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10 things you need to know about bi-modal IT

Mary K. Pratt | July 16, 2015
Far from being the buzzword du jour, bi-modal IT is a real thing now. In this organizational setup, one group is tasked with the keep-the-lights-on functions and the other on more innovative, forward-looking projects. That sounds all well and good on paper, but what does it mean in the real world?

Davidson also says that piece of innovation work added to operations positions can add "spice to their jobs," and that that balance really helps morale.

Just as important, Davidson says, is that that intersection helps everyone stay up to date; Davidson says having staff working on a mix of operational and innovative work in the end helps projects be more successful, too, "because the infrastructure people who do the keep-it-running work can plan better, they're aware of the resource requirement, they may know and often do know about performance issues for example, there may be need to increase network bandwidth, something that the other team might not be aware of and those are the hidden landmines."

8. Two teams = twice the management headaches?

Quarterman says he's moving carefully down the path to a fully bifurcated IT team. "There's a cultural implication, which we don't fully comprehend yet," he says, noting that "if we don't get that right it would be extremely damaging."

Making the move without thoughtful communication and attention could alienate some workers, particularly those on the operations side. Quarterman points out, like others do, that operational work remains essential after all, if the engines aren't humming along, the business cannot operate at all, let alone focus on the next big thing.

"We don't want to alienate a whole group of people so that they feel their contribution is diminished because they're operations," he says. "Leadership can't build a wall. It has to be viewed as two equal parts for the same purpose: the same purpose is the delivery of the product and the service. And I don't mean just delivering innovation; it's also delivering operations on a daily basis."

"One of the cool things about [his] model [where everyone does some operations and some innovation] is the teamwork is incredible," Denham says. Of course, disagreements come up, "but everybody is pulling for the same goal." It comes down to knowing your people. "The people who are more operational are better suited to that and that's where they want to go, they prefer that. So they're already self-motivated because it's what they enjoy," he says.

Quarterman agrees. "That's why we're proceeding with caution. It's a very tricky thing to get right. There are some people who are suited to operations and that's what they want to do, and identifying who they are and then who has the skills and aptitude for innovation is tricky. I'm not sure everyone is going to sort out in it, so we're proceeding with caution and we're being very clear to why we're doing it." But he also points out that professionals on both sides will find challenges and advancement opportunities. For example, Quarterman says those on the operations side will have the chance to dive deep into the guts of operations, and "that's very challenging and there are a lot of people who get excited about that."


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