Bimodal IT: The Good and Bad

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Bimodal IT blog

I recently had the pleasure of appearing on CXOTalk with Michael Krigsman to discuss PwC’s Digital IQ survey. Michael asked me about a concept catching fire in the IT community called “bimodal” or “two-speed” IT. Bimodal IT is the idea of creating two faces of the IT department: operational and aspirational. One side focuses on keeping the lights on. The other side sets the world on fire by producing products and services and powering the business with apps and analytics. As with any new approach du jour to solving IT’s ills, bimodal IT has benefits and drawbacks.

The good…

  1. Fast Tech Talent Begets Fast Tech Talent

    The war for fast-tech skills is on and the enterprise is losing. Enterprises that want to innovate must pull people from high-tech talent pools: makers, startups, universities, incubators and the open source community. Creating a fast-tech IT arm by bifurcating IT will enable enterprises to compete for desperately needed fast-tech talent. Waterfall, DLC, ERP and CRM kind of environments are nowhere near as attractive to the fast-tech community as DevOps-based mobile app factories, IT people embedded in business teams, weekly sprints and monthly app releases.

  2. Commonsense Management of IT Resources

    Each time a new information technology paradigm takes hold, some think we should transform the entire IT organization. We saw this push during the client server days and the object oriented analysis and design days. But we quickly learned that we don’t need to employ every aspect of every trend. For example, mainframes still made sense back then and the minicomputer still worked for some business problems. Likewise the web, mobile, and IOT-based systems will make sense for certain kinds of systems, but not all of them.

The bad…

The danger is that dividing IT will create derision. If not managed correctly, bimodal IT could produce a hierarchy of innovation haves and have-nots inside of IT. The potential for bimodal IT to become a political battlefield shouldn’t be underestimated since digital strategies demand strict alignment between these two groups. You can’t build a high impact enterprise mobile app without access to customer data or product data, for example. That critical information is not going to come from the high-speed place. It’s going to reside in operations. You have to figure out the operating model to make them work together.

What we need is a whole-brained IT department that is focused on three things, regardless of whether they are working on front-end or back-end problems:

  1. Bring the Outside In

    All the innovation that everyone is so fired up about is not coming from big organizations. It’s coming from startups, incubators, universities, makers, open sources. These are not places that the enterprise IT has expertise in. They don’t integrate with them. They don’t know them. They aren’t them. IT should embed themselves in these places. Bring the outside in.

  2. Communicate with Demos

    Once IT breathes the outside in, they need to get smart about what they’ve learned and share it with demos. Take those ideas and build prototypes and demos that help communicate their ideas with each other and the business. A demo is worth a million words. The power of prototypes is unparalleled.

  3. Improve Integration Skills

    Another role for IT is to develop much stronger integration skills. We’re going to be bringing in more third party services, apps, cloud platforms, etc., of which we’re not the primary builders. However, we want to integrate them with customer data, billing data, pricing data, etc., to get the value of the analytics and insights from connecting all that data. Adept integration skills are essential.

The IT department definitely needs to undergo transformation to meet the evolving needs of the business. Is bimodal IT the answer?

Image shared by Giuseppe Milo

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