasing Knowledge and Awareness

A last, but important element in this program was to increase knowledge about COBIT 5 and to map this to the daily work within the IT department.

This was accomplished by giving periodic presentations in staff-meetings, providing presentations on COBIT and sending the COBIT 5 Framework to the TSO IT managers.

For the internal IT department, a tool was developed that included the following elements:

  • A service catalogue summarising all services provided by the IT department, and divided by services for the members and services for the internal secretariat organisation
  • A service level agreement (SLA) matrix listing all the services and indicating responsibilities and estimated effort
  • The related service definitions linked from the service catalogue
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) for each service definition
  • An operational task list where all recurring tasks were added with notifications to the persons assigned “N” days before the target date and on the target date

Figure 13 shows the interaction among all of these elements.

Figure 13—Overview of the Tools and Their Interaction

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

All of these tools and elements are available on ENTSO-E’s SharePoint-based intranet; some are Excel files and others are lists or libraries in SharePoint.

Current Status 2 Years Later

After 1.5 years, achievements were evaluated. This was done by going back to the original governance structure put in place.

On a high level, the project is on track. Items of note include:

  • Highest priority policies and standards have been developed and these have been applied through the processes
  • Moving from project mode to operational mode resulted in unexpected cost and staffing issues, which need to be managed and solved, so there is still some work to do
  • The single hosting supplier program is ongoing, but no decision has yet been made

Figure 14 provides this high-level overview of the current state.

Figure 14—IT Strategy Current Status

Source: ENTSO-E. Reprinted with permission.

A more detailed review of all major IT suppliers was completed resulting in:

  • Moving all data centre activities to one permanent supplier (ongoing)
  • Moving all application operations to 2 or more permanent suppliers (ongoing)
  • Focusing on the size of IT department: number of staff, ratio of internal versus external staff and a renewed focus on data management development activities
  • An IT organisation ready to support the TSO members in the best possible way
  • A final exercise was performed to verify how well the originally defined enterprise goals were being achieved. Essentially, it was a reverse goals cascade. It started from the percentages achieved for each of the 37 COBIT processes and an upward calculation was performed via the IT-related goals to arrive at the achievement of all 17 generic enterprise goals.

The results of this reverse goals cascade, as of October 2015, are shown in figure 15.

Figure 15—Reverse Goals Cascade

Source: Greet Volders. Reprinted with permission.

This exercise shows where progress has been made with the business goals. In this case, the business is quite pleased with the overall result, especially as the amount of change for the organisation was astounding.

Author’s Note

If you would like more information on the tools that were developed, or to get more detailed information, please contact Greet Volders at

Greet Volders, CGEIT, COBIT Certified Assessor author

Is managing consultant and chief executive officer of Voquals N.V., where she advises customers and regularly conducts training and seminars related to IT governance, process improvement and IT/business alignment, quality systems, the development and assessment of IT and business processes, and the use of standards and frameworks. She has been an active member of several development teams for COBIT, including the COBIT Process Assessment Model. She also specialises in the optimisation of internal processes conforming to Sarbanes-Oxley and CMMI. Volders is a regular speaker at ISACA events such as seminars and trainings for the ISACA Belgium Chapter, presentations at EuroCACS in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the COBIT Conference in 2015, where she co-presented this case study with Kees de Jong.

Kees de Jong, CIPM, CISSP, SIPP/E author

Is a senior IT director with more than 20 years of experience. Since 2013, he has been with the European Network of Transmission System Operators since 2013, where he is responsible for implementing the IT strategy. de Jong has a passion for developing professional, service-oriented, business-focused departments and is an experienced change manager able to drive culture change. He has handled many difficult and complex projects, programs and contracts whilst working for many multinational organisations such as Shell, Philips, Hagemeyer, Unilever and other organisations on 6 continents with many multicultural teams. He has a thorough understanding (often certified) of many frameworks, including COBIT 5 (including audit) amongst others.


1 European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012, p. 19
5 Ibid., Appendix B and C
6 If you are interested in obtaining this tool, please contact author Greet Volders at