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
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
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