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Thinking about Bimodal IT – the trick to blending legacy and innovation

Daniel Iversen | July 7, 2016
Gartner came up with the term “Bimodal IT” to describe the scenario in which the CIO and other tech executives handle the integration of an existing, predictable, tech infrastructure and streams of work with one of a more exploratory, emergent stream of contemporary software, trends and devices, commonly characterised as bring-your-own.

In examining the premise of Bimodal IT as a model for enterprise infrastructure management, a recentForrester report labelled it as "a two-class system that adds more front-end and back-end silos of complexity", which was counterproductive for any company looking to adopt and adapt to new ways of doing things.

There is a strong element of truth to this view; which is why Bimodal IT is better viewed as a theoretical lens that can help us appreciate the challenges faced by IT departments; but in saying that, it's also important to recognise the Bimodal nature of many enterprise IT environments is manifested in the practical division of tasks and resources between "traditional" infrastructure and "agile" projects - some teams work on infrastructure and legacy issues, others on development.

But to formalise this practical division into Mode 1 and Mode 2 presents a cultural issue as well, especially if an enterprise is keen on enhancing collaboration between teams and employees rather than fortifying artificial silos.

This is one of the points raised by Jez Humble in his blog post critiquing Bimodal IT. Humble is a developer and the co-author of several books the book Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale.

Humble specifically identifies three flaws in the Bimodal IT model: that it is "reductionist"; Mode 1 and Mode 2 streams are "almost always coupled"; and what he terms the most important flaw, which is that "Gartner's model rests on a false assumption that is still pervasive in our industry: that we must trade off responsiveness against reliability."

He says the DevOps and Continuous Delivery movement has created the type of paradigm shift that aspires to fast quality IT delivery byencompasses not only the agile systems of engagement but also the more complexsystems of record:

"The conventional wisdom is that if we make changes to our products and services faster and more frequently, we will reduce their stability, increase our costs, and compromise on quality.

This assumption is wrong."

So Bimodal IT does provide us with a theoretical lens but its practical scope is trumped by the need to implement agile processes across the spectrum of IT enterprise, from "infrastructure" through to consumer-facing applications. It means we can't shy away from the technological, as well as cultural, advances that have been made by DevOps, continuous delivery etc. because to do so would be shirking our responsibility to strengthen and improve IT and the entire business in the long term.

Source: CSO Australia


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