Steering two ships: Best practices for balancing bimodal IT

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While certainly a buzzword at the height of its popularity — in light of recent Gartner attention — the concept of bimodal isn’t new. IT has historically straddled two modes, tackling both projects that require methodology (mode 1), and those that are considered more exploratory (mode 2). The trouble is, within most organizations, IT has had a laser focus on keeping the lights on — achieving stability and security in mode 1 — and hasn’t adopted the fail fast mentality required for mode 2. However, things are changing and quickly.

The rise in interest of operating in a bimodal fashion — with more focus on mode 2 — stems from the growing demand on internal IT teams to quickly deliver tangible value and innovation throughout the enterprise. According to Gartner, nearly 40 percent of CIOs are on a bimodal IT journey. Others who have not yet adopted the approach plan to do so within the next three years. Although this may be true, actually getting to a point where IT can operate both modes in unison seems more like a dream than a reality for most CIOs. Here are a few tips to make your bimodal journey less daunting:

Understand process impacts 

Within your organization I’d estimate there are hundreds, if not thousands, of business processes. This work will be delivered by various resources within your company, but in some form or fashion, most will touch IT. And more specifically, they will touch systems within IT. The impacted systems will define which mode the team can employ.

If IT is updating a “system of record,” like a general ledger or production management system, the team will have to proceed within a strict change management framework. On the flip side, processes that impact systems of engagement can and should be rolled out in an agile and iterative process.

It’s hard to fully document any process, but defining systems and understanding potential business risks and impacts can help IT quickly decide its plan of attack — using both modes — to tackle incoming projects. Furthermore it allows IT the opportunity to improve relationships with business users because IT can better set expectations on delivery of tasks and level set if needed.

Lighten the load with technology

Successfully implementing bimodal can help CIOs better organize and prioritize tactics for their teams, allowing IT to improve performance, ultimately satisfying the enterprise. In order to sustain success long-term, however, CIOs need to ensure their team is balanced in delivering quality within both modes. Technology can help.

Take mode 1, for example. Introducing automation technology reduces the need for IT to manage often redundant and manual activities and ensures adherence to the proper governance framework. In addition to mitigating risks, technology also helps IT further reduce costs and optimize processes. Ultimately, introducing technology, especially in mode 1, gives IT more time to concentrate on mode 2 creative projects focused on market differentiation, integration and collaboration.

At the same time, technology can also power a forward-thinking mode 2. With advancements in analytical tools, IT now has access to deeper business intelligence, which allows the department to serve as an internal consultant. Couple this insight with a more agile methodology, and IT now has greater flexibility to approach business pain points in a more strategic and timely manner.

Define and declare success

As with any new strategy, defining success is critical to understanding whether what you’ve orchestrated is actually working. With bimodal, this is especially important as your success dictates the amount of support you’ll receive from both the business and IT.

Ultimately, success is different for every organization and IT team. However, if you’re able to reduce the time it takes to execute everyday tasks and spend more time putting big ideas into action or implementing cutting edge technology that will give your company a competitive advantage, then I’d consider that a win.

Joe has more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and technical management positions. As a principal of PMG for over 10 years, Joe leads the company in deploying enterprise service catalog and business process automation. Joe leverages his extensive project management background and developed the implementation methodology and project model for PMG’s engagements.