Regardless of which of the following analogies best fits your sensibility: tug of war, two sides of the same coin, have your cake and eat it – mastering “Bimodal IT” will be the imperative to success for IT shops in the coming years.
If you haven’t heard the term “Bimodal IT” before don’t fret; this is a term that has only recently come to some prominence. It refers to an enterprise that pursues two specific, but opposing sets of IT goals. It was a key message at Gartner’s Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference in December. Gartner’s Ray Paquet in his keynote presentation entitled “Bimodal IT — Managing the Dichotomy in the Data Center”, referred to the two modes: The first mode, mode 1, is traditional IT. This is the type of IT that understands the importance of processes and is steeped in service management best practices. The second mode, mode 2, is exploratory IT. This form of IT recognizes the importance of agility and is focused on a speedy (and perhaps ad-hoc) response to new business needs. An IT shop that is bimodal recognizes that not just one, but both modes are required to be successful.
As you can imagine the two modes of bimodal IT could be inextricably pitched against each other. The mantra in most businesses these days is speed and agility. How can we do more with less; beat the competition and get there first. The new digital business models corporations are exploring rely on an infrastructure that is there when you need it and able to adapt to your immediate needs, preferably in real-time. How does this match up against the principles that have guided IT for decades and proven necessary to a healthy, secure and safe environment? It doesn’t. In order to protect systems and ultimately the business, we typically need to slow things down, strategize, plan, test, re-test – ultimately hamstringing any efforts to attain speed and agility.
When it comes to the systems supporting IT and ultimately the business perhaps a different approach is needed. In the afore mentioned keynote, Mr. Paquet suggested rather than either staying the course and being unable to keep pace with the business needs or switching to a more agile approach, but compromising on process and proven business practices, IT infrastructure and operations need to become bimodal. Using the analogy of sprinters and marathon runners to represent the two modes, Paquet highlighted the differences – Marathon runner style IT: focused on reliability, plan driven, process-led, IT centric, long cycle times versus sprinter IT: focused on agility, reactive, dealing with new and uncertain projects, business/customer centric, short cycle times. IT needs to embrace both of these styles to be successful.
So is the concept of running bimodal new? To some this may not seem any different than conflicts that often rage in IT. Perhaps, and this is my opinion only, the difference is that speed and agility have gotten a little faster, a little more attainable, in the last couple of years. Fueled by just-in-time IT in the cloud, ubiquitous access via mobile computing and on the horizon increasing independence from specific underlying infrastructure via Software Defined Everything pursuing “Mode 2” IT seems a lot more viable – or darkly seductive if you are in the camp of folks concerned about abandoning best practices in favor of fast results.
As for how to proceed with bimodal IT in your shop, Ray Paquet had the following advice: start now, don’t wait! However, choose a project that can be completely separate from your day to day operations; an “island project” run by a separate part of your organization. Try things out and focus on the lessons learned from this experimentation. Also, don’t forget about traditional Mode 1, but instead pursue a loose connection between the two modes.
At Unisys our “modern mission critical” approach makes it’s possible to address both of the diverse requirements of “bimodal IT”: you gain the modern aspects such as speed and agility (e.g. from cloud infrastructures, software-defined principles etc.) as well as retain the mission critical service levels with “RAS” characteristics of reliability, availability and scalability. In fact our “all x86” SDDC strategy, has this very end game in mind and incorporates a suite of our technology products and services – including ClearPath, Forward!, Stealth, EDGE and Choreographer to bring this to life.
So, in conclusion (and to use yet another analogy), don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! As you continually evolve your shop on the road of Hybrid IT, focus on becoming more agile and responsive to your business needs, but do not completely forsake tried and true best practices. Instead apply them sparingly, judiciously but remember that they are the ones that will keep you out of hot water.