Do You Need Bimodal IT?

Do You Need Bimodal IT?

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Business leaders want IT to move faster in leading them into the digital world. Bimodal IT may be the way IT organizations meet this challenge.

Challenge

The world is changing faster than ever. Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Uber are disrupting traditional business such as media, autos and retail going from garage to near monopoly in less than a decade. Each of these disruptors competitive advantage was information and connectivity - digitalization. The rest of us want to do the same and see digitilization as the key to gaining revenue and staying relevant.

Problem

Naturally, Information Technology, is an ideal candidate to lead the charge. Gartner, the leading technology research firm, sees IT still stuck in the 2nd Era of Enterprise Tech (IT Industrialization) shown in the picture below. One where the goal is efficiency and effectiveness, where IT Cost/Revenue is the primary measure. The challenge described earlier requires the 3rd Era of Enterprise Tech (Digitalization) calling for innovation over efficiency where Revenue/ IT Cost is the primary measure. IT productivity is not the end goal but the first step toward using that productivity towards gaining innovation.

Gartner's Solution

Gartner feels traditional IT is geared towards long projects to keep current systems up to date and running whereas slower, process oriented, risk averse approaches are ideally suited. However, digitilization requires faster, empirically based and non-risk-averse approaches. Their idea is to split the IT organization into two modes, where Mode 1 is the traditional IT centric, internally facing mode with the goal of reliability, and Mode 2 is the agile, business-centric, customer facing mode with innovation as the primary goal. See graphic below.


Do You Need Bimodal IT?

It would be hard to find a business that could just ignore digitalization and continue to succeed. If I owned a hot dog stand in Manhattan I would want to use Apple Pay and find data sources that tell me the best location/weather/time of day combinations where I could sell the most hot dogs or Pepsi. So the need to innovate via technology is a no brainer.

I do feel there is a different set of approaches, skills, time-frame and personality between the two modes. That doesn't mean the same person doesn't have the ability to do both well, but in practice trying to do both has it's disadvantages of constantly switching from one mode to the other throughout the business day.

On the flip side there are some difficulties in trying to build a bimodal organization. You split anything and you have a natural wall and division. In a bimodal organization it's unlikely that Mode 2 can succeed without Mode 1, and vice versa. So managing this division to overcome the natural human inclination to form cliques is important. In addition, the ability to transition resources between the two will provide an outlet for those who seek a different challenge.

According to Gartner, about 75% of organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.

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