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What’s Behind the Bimodal IT Trend? | LiquidPlanner

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What’s Behind the Bimodal IT Trend?

Bimodal IT

Bimodal project management has generated a lot of noise since the recent Gartner PPM Summit. The need for bimodal project management arises from the growing issues around bimodal IT, which relies on two IT modes:

  • Mode 1 is more traditional and targets back end systems.
  • Mode 2 is Agile for new development projects.

These two modes present challenges that call for a new form of project management, what Gartner calls bimodal project management.

If you work in the information technology (IT) industry, it’s easy to see a myriad of project management processes. Consequently, some parts of bimodal project management might have a familiar ring to them.

Simple approaches

A Gartner press release introducing bimodal project management recommends a simple approach to determine the right mode for the project. This is common sense for most folks these days, except for enterprises that want to torque their developers for whatever reason.

Bimodal project management splits mode 1 out into corporate back-end systems that act as systems of record. Gartner categorizes financial systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) as systems of record.

Gartner doesn’t see mode 1 projects as competitive differentiators; the same may not go for all enterprises. However, I foresee that APIs along with the cross-integration of backend systems, and the introduction of mobile apps will write a different future for these mode 1 projects in some enterprises.

Since the intent of mode 1 projects is to be slower moving and more foundational, my question is this: How much longer will mode 1 in bimodal project management last as enterprises are moving backend systems wholesale to the cloud?

Bimodal project management treats Mode 2 projects as more agile, explorative and iterative with longer-term goals. Gartner refers to mode 2 projects as “systems of innovation.” Agile programming and Agile project management continue to grow in popularity, and mode 2 plays well into that phenomenon. Mode 2 projects are systems of differentiation because their features are your competitive differentiators in the market.

Bimodal governance

Gartner sees enterprises struggling with Bimodal Governance. The concept of bimodal IT does point to a need for differentiated project management. On the staffing side, I could see bimodal project management bring out a more operational/departmental level need for system administration, and more project management skills to help keep mode 1 systems purring.

Back to my point about moving applications to the cloud: Mode 1 project governance will be weighted toward managing vendors and tracking service level agreements (SLAs) to make sure that the cloud vendor is providing services as per the services contract. There might be an added layer of project management complexity if you are dealing with a services engagement along with that cloud application.

In his article, What Gartner’s Bimodal IT Model Means to Enterprise CIOs, Bernard Golden calls bimodal IT too neat of a distinction. I tend to agree because each enterprise is dictating their future with the technologies that meet their operational and customer requirements.

For example, there’s a lot of room for interpretation and flexibility in governance, especially when you get into mobile apps and the cloud. There might be cases where mobile and cloud development follows an Agile track, depending on project requirements. I could also see mobile app development on an Agile track, and cloud development on a more traditional track.

bimodal IT
It’s about the outcome

If you’ve ever been caught in the battle between processes and execution, you’ll be happy to hear that bimodal project management is outcome-focused. Gartner tries to draw a contrast between determining how to measure the outcome of mode 1 vs. mode 2 projects.

Gartner uses the example of a sales organization requesting a new CRM system through the usual process: They make a request, develop a business case, approve the business case, and then IT works with the sales team to implement a chosen CRM that’s configured to the sales organization’s requirements.

Then they lump mode 2 projects as explorative and perhaps may not have an obvious list of requirements from capabilities from the outset. Gartner recommends specifying a specific business outcome for mode 2 projects by agreeing on a specific business before the project starts.

Consistency and responsibility

Gartner promotes consistency and responsibility for bimodal project governance once the project kicks off. Projects fall to the “people who can make things happen.” There also needs to be people managing the entire portfolio in the eyes of Gartner. These used to be called maintenance and development modes once upon a time.

Enterprises are probably already doing this as more business units manage their own cloud platforms. For example, a sales organization designates sales operations people to administer the day-to-day operations of their CRM platform. IT project management may only need to be called in for assistance in cases of a major platform migration or upgrade.

New product development would still follow IT department and Agile practices.

Bimodal project management and you

Kurt Marko in Bimodal IT: A New Buzzword for Old Concepts Presents Teachable Moment on captures my feelings about Bimodal IT.  I think bimodal project management is a repackaging of old concepts but worthy nonetheless.


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