Can a business have two competing approaches to delivery and operations of their information infrastructure and be successful? If you follow Gartner recommendations, it would seem that bi-modal IT is the way to go. Bi-modal IT has been explained many different ways, but, ultimately, comes down a failure in leadership; allowing a subset of IT to continue to operate in an non-optimal way because it’s too expensive and difficult to transform. This results in formation of a secondary subset of IT leveraging emerging trends that have demonstrated results to deliver modern information infrastructure faster with reliability.
If we examine from the 50,000 foot view, bi-modal IT actually makes a lot of sense. Disruptions are happening everywhere and businesses need to respond quickly. For many of these businesses IT can barely keep the core systems afloat let alone bear the burden for handling creative exploitation of massive data growth, enhanced customer experience and transformation to new compute platforms. A nimble team with the right skills can facilitate forward movement in these areas with little disruption to the core business. Moreover, they can establish a framework and approach that enables the core business to adopt when ready.
The issue is when we move down to 5,000 feet, this strategic viewpoint becomes a series of tactical actions that have the potential to spell long term disaster for the business. For example, the data that feeds many of the new digital applications is actually housed in systems being managed by the “traditional IT” group, which means that the “fast” team now is reliant upon the “traditional” team to enable access. Needless to say this is fraught with many hurdles; everything from heel-dragging due to animosity to lack of skills to lack of slack time needed to make the changes to support. While the stick might help with heel-dragging there’s little it can do to fix the lack of skills or slack time issue.
Technical and operational debts are finally coming home to roost for many of these businesses. Lack of attention to automation, documentation, training and staffing are now creating a Sophie’s Choice for many IT and business executives.
- Where do we invest?
- Do we spend time and money making what we have work better before addressing the needs to compete in a digital economy?
- If we do this, how far behind will we fall?
- If we follow a bi-modal IT strategy, do we risk losing critical resources needed to support our existing systems?
For years we’ve been telling the business that downsizing and budget cuts for IT is a mistake. The reduction in headcount and budget continued to squeeze existing resources to take on more responsibilities. As we now know through DevOps research the larger the quantity of work-in-progress being managed the more likely the increase in defects during the build process and the higher the likelihood of outages in production.
If there is a possibility to escape this conundrum, it most certainly is not bi-modal IT. Leveraging a nimble team to meet the needs of digital economy is fine, but they must work cooperatively with the traditional IT teams. Prioritization of backlog and increased transparency with the business is critical for moving forward. The business has to accept they can’t do everything they want that’s new and keep all that’s running today. Specialization must be reduced through standardization to reduce complexity and bottlenecks. Increased automation efforts will reduce time spent on manual operations and afford time to support other key efforts. Visualization and communications of work-in-progress across teams will minimize conflict and foster faster prioritization of critical efforts. Finally, moving to fewer changes with increased number of releases will enable the business greater opportunity to prioritize efforts.
In summary, one could say that the fix for IT isn’t going bi-modal, but adopting continuous delivery and lean IT approaches.