Picking the right first project is a key element of implementing bimodal IT and getting your digital innovation initiative off the ground quickly. We’ve written recently about what that first digital application should look like. But as someone responsible for implementing bimodal IT within your organization, how do you go about finding it? For many organizations, especially larger ones, this can be a challenge.
I was discussing this recently with Vincent de la Mar, a Strategic Accounts Director at Mendix who works with executives at dozens of large organizations to implement bimodal IT and digital innovation programs. He says one of the main reasons many organizations face challenges identifying and prioritizing project ideas is the historical disconnect between IT and the business.
“Business leaders have been burnt by too many failed IT projects, and this has hampered innovative ideas from spreading within many companies,” Vince tells me over coffee. “For that reason, executives tasked with getting Mode 2 off the ground often don’t have visibility into the full backlog of project ideas. They may be aware of a handful of very large and very strategic projects, but these aren’t ideal proving ground for Mode 2. So what happens is, many teams get stuck and internal momentum stalls.”
The ideal first Mode 2 project is a delicate balance of sorts. On one hand, it should be what Gartner refers to as an “island project”—something limited in scope and with little, if any, external dependencies so that it can be delivered quickly. On the other hand, it should be a highly visible project with executive support that will deliver tangible business value. Ideally, you’ll have already selected this project when adopting a platform like Mendix so that you can get started immediately, delivering value within the first 30 days.
The Matchmaker: uncovering and mapping business ideas to Mode 2 IT
Therefore, a solid strategy to find and qualify Mode 2 projects is key. One common thread Vince has identified from working with companies to implement bimodal IT is that there needs to be what he calls a “Matchmaker”—someone in Mode 2 that has the trusted relationship with the business required to identify and prioritize project ideas. This Matchmaker comes in many forms, depending on the organization, its maturity and how it has chosen to structure bimodal IT.
Here are four possibilities:
- Chief Digital Officer (CDO) – One insurance company recently appointed its first CDO, someone who had been with the company more than two decades and had a trusted relationship with the business. This CDO reports to the CIO responsible for implementing bimodal IT and therefore is in a perfect position to uncover high-impact opportunities for the Mode 2 team.
- LOB Representatives – At another organization, the individual responsible for implementing Mode 2 was a business executive that reports directly to the CEO. In addition to coming from the business, this executive made the smart move to tap individuals from sales, marketing, and operations for his Mode 2 team, enabling access to ideas that will feed their ongoing success.
- Business Analysts (BAs) – At a third company, which already had strong business-IT alignment, that Matchmaker role was ideally suited for the company’s BAs. Already embedded deep into the business, these BAs would provide the CIO (the Mode 2 champion) with the insight into business needs required to build a roadmap of Mode 2 projects.
- Project Management Office (PMO) – Finally, at a large financial services organization with more formal structure and processes, the Matchmaker role was played by the PMO. The heads of the PMO lead monthly brainstorming sessions with business and IT stakeholders in order to identify and vet new project ideas.
When building your Mode 2 team—whether you call it an innovation team, digital team, strategic initiatives, shared services, etc.—it’s important to identify not only those people who will build new applications, but the individual(s) that will help cultivate new ideas. These Matchmakers have a deep understanding of, and relationship with, the business, which they leverage to uncover new opportunities that can be exploited with Mode 2.
The key is to find the Matchmaker(s) within your own organization and with their help, start to open the dialogue between business and IT, through monthly stakeholder meetings to prioritize new Mode 2 projects, online forums and collaboration tools, innovation desks, and more.
If you’re looking for more guidance on implementing bimodal IT, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ve guided more than 500 companies along their digital journey and have a proven methodology based on our 4 P’s of digital transformation, including portfolio workshops to help define your digital transformation roadmap and identify suitable Mode 2 projects.
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