How to Implement Bimodal IT: Focus on the 4 P’s


on September 25, 2017

By now, most CIOs have heard the term bimodal IT. The approach was conceptualized to balance the competing priorities of maintaining mission-critical systems and delivering the innovative applications required for successful digital transformation.

A bimodal approach calls for two parallel modes: Mode 1 recognizes that there are areas of the enterprise that have more certainty, clear objectives, and a predicted plan. Mode 2 recognizes that in other areas of the enterprise, requirements are unclear and changing, and things are less understood at the start.

This approach is gaining popularity. According to Gartner, 75 percent of organizations will have a bimodal capability by the end of this year; however, 50 percent will make a mess of it.

Despite the overwhelming interest, CIOs and IT teams are hungry for practical insight into implementing bimodal IT within their own organizations. Drawing from our experience guiding more than 500 customers along their digital journey, we’ve identified four key aspects to successfully develop the Mode 2 capabilities required to drive digital innovation. We call them the 4 P’s:

1. Portfolio

The starting point is all about identifying the right projects, which should combine quick wins and high-value initiatives. Quick wins allow you to realize immediate success and create a wow factor, while high-value initiatives justify broader organizational change. Initially focus on creating a portfolio based on the Start-Structure-Scale roadmap (see below), followed by implementing processes to encourage and manage ideation. It helps to include new, innovative types of Smart Apps that are intelligent, contextual and proactive.

2. People

Senior executive buy-in is absolutely crucial for successful digital execution programs. Equally important is defining the person who will drive the program and the teams who will deliver on those projects. This generally entails creating multiple small, cross-functional teams made up of tech-savvy business people and/or business-savvy tech people.

As demand for these teams is often unpredictable, implementing an adaptive sourcing strategy over time is essential to coping with fluctuations and finding the right skills based on specific project requirements. Moreover, an internal center of excellence helps ensure continuity of essential talent while providing shared services and best practices to support the overall program.

3. Process

Establish processes for rapid, iterative development and instant deployment in a fail-fast, test and learn approach. While establishing the right governance and DevOps practices is ultimately critical to scaling, the initial focus is on the collaboration between business and IT and the agility required to continuously release and iterate based on user feedback.

4. Platform

The platform piece is not just about selecting the right rapid application development platform or IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning technologies. It is also about defining a cloud strategy to minimize costs and time-to-market, positioning the platform in your enterprise architecture to use it for the right reasons, integrating this with your existing landscape, applying best practices (e.g. microservices) to get optimal results, and ensuring security.

All of the above should be one coherent architecture supporting your Mode-2 processes, teams, and portfolio.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

The biggest challenge driving digital innovation is not technology, but leading change. The most effective way to do this is to implement a bimodal IT strategy, combining the rock-solid conventional capabilities of Mode 1 with new Mode 2 capabilities to deal with uncertainty and achieve the speed and agility required for digital transformation.

While all of the topics covered by the 4 P’s might sound like a lot, here’s the thing. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you don’t need to tackle everything at once. Leveraging our proven methodology and three-phase Digital Transformation Framework, we guide our customers on what to do when, so that you’re able to focus on what matters most now, without needing to worry that you’re forgetting something that will be painful to correct later on.

  • Gunnar Eriksen

    Last March I was in Norway and among other meetings, I met with the CIO of a bank/insurance company (an old friend from my EY days in Oslo), who said his biggest challenge was to bridge ICT and the business community. Now I have the solution for my next visit to Oslo, hopefully later in August or in September.