What is Bimodal IT and How Does it Work?

As technology accelerates work, businesses must make IT transformations to stay ahead. Traditional development processes no longer cut it — IT teams must adopt dynamic ways to maintain current infrastructures while improving their workflows and systems to address changing market demands

A bimodal IT strategy helps to address this without chaos. Bimodal IT is a concept that was first introduced by leading global IT research firm Gartner in 2014. It is the practice of managing two distinct work modes concurrently – one mode focused on predictability and the other on exploration.

So, what is bimodal IT? This article explains all you need to know about bimodal IT, providing real-world bimodal examples and highlighting the benefits for your organization. You'll also learn how to use Wrike to set up and implement bimodal IT strategies easily.

What does bimodal mean?

Dictionary.com defines ‘bimodal’ as having or providing two modes, methods, or systems. This can be seen in IT and product teams, where members work in two distinct modes. It can also be used in traditional organizations, for example, a transportation company using two forms of carriers, such as air and rail.

In bimodal IT, mode 1 focuses on predictability and work that maintains the status quo, while mode 2 focuses on exploration, innovation, and continuous improvement of the organization's systems.

In the short term, these two modes focus on practices that yield different results. However, in the long term, they share a common goal, which is to ensure the organization uses all available resources to provide the best value to customers.

It is crucial to understand that there should be no conflict between mode 1 vs. mode 2. Both are vital to IT transformation in any organization. 

Bimodal IT examples

Every industry can benefit from implementing a bimodal IT strategy. A relevant example is the financial services and banking space. What would bimodal examples look like in a traditional bank? How would their projects and processes differ when approached from the perspective of mode 1 vs. mode 2?

In mode 1, the bank's activities revolve around keeping the lights on. This includes projects and activities that support stability and high performance, such as uploading and securing internal work applications, ensuring fast and reliable internet connections, and training staff to maximize their technical abilities within their teams. 

In mode 2, projects are focused on finding innovative ways to satisfy customer expectations and needs. An excellent example would be implementing biometric security to enhance customer account security or designing intelligent chatbots to reduce wait times on customer service calls.

Understanding the bimodal IT modes

To clarify how to categorize tasks in your bimodal IT strategy, here are precise definitions of mode 1 vs. mode 2.

Mode 1

In a bimodal IT strategy, projects and tasks must fall into well-defined and predictable areas to be categorized as mode 1. Therefore, any software development project where team members are familiar with the process and have clarity of project requirements can be considered mode 1. The project result is predictable and even expected by involved stakeholders. 

Mode 2

Projects focused on eliminating inefficiencies or delivering new products by exploring uncharted areas are categorized as mode 2. Usually, IT teams test a hypothesis on a small scale before going all-in on mode 2. Implementing this IT mode in small iterations prevents huge losses, risks, and large-scale issues from occurring.

Mode 2 is often conducted using the Agile project management framework. Agile allows for quick requirement changes throughout the development process, giving teams fluidity to respond to changes in customer preferences and market demand. 

Mode 1 vs. mode 2

The two bimodal IT modes differ in four main ways:

  • Approach: Mode 1 implements traditional IT service management (ITSM) frameworks to deliver a project. Mode 2 follows a more Agile and iterative process
  • Governance: Mode 1 projects require governance and clear, pre-approved plans. Mode 2 projects are more experimentative and unpredictable.
  • Goals: Mode 1 focuses on maintaining the reliability of current systems and software. Mode 2 looks to the future to implement improvements in the efficiency and speed of the current systems.
  • Value: Mode 1 commences a new project based on the predictable, expected value achieved upon completion, while mode 2 focuses on improving performance for improved customer experience and brand reputation.
What is Bimodal IT and How Does it Work? 2
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Benefits of bimodal IT

There are several benefits to implementing a bimodal IT strategy. Some are:

Innovation 

The limitations of a legacy system do not hold back the IT and product teams. Time and resources are managed more productively by focusing equally on maintaining efficiency and acquiring innovations.

Speed 

Separating projects and goals for different teams helps deliver complementary solutions faster. This prevents the need for one project to be put on hold while developers work on another.

Flexibility 

More established industries are disrupted by startups using advanced technologies from the beginning. Having an Agile team to keep up with changes in the industry gives an organization flexibility to meet market demand.

Zero or minimum downtime 

Taking several days to fix an issue is no longer acceptable. Having a dedicated team to ensure business-as-usual tasks are attended to eliminates the need to postpone innovative work to address current problems.

Reduction of shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to when teams and clients use third-party applications to solve problems due to the incapability of a current system. Having a team focused on innovating addresses both internal and external IT needs in the best way.

Drawbacks of bimodal IT 

Like every business concept, a bimodal IT strategy may have some drawbacks when a company adopts it as part of its IT transformation plan. Some of these are:

  • Us vs. them mentality: The separation caused by creating teams with different goals can cause an unintentional divide. One team may feel their objective deserves precedence, while the other may feel they do not receive enough resources.
  • Misuse of resources: Some businesses with great IT transformation goals may not have the know-how to innovate or build infrastructure that supports their goals, leading to a misuse of time, money, and talent on mode 2 projects.
  • Misaligned stakeholders: As great as innovating sounds, some employees and stakeholders may refuse to change from the status quo or reallocate resources to new projects. 
  • Unclear requirements: It is difficult to know when a project is 'done' when exploring new solutions and technologies. This can lead to significant issues such as scope creep. If project requirements are not defined, time and resources can easily be wasted without tangible results to show.

How to plan a bimodal IT strategy with Wrike

A bimodal IT strategy can lead to losses and expose your business to risks without proper management and execution. Changing or redirecting the IT infrastructure of an organization is no small task. You need the right tools to facilitate change effectively.

Wrike provides powerful project management software, complete with the tools and templates you need to ensure your bimodal IT strategy and implementation come together. Managers, teams, and other key stakeholders can see all aspects of ongoing projects, draw progress reports, and estimate how much resources can be allocated to achieve the organization's overall goals. 

Wrike enables both mode 1 and mode 2 projects to be run efficiently and without conflict. It equips IT managers with all they need to carry out day-to-day activities such as service requests, incidents, and change requests. It also has advanced capabilities to empower and facilitate Agile mode 2 teams in iterating and making progress with their projects.

Is your organization in need of an IT transformation while still dealing with current daily requests? Get started with a two-week free trial of Wrike to synchronize your bimodal IT goals and strategy.

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