A tale of two ITs: using bimodal IT to achieve digital readiness in the enterprise

Customers and employees alike are pushing the digital agenda, and the pressure is on IT to deliver digital services that create competitive advantage for the enterprise. For established firms that have their roots firmly planted in legacy IT, it’s not as simple as just switching speeds. And while a full scale digital transformation may be a few years off, there are several things CIOs can do now to ensure the enterprise is ready when the time comes.

In a recent blog, we outlined the six critical components of the IT environment that an organisation needs to modernise in order to become ‘digital ready’: data centre platforms, data and information capabilities, networks, security, workspaces and working processes, and IT operations.

Yet, with modest increases in enterprise IT budgets and resources tied up in the management of existing operations, how do CIOs make this a reality?

Digital spending on the rise… but at what cost?

Despite just a 2.2% global average increase in enterprise technology spending, CIOs are making room for digital initiatives. According to Gartner’s 2017 CIO Agenda Survey, 18% of IT budgets on average are going towards digitisation. While this shift in investment pattern indicates that enterprises are responding to digital business, it shows just how much is still required to support current IT operations. And with Gartner predicting that the digital spend will increase by a further 10% in 2018, it could cause IT operational performance to suffer (if it hasn’t already).

Two ITs are better than one

However, there is a less risky, less costly way to maintain business and get the enterprise digital ready at the same time, by simultaneously managing IT at ‘two speeds’. This is what Gartner calls ‘bimodal IT’; where one mode deals with the enterprise’s existing back-end server-based systems, ensuring operations run smoothly in the current state, and the other is more exploratory; focusing on the development of front-end, cloud-based, customer-facing applications that fast-track product and service improvements to meet demand.

The IT team is divided accordingly, and can be likened to marathon runners and sprinters. The marathon group carry out day-to-day service delivery, and in the background design the long term enterprise architecture that will meet the organisation’s strategic goals and operational needs. Meanwhile, the sprint group work on the creation of high value customer experiences and bring them to market quickly, utilising digital technologies such as cloud, social, mobile, big data and analytics.

The bimodal approach enables CIOs to balance the necessity of keeping the lights on against the challenge of adopting emerging technologies. This is because they can phase in capital investments, which can mitigate the risk of IT transformation projects and make for a smoother transition.

Proof in numbers

Unsurprisingly, bimodal IT is the preferred method of modernisation among enterprises who are well into their digital journey, with Gartner’s survey reporting that 68% of leading performers have adopted the two-speed approach.

The effectiveness of bimodal IT in priming the enterprise for digital is supported not just by industry analysts but by academic research. A qualitative study released by the Darmstadt Technical University in Germany this year found that the hybrid model plays an important role in creating an IT function that effectively supports and drives the organisation’s digital agenda. The paper states that bimodal IT “serves as a transitional stage in the pursuit of embedding a higher level of agility and a stronger exploration focus in the IT function”.

A win-win

The traditional enterprise IT function is not designed to cater to both exploratory and exploitative tasks, but this doesn’t mean legacy systems have to be a hindrance to digital readiness. Bimodal IT enables maintenance and innovation at the same time, which makes it a model particularly suited to established enterprises that rely on their back-end investments for optimal business performance.

Ultimately, this two-speed approach to modernisation is one that every enterprise needs to adopt if they are to effectively prepare themselves for a digital world.

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Tags Innovation, Digital Transformation, Biomodal IT, digital enablement, digital workforce, modernisation


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