ITIL is the hitchhiker's guide, COBIT is the encyclopaedia

As the IT Skeptic digs (happily) deeper into COBIT, I ponder the difference between COBIT and ITIL. In my simple layman's mind, ITIL is the hitchhiker's guide, COBIT is the encyclopaedia, rather like the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Encyclopedia Galactica.

That truly astonishing book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, [which I'm delighted to find Pink's Troy DuMoulin and I share an admiration for] describes the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide book thus:

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper: and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."

Apart from the fact that ITIL is more expensive and it has large xrays of plants and animals on the covers, Douglas Adams could be speaking about ITIL and COBIT.

ITIL is relaxed to the verge of sloppy (e.g. the use of the term "process").

ITIL is boisterous to the point of controvertial (Service Strategy on value networks).

ITIl has many omissions compared to COBIT. ITIL focuses on operations, and mostly ignores development/solutions. ITIL seldom ventures into project management or portfolio management, and it skips a lot of aspects of request management.

Most of all, COBIT systematically chronicles a checklist of all the things we ought to be doing, and their properties, but ITIL explains how.

Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol. It says that alcohol is a colourless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide also mentions alcohol. It says that the best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.

The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards.

The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself.

Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit


Add an olive.

Drink, but very carefully.

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the Encyclopedia Galactica.

Spooky the correlation with ITIL and COBIT, innit?

An encyclopaedic entry recording the existence of a chemical called alcohol is of considerably less interest than a practical guide to the preparation, imbibing and recovery from the universe's best drink.

To expand the analogy to the real-world equivalents to Douglas Adms' creation, I was much happier to have a Lonely Planet guidebook in hand when arriving in Leh, Ladakh or PuntaCiudad Del Este, Paraguay, than a copy of say Collier's World Atlas and Gazetteer. The fact that the Lonely Planet books are incomplete, out-of-date, opinionated and unreliable is far outweighed by their usefulness and practicality... and dammit! their humanness. Their very fallibility and quirkiness is a great part of their attraction. So it is with ITIL.


Still accurate

Seeing how this is now several years old - has this analogy stood up? Would you modify it at all? Or has time and events only made the case stronger?

No change

Neither COBIT nor ITIL has changed since I wrote it. Nor has my mind :)

ITIL is the hitchhiker's guide, COBIT is the encyclopaedia

K, so what does that make OSSTMM or ISO 17799/27000 or NIST 800-53 in the mix, since CobiT is IT Governance and ITIL is somewhere between IT and InfoSec Governance? :)


Yikes, I had to look up OSSTMM and NIST 800-53. You seem to be a security geek, but if so I wonder if you have read ITIL. ITIL is to security as Alice in Wonderland is to pharmacology, or Oprah is to literature.

And neither COBIT nor ITIL are governance frameworks: they are both IT management frameworks. "Governance" is losing all meaning.

Nitpicking aside, I reckon OSSTMM and ISO 17799/27000 and NIST 800-53 are one-country guidebooks.

What you get from sloppy guidebooks

Punta del Este is a posh Uruguayan beach town. Ciudad del Este is a "Far West"-like Paraguayan town in the "triple border" with Argentina and Brazil. Confusing them could be dangerous for your health.

only a loose affiliation with the facts

Well now we see why I'm more comfortable with ITIL than COBIT. My memory is unreliable and I have only a loose affiliation with the facts. I'm more of a Hitchhiker's Guide kind of guy.

I have never been to Uruguay (though I'd love to go). I have been to Ciudad del Este, at night, on foot, backpacking. But since one crosses that extraordinary "bridge of smugglers" to get into Paraguay (in my case I walked), somewhere in my mind it has got hardwired as "Punta".

thankyou for that correction. Perhaps more people will know what I'm talking about when i tell that tale in future

What a great analogy!

This has to be the best analogy I have ever seen. I love it! I'm for sure stealing it, if you don't mind.

When people ask my the difference I say simply, "CobiT tells you what you should be doing and ITIL tells you how to do it."

But there is so much more to it than that and your analogy captures it perfectly. CobiT is so much easier to grasp, it's the everyman's framework.

I'll take mine with an olive.


Encyclopedia and Guide

Hello IT Skeptic

Yes I do share a mutual fascination and respect for the writings of Douglas Adams. He has an amazing gift of wisdom and insight that hits you between the eyes at the same time you are chuckling under your breath. Having had the pleasure of working on the development of both the COBIT and ITIL models I see and agree with your analogy of Encyclopedia versus Guide.

Perhaps one way to look at this is that one needs the other (kind of a co-dependant relationship). We need an Encyclopedia for reference and audit but also need the guide with its humanness as you put it, to give us context, application, opinion and perhaps even humor. It really comes down to the difference between facts/ knowledge versus wisdom/insight and yes, informed opinion.

There is a place for both in our Galaxy, even when not everyone agrees with the opinion part. At the very least it gives us something to discuss as we down our recreational beverages.

Cheers & Merry Christmas

Troy DuMoulin

a BOK with the depth of ITIL and the breadth of COBIT

Merry Christmas to you and all those at Pink. ("Pinkies"?)

I agree the two complement each other. Shame about the mismatch. Perhaps one day we'll have a BOK with the depth of ITIL and the breadth of COBIT or ISO20000: now that would be something.

Good Comparison

The "Don't Panic" sticker is probably: "ITIL is not from the auditors" ..., I would compare APMG to the vogons and maybe OGC are the mice ;-)


Dear Skeptic,

The industry interest in COBIT and ITIL being utilized together has been increasing over the last 2 years and now I know why – excellent piece. The COBIT Steering Commmittee are in the process of completing the development of the COBIT 4.1 and ITIL v3 mapping and the document is scheduled to be ISACA members and in the ISACA bookstore towards the end of Q1 2008. We are moving the development forward as quickly as possible to answer the numerous requests we have had of late for the publication.

Robert Stroud
Chair, COBIT Steering Committee.

What a shame ITILV3 didn't take the opportunity

Thanks, Rob, and welcome back: long time no hear. I look forward to such a mapping, and good on COBIt for doing it. What a shame ITILV3 didn't take the opportunity to do it in the other direction while the books were developed.

P.S. "Robert E."? Careful, mate, people will think you're a Yank.

ISO 27001, COBIT and ITIL!

Dear Skeptic,

I too am looking forward to the mapping and it should be available for review shortly. Additionally, the COBIT Steering Committee is planning a refresh of the publication co-developed with the OGC; “Aligning COBIT, ITIL and ISO 17799 for Business Benefit: Management Summary” (visit the ISACA website for a free download of the current version). This document will be refreshed to COBIT 4.1, ITIL V3 and ISO 27701 and assuming all relevant approvals, it is planned to both the ITIL and COBIT perspectives whilst providing greater insight into their use with the exceptionally relevant security standard ISO 27001.

Current planning, approvals dependant, should have the new document will be available no later than the first half 2008.

Robert Stroud
Chair, COBIT Steering Committee

Nice. Very Nice. Though I

Nice. Very Nice.

Though I was expecting a comparison between OGC and the Vogons.

if OGC came and demolished the odd planet

In a way it would be preferable if OGC came and demolished the odd planet. At least we'd get to see them. And their poetry can't be any worse than their website...

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