Bimodal IT: Out-dated concept or valid strategy?

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It’s easy to label ageing technology as obsolete without really considering whether or not it could have a place in the modern world. However, when it comes to Bimodal IT, many CIOs still hold the belief that it remains the best environment for fostering innovation*.  We question whether this approach is sustainable as a long-term strategy in a world of cloud innovation and technological disruption.

What is Bimodal IT?

It’s possible you’re already familiar with the term but in case that’s not the case, Bimodal IT describes a set-up where technology departments are split into two sections: one a traditional legacy mode of delivery that is centred around maintaining a stable IT infrastructure and one fast moving, agile mode that is focused on innovation and exploration. Although Bimodal IT is a relatively new term, first defined by Gartner in 2014, the concept of a company having two approaches to IT dates back well beyond the birth of the internet.

There was a time when this approach was beneficial, allowing companies to match the fast pace of technology development while carefully maintaining their operations. Marketing and sales departments needed the support of frustrated IT gurus to keep them afloat, while CIOs fought to stay ahead of their competition through fast-tracked innovation.

Where it all went wrong

Sadly, Bimodal IT is swiftly falling to the bottom of the IT chasm it has created after leaving many CIOs ripping their hair out amid departmental disputes. As it turns out, one of the major flaws of the bimodal approach to IT is its ability to divide the fast-paced gadget innovationists from the stable development and support staff, leaving a potentially irreversible rift in a company’s crucial tech arm.

Specifically, when one team is allowed to accelerate at a much faster rate than its co-conspirators, it can cause significant operational problems in the shape of conflicting business models. Separate modes of operation can also lead to a need for a larger number of employees to account for the different skills required, inflating business costs and potentially causing problems if the department is required to merge once more.

Looking forward

So if Bimodal IT is now considered out-dated, where should CIOs focus their efforts in the future? Well, as it turns out, many firms now believe that IT departments should speed up to meet the pace of their innovation branch rather than slowing down to keep pace with developers. According to Forrester Research analyst Matthew Guarini, businesses now need to embrace rapidity as a matter of course if they’re going to keep up with their rivals. He said: “At some point you have to throw the reins off and accelerate and it's a lot easier with a common culture."

A number of systems have been merged to achieve this new desired culture and speed, including cloud software and APIs, but the entire infrastructure is now dominated by the concept of agile and DevOps as a way forward. Simply put, agile refers to as fast software development process, while DevOps refers to the application of this ideology to operations and development work, creating a fast IT department that works together to achieve two different goals.

CIOs are now discovering that they can complete their projects and run their operations more swiftly in this mode of working, while also racing ahead of their current competitors and enthusiastic startups. Even better, this approach makes it easier for CIOs to keep up to date and deliver what their customer wants, and all without having to start from scratch with every new order or embrace too broad of a market in a bid to stay ahead. “Agility, innovation, and speed should be central to this new culture,” Guarini added. “There is only one speed of IT that exists today and that is fast.”



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