Does it make sense to split IT into two entities?

Some industry leaders advocate bimodal IT as a way to accelerate digital initiatives

There's been a new term entering the lexicon as of late: "bimodal IT."

You can thank Gartner for this new term, which defines bimodal IT as "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."

clouds-over-peace-valley-park-bucks-county-pa-by-joe-mckendrick.jpg
Photo: Joe McKendrick

So bimodal IT is conventional on-premises and deployment on one side, and the new-age cloud, API, mobile and digital on the other. That's the kind of split personality IT leaders now need to assume. Gartner's Peter Sondergaard suggests that the startup culture -- with agile and speedy IT -- is now springing up within established enterprises of all types and sizes.

But many IT departments may not be in a position to support these internal startups. The problem is that "the IT organization can't turn into a digital startup overnight and, besides, there's a raft of business-critical responsibilities that it simply can't -- and absolutely should not -- divest," Sondergaard points out.The problem is that IT also needs to stay a step ahead of shadow IT, he adds.

CA's Dinesh Chandrasekhar suggests that a bimodal approach can help ease a lot of the issues IT is facing these days. This approach "allows for two modes of IT to co-exist at the same time," he points out. The fast IT mode serves as ab overlay of the first, ensuring "that we are not ripping and replacing traditional IT, which still has a valuable role to play within our environment."

The bottom-line reason for entertaining the concept of bimodal IT isn't for the sake of better IT, but to get close to customers, as Louise Ng, CTO role for cloud and automation services at HP, points out. The challenge is that transitioning to bimodal IT is as much an organizational process as it is technology adoption. Then there's decisions about which processes are best suited for the faster IT. Such decisions are shaped by "the vertical industry they're in, compliance issues, and data security constraints, as well as the risk and cost to move to a new model."

It isn't necessarily a 50-50 split, either. Some companies may have 20% of their IT focused on new-age applications, others will have more. However, Ng advises against building walls between new and traditional IT. "Putting a wall between fluid and traditional IT makes it difficult to ensure that you have uniform risk management and data-security policies and governance integrated across multiple operating teams," he points out. "It also makes it more challenging to get a single-pane-of-class view of IT operations. Multiple NOCs within one operating environment can also drive up cost and increase inefficiency--exactly the opposite of what enterprise IT wants."

Dinko Eror, VP at EMC, has advice for making the move to bimodal:

Platform choices: "Not every application needs hyper-scale, and indeed not every application needs to be hyper-agile," Eror says. "A new assessment framework within corporate IT will help developers choose the right platform for their applications as they develop and deploy them."

Application choices: "Some applications would benefit from a 'mode transfer,' and therefore need re-engineering. Assessing which of these should be prioritized to deliver maximum organizational (and end user) benefit, along with which capabilities should be prioritized for migration or be deprecated, will be important and necessary parts of the process."

Strategic planning for bimodal: "Most organizations, whether they've planned it or not, are functioning in a bimodal context," Eror points out, noting that many applications and systems have simply been farmed out to outside cloud providers -- "and almost always putting it beyond the direct orchestration and control of the business. Developing an overall plan to move from this chaotic context, to one about choosing resources strategically in a trackable and managed way, needs careful consideration."