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Bi-Modal IT: A New Name for an Old Challenge

Steve Denby

Head of Sales Enablement

Bi-Modal IT is a term coined by Gartner. It refers to the need for businesses to have two different approaches to IT to reap the benefits of everything that technology has to offer, whilst essentially spreading their risk. This means having two focuses:

Mode1: the extremely low-risk evolution, support and improvement of the tech that serves their business-critical applications.

Mode2: strategic, higher-risk projects in development areas, contained where failure is allowed or even embraced as a path to great innovation. Risk without risk.

The first approach concentrates on securing robust, reliable and stable technology which is responsible for running the business and focusses on maintenance and slow and sure improvements to keep everything running smoothly. The second is about exploring, innovating, taking risks and moving at pace with the market. The overall aim is to promote quickfire changes whilst sustaining security and reliability. Sounds great if it works yeah? And to work it just needs to be done properly.

The need to merge the two has, to a certain extent, been around forever. It probably leads to some eye rolls from the tech community because managing older technology, yet trying to break into the new, is something that most CTOs have been trying to achieve for some time. The difference now is perhaps that the term Bi-Modal comes with a clearly defined strategy for how to achieve it. Having a specific title may also encourage less confident businesses to branch out more.

One of the interesting and, some would say common sense points, which has been suggested to achieve this goal, is that a different culture, set of processes, skillset or even staff temperament are required for each separate goal to be achieved. Can one person be exactly the right fit to manage both maintaining and improving the status quo, but at other times, taking huge risks with innovation? Maybe. But it takes a blameless culture in which to comfortably risk failure and that takes work to achieve.

Technology is no longer really a function of most businesses; like it or not, typically it now IS the business. For companies to successfully merge two opposing tech functions, there needs to be a wealth of communication and a cultural change where IT doesn’t sit on the periphery, but is at the core of the business, constantly up to date with changes in direction and strategy.

There is a fine line between the two functions remaining separate and working together. Their work must conflict but the team itself must collaborate, because often the innovation of Mode2’s work today will be the reliable, well-tested solutions the business needs tomorrow. If separate budgets and missions are agreed, there should be no reason why both areas cannot sit in harmony and learn from one each other.

The benefits of Bi-Modal are many. The core business functions and security are maintained, but there is a new speed and agility to innovation which is the sole function of one skilled team and budget. Innovation can be achieved with far less risk as can the failures that so often lead to it.

At Node4, we understand that legacy IT systems need managing under a watertight service-level agreement, but also that businesses need to adopt a forward-thinking and innovative approach to technology to evolve and meet particular market demands. The problem isn’t that they can’t have both; it’s that some don’t realise how easily it can be set up with a provider like ourselves. For example, it’s so easy and inexpensive, using our services gateway, to connect legacy systems to Cloud Services to support innovation, the old and the new can co-exist side by side, sharing security and backup policies/services.