Using bimodal IT to quickly turn lightbulb ideas into revenue

Using bimodal IT to quickly turn lightbulb ideas into revenue
William Rabie joined iland in May 2015, as Head of Cloud for the EMEA and APAC regions. William previously worked for CenturyLink, launching their public & private cloud offerings and enhanced hybrid IT capabilities. A veteran in the cloud space, William has 20+ years' experience in the Technology Services Industry of which 10+ years have been spent with product leadership building out international go to market strategies for some of the largest names in the global IT and cloud space, including NetSuite and Oracle.


In 2014, Gartner introduced a new organisation model for enterprise IT called “bimodal IT.” In fact Gartner first started talking about this back in 2012 following the introduction of DevOps and agile development.   Now Gartner posits that IT organisations of the future will have two separate flavours: mode 1 is traditional IT, focused on stability and efficiency, while mode 2 is an experimental, agile IT organisation focused on time-to-market, rapid application evolution and, in particular, tight alignment with business units.

As Gartner so elegantly put it, bimodal IT is the difference between a marathon runner and a sprinter — both modes are deeply different but both are essential. To my mind mode 1 is all about making sure that IT works no matter what. In other words, the focus is on reliability.  Mode 2, on the other hand, is where IT can start to look at becoming more agile and provide applications in a faster more iterative way. Traditionally IT organisations have focused on building B2B applications that make sure the business just keeps running both internally and externally. The new mode of IT organisations is all about building ‘consumer-type, rich user experience’ innovative technology with agility never before seen.

Maintenance and development for mode 1 type solutions can be cumbersome and slow.  The procurement to production time can take anywhere between six to 18 months. With mode 2, not only is IT becoming more agile, users have the ability to self-provision; in most cases on the same day using self-service cloud management like we provide at iland.

So, the big question: will there be a time when organisations move all their IT to mode 2?

The answer is simple: Not, quite. Just as client-server technology never completely replaced the mainframe, the same applies to bimodal IT. Many mode 1 applications have their place, they work and would be cumbersome to change, requiring huge investment in both time and money.  Also, enterprises are slow to make decisions, they are not typically early adopters and they are very risk averse, so I don’t think we will have a complete sea change.  However what I do predict is that we will see more agile and faster capabilities coming into the IT operation and more and more uptake of mode 2 type projects as we witness more uptake of cloud.

“Shadow IT,” the practice of lines of business (LOB) freelancing their own IT with SaaS and public cloud, loses its traction in the context of bimodal IT. The IT department can now compete to bring shadow IT in-house, offering LOB the equivalent level of speed and economy but without violating security policies or abdicating control over corporate systems. A move of this kind can quiet the “IT is too slow” argument and restore confidence in the leadership and value of the CIO to the business.

Organisational realignment is needed to bring shadow IT inside, though. Bimodal IT makes it possible for stakeholders to work together more closely and dynamically than before. However, this change won’t just happen. Managers in all affected departments need to work out a plan to make the new model a reality. One approach is to modify the IT department/business relationship so it looks more like that of an actual technology company, with product managers and rededicated development teams that work long-term on internal “products” that are used by the business taking a DevOps approach.

This brings me onto DevOps which again is an “overused” term and, to my mind, is simply a new way of thinking about culture and processes within the organisation.  DevOps is about having a light bulb idea and turning this into revenue quickly, where IT works with the LOB to commercialise ideas through evaluation and putting community based feedback into production.  But in order to achieve this, you need a production line that can take the idea right through to delivery. DevOps, combined with agile development, enables developers and IT operations to work together collaboratively rather than in silos.  Now operational and development teams sit together in the same room and all take individual responsibility for bringing a new product or idea to market.  With DevOps, reporting lines and rules of responsibility are blurring.  As a result DevOps delivers the idea to dollar in a much faster lifecycle.

Bottom line, if you are moving application into the cloud or developing for the cloud, both DevOps and bimodal IT will help you achieve more agility, but you also need to look at working with a cloud service provider that can help you on that journey.  Not just from an infrastructure perspective, but also by making sure that you have 24/7 business continuity, enterprise grade SLAs, a secure environment, compliance tools and disaster recovery in place.  Let’s face it, there is no point developing applications that are cutting edge if those applications are not secure, stable and reliable.   My advice would be to look for a service provider that has the underlying technology as well as the services and approach to support to enable bimodal IT.

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