“To which I say: balderdash! The brilliant minds at Gartner – and any other consultant towing the Bimodal IT line, for that matter – are telling their clients what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Bimodal IT is simply an excuse to keep doing IT poorly.” Jason Bloomberg
The Bimodal IT Debate has been going on behind the scenes for more than a decade but was thrust into the spotlight by a Gartner Symposium /ITexpo in Orlando last October. In the Gartner IT Glossary,
” Bimodal IT refers to having two modes of IT, each designed to develop and deliver information- and technology-intensive services in its own way. Mode 1 is traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is nonsequential, emphasizing agility and speed.”
For IT departments struggling to stay abreast of technology innovation in 2015, Gartner recommends the Bimodal IT approach. An April 23, 2015 Press Release, Gartner Says Bimodal IT Projects Require New Project Management Styles, heralds the Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summits 2015 in Grapevine, Texas on June 1-3 and in London, U.K. on June 8-9, where Analysts will explore Bimodal Projects. It appears that “Enterprise project management organization (PMO) and application management leaders are struggling to adapt governance processes to handle new, agile Mode 2 efforts that don’t conform to traditional project management structures” but fortunately “Gartner has identified three best practices to enable PMOs to better manage any type of IT project or program within the portfolio. “
However, the Gartner approach has its critics. Probably the most forthright is Jason Bloomberg, who wrote an article Beware the Dangers of Bimodal IT in Cortex Newsletter October 12, 2014. This was just after the Gartner Symposium /ITexpo in Orlando, where Gartner had assured Participants that Bimodal IT is the way to go. Jason disagrees: “To which I say: balderdash! The brilliant minds at Gartner – and any other consultant towing (sic) the Bimodal IT line, for that matter – are telling their clients what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Bimodal IT is simply an excuse to keep doing IT poorly.”
Bearing in mind that Jason, who is President of Intellyx and author of The Agile Architecture Revolution, has his own axe to grind in terms of promoting the Intellyx agile digital transformation, his Cortex Newsletter article is highly readable, informative and makes a strong case for “The Intellyx Take: What will Transformed “Traditional IT” Look Like?”
Another Gartner critic has suggested that “It’s not so much at (sic) Gartner is wrong, but that they are still documenting for the enterprise IT world the first steps they should consider, as they move to more practical and workable models.” This quote is from a January 14, 2015 ZDNet article How IT leaders are grappling with tech change: Bi-modal and beyond, by Dion Hinchcliffe for Enterprise Web 2.0. In that article, Dion gives a quick summary of the Gartner approach to Bimodal IT but then gets on to Beyond Bi-Modal IT, with the segue “But bi-modal IT can be thought of a training wheels way of thinking about the very different, nearly opposite, models for IT. In fact, it turns out that to make bi-modal work, we generally need a mechanism for connecting the two modes together in a way that respects their strengths while adapting and transition one to the other. Crucially, unlike corporate IT, it’s possible to look at large public software development efforts to uncover what we need to do and what will work best.”
Here, Dion quotes from a November 16, 2014 Simon Wardley blog, How we used to organise stuff.:
“By 2004, in the open source world, we had learned that one size fits all didn’t work. We had started to work towards the use of multiple methods. We knew agile was suitable in the early stages of evolution of an act but we also knew six sigma was better for more evolved activities. The foolhardy amongst us had started to organise by this bimodal fashion with groups such as common services or systems and development (see figure 2). Under such a model, the IT organisation is two groups and two polar opposite (usually competing) attitudes.”
Dion describes Simon as “a well-known thinker and writer on technology, who has made a strong case recently for a more sophisticated description of the journey that IT has been made recently to a more adaptive and dynamic set of approaches.” Using Simon’s material, Dion gives an overview of the evolution from Bimodal to Trimodal around 2005 / 2006, then to Cell based structures around 2007 / 2009 and to Adaptive structures around 2012 / 2013.
Dion and Simon are optimistic that CIOs can meet the 2015 challenges with the right transformation of the fundamental operating model of IT. They warn that this will not be easy but give pointers to how that transformation can be achieved. If they are right, Gartner still has a long way to go.