Guest Blog: Bimodal IT Defends Itself

An Opinion Piece, by Sir Bimodal IT

Hi there. I’m Sir Bimodal IT. Since I was knighted by Gartner a couple years ago, I’ve been taking a lot of flak from a bunch of so-called “IT experts” who say that I’m not only flawed, but dangerous to the enterprise. It’s gotten really fashionable to diss me these days. Jason Bloomberg is practically making a hobby out of it.

What does Neil Degrasse Tyson say about science? “Science doesn’t care if you believe in it.” Well, I’m like that. I don’t care whether or not you believe in me, because Bimodal IT is the reality for many of you out there.

Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed. Bimodal IT is the only sustainable solution for businesses in an increasingly disruptive digital world.
-       What it says on the Internet when I Googled myself

One CEO said that getting rid of me was critical for employee morale, because nobody wants to work in slow-mode-1 and play “whack-a-mole” on the mainframe anymore. Hogwash, I say. Have you seen the innards of a lot of these huge companies? There are hundreds of people still managing long-running migrations, and doing things like reading through stacks of COBOL records for errors. That’s the only life many of my friends know, and they’d rather hold down that fort until they retire.

Learning to be disruptive is scary, and it is frankly quite hard to recruit people with the particular set of skills necessary to both invent in a responsive way to business needs, while doing the heavy lifting of transforming stodgy old systems into paragons of innovation. Those people are either in startups, or lining up to join the Googles, Amazons and Netflixes of the world, not come work in the IT shop of your big old company, right?

Don't waste your time listening to some guru like Jez Humble when he mentions that high-performing companies are even finding agile ways to implement continuous delivery atop their existing mainframes and embedded systems that would exist in Mode 1. Seems like tilting at idealistic windmills to me.

That divide from traditional systems is where my fast-mode-2 comes in! Set up a “Center for Innovation” IT function, and put all the cool modern technologies and people over there. That enables you to recruit an agile team to invent things, without messing up any critical systems of record. Pay no attention to warnings from Bernard Golden about creating conflict between teams at the border of Mode 1 and Mode 2. Everyone should be able to get more done by sticking to what they are best at. 

Too much agility can be dangerous, especially as releases near production. If you are a development lead at a major company, making a change that negatively impacts live customer systems will get you banished, even if you can roll it back fast. Best to keep that activity safely cordoned off until fully tested. 

I did like Michael Coté’s take on me: Relax. While some pundits and west-coast Agile devotees may tell you to “move everyone faster and break things” that’s easier said than done. You see, I am simply a representation of the way change has to work outside of startup land. Bimodal may be the only way forward for many established companies who have one foot in quicksand and the other on a banana peel.

You pundits like Mark Campbell, you aren’t going to be saying “Goodbye to Buy-Mo’-Dull-IT” anytime soon. It takes serious planning, retraining, and a concerted effort to start encapsulating traditional applications in a more service-oriented, cloud-ready, DevOps-ey kind of way. Good luck with that if you expect you can do it all at one speed. The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

After all I’ve done for you, the least you could do is show me a little respect. So, that’s Sir Bimodal IT to you. Hey, wait, where are you going?

Comments (1) -

  • Jhon

    10/13/2016 10:02:21 PM | Reply

    While companies in the west are fast embracing this, companies in Africa are seriously lagging behind and this is what I aim to tap into.