What is Bimodal IT?
It is same as the “shadow IT” or the application server under a business analyst’s desk. This is the same server that one fine Monday morning does not work because the business side analyst who owned and operated it has left the company. This server was running critical reports for the executives and nobody knows why the report was not generated this fateful Monday. IT is running around like headless chicken to find the issue with no clue or the trace of this application. Finally, someone connects the dots between the report and the analyst that who left the company. Now IT is on it, to get things under control and provide an enterprise grade quality of service that is its charter to deliver.
Sounds familiar? Many of us who have spent some years in a corporate IT will relate to it. Just another day, another story... isn’t it? But this is after all the craziness and the fire fight on the Monday morning that you had to suffer.
As a CIO or the CTO do you want to have such a Monday?
Let’s look at it. What is this mess wrapped in fancy tongue twisting word “Bimodal”? A quick google search will tell bimodal as having two modes.
1. having or providing two modes, methods, systems, etc.
2. Statistics. (of a distribution) having or occurring with two modes.
Gartner defines Bimodal as the “practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration. Mode 1 is optimized for areas that are more predictable and well-understood. It focuses on exploiting what is known, while renovating the legacy environment into a state that is fit for a digital world. Mode 2 is exploratory and experimenting to solve new problems and optimized for areas of uncertainty.” 1
Predictability vs. exploration, well known state vs. experimentation, new ventures vs. keep the current market share, change or stay the course – these are all the choices that we face in business and the marketplace every day. The Bimodal IT is no different, it is facing these same tough choices in the digital world. However, as technology leaders, we need to manage these apparently conflicting, yet mutually reinforcing modes to continue to grow and adapt to the changes in the marketplace while minimizing the impact or the damage like the one on the fateful Monday morning.
Fortunately, there is a better way now for the technology and the business leaders to collaborate and continue the Bimodal IT without hiding the application servers under the desk. SaaS applications or a Cloud-first strategy could be the answer.
SaaS applications offer an easy way for the mode 2 where at a low cost you can try and play with the new ideas and explore features with new and highly specialized SaaS product. The business analysts and LoB (Lines of Business) executives can experiment new ideas before the company adopts these SaaS products or the new way of doing things. SaaS applications come with the leading edge features and tooling since they are built for the collective market segment. You can easily adopt best of the breed practices for your industry at a fraction of the cost using these SaaS applications.
SaaS applications also do not carry the same risk that exists when someone runs an application on a server under his or her desk. The SaaS vendors provide enterprise grade quality of the service, reliability, 24x7 uptime, disaster recovery, upgrade etc. at a fraction of the cost thanks to the economies of scale. Once the organization decides on using a SaaS application, the IT team can seamlessly take the ownership of the application, if required, and transition to Mode 1 providing the reliability, assurance and peace of mind.
The one key challenge that remains is the transition to Mode 1 from the Mode 2 that the technology team will be responsible for. In simple words, managing the transition from experimentation and the exploration phase to adopting the SaaS application as one of the long-term enterprise application and integrating it with the rest of the enterprise application set.
This could be a challenge and as well as an opportunity since we know that the enterprise applications don’t operate in silos. Let’s say you have adopted a SaaS expense management system then you will need to integrate it with accounting, compliance and the approval workflow systems. Similarly, if you go with the Workday HRMS SaaS platform, you may need to integrate it with Active Directory for identity and email provisioning, with finance and payroll systems for pay processing among others.
The technology leadership team should plan and prepare for the SaaS integration with the rest of the enterprise to make the transition from Mode 2 to Mode 1 smooth and predictable. You will need a sound middleware integration strategy that is built for the world of Hybrid Cloud and SaaS utilizing advancement in the technology like Microservices and Docker.
Some of the things to look for in an integration middleware platform could be:
1. Support for the diversity of the protocols and language
2. Core support for the SaaS and Hybrid Clouds
3. Modular, expandable and distributed architecture in line with the trends in the industry
With a sound integration middleware platform and a well-planned strategy, the CIO and the CTO can be the champions of change in the organization facilitating the exploration and experimentation and at the same time providing a path to a well-integrated and predictable enterprise applications with the robust quality of service that the technology organizations are known for.
1. Gartner definition http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/bimodal/
2. Deliver on the Promise of Bimodal https://www.gartner.com/document/3216217?srcId=1-3132930191
3. Microservices based SaaS and Hybrid Cloud Integration https://www.robomq.io