The concept of Bi-Modal IT was first introduced by Gartner in 2014, described as ˜the practice of managing two separate, but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration. Mode 1 is optimised for areas that are more predictable and well-understood. Mode 2 for experimentation around new and uncertain areas." It has only been three years since this research was first presented to the market, however, the evidence is suggesting that things have moved on - and in today's fast-moving IT ecosystem, firms using exclusively mode 2 tend to dominate and outperform the market.
The role of IT within the business has now fundamentally changed and it is an integral cog in the machine. Twenty years ago the role of the IT department was that of the order taker, fulfilling orders from the wider business units for IT hardware and systems. Following this it moved into the space of the service provider, supplying networks, hardware and software as a service to the rest of the business. Those days are long gone, and in today's world where technology and business are so interwoven - the IT function must now be considered a business partner. In this model, small teams, including both IT and business staff work closely on outcome-based projects in an agile mode 2 form of operation. This method quickly provides value through utilising the mixture of the two skill sets and embedding the output quickly in the business.
If all technology change activity is to be conducted in this manner there are important things to have in place:
- A common understanding of the business for all - consistently defined outcomes, business units, products, geographies and concepts
- A collaboration environment - enables teams to share progress towards outcomes, optimise resource allocation, share knowledge and balance the level of change going into the business
- Clearly defined outcomes for each team - leadership must set clear business goals so the teams know where the transformational outcomes they are working towards fit and see where the integration points are to each team
It is this method that has enabled the top disruptors in the market - Google and Amazon for example - to make huge inroads in a short period of time, without the proposed problems that can be encountered using just a mode 2 type of operation. Examples are reliability and security being compromised through constantly deploying changes to a system.
For change to truly embed itself, it must come from inside the company. This is because the majority of recommendations around this operational method focus on ways of working and culture. Innovative outlook and disruptive attitude cannot be bought off the shelf. As long as the required cultural change is embraced - it is possible to possess a disruptive, agile and fit for purpose IT capability operating solely in the mode 2 style of operation.
To achieve this embedded cultural change, the individual must be empowered. To do this she/he needs mechanisms for; understanding their contribution in the context of the business outcomes, to be able to build and share knowledge on the impact of digitisation with colleagues, to be able to make decisions in the context of the outcome. We are working hard to empower the individual in the enterprise, to enable them to be even more effective at achieving the outcomes needed, and through working together harness the power of the enterprise to accelerate the time it takes to bring new capability into the digital age.
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