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The Human Challenge of Bimodal IT

Simon Ratcliffe

Simon Ratcliffe
Principal Consultant, Advisory

The evolution of cloud computing, software as a service, the internet of things and big data have already initiated changes in how IT departments operate. One of the biggest challenges IT departments face today is maintaining services essential to functionality while providing innovative solutions that allow the business to grow. Creating a unified IT department that integrates both stable and agile approaches can be challenging, but there is a solution: bimodal IT.

What is bimodal IT?

Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery—one focused on stability (Mode 1) and the other on agility (Mode 2). Adopting a bimodal approach allows organisations to deliver their core functions while simultaneously reacting to the new, disruptive digital agenda and delivering the competitive advantages upon which the business relies.

Establishing bimodal operations is a significant challenge for many IT departments: it necessitates the adoption of two distinct approaches across a single departmental entity, which requires not only two separate methods of working, but two different technology platforms as well.

Implementing Mode 2 operations

The majority of organisations are already able to deliver a Mode 1 approach because it is the traditional, sequential and process-oriented method by which IT is delivered. Mode 2 operations—the adoption of an agile, people-centric approach that comprises a high volume of small iterations and allows for failure as part of the process—is the mode new, disruptive organisations utilse to develop and evolve their offerings. To compete with these disruptors, established players will need to adapt. Unfortunately, few established organisations are able to quickly and efficiently adopt Mode 2 operations for several reasons.

Agility and creativity

Agility and creativity, two words that have not traditionally been associated with the IT department, are the primary focus of Mode 2 operations. This new approach to IT often requires established organisations to update recruitment methods and develop new ways to manage and lead talent. While many organisations have attempted to embrace Mode 2 operations by modifying their existing approach to talent management, many of these attempts have failed due to a lack of change implementation across leadership and management within the organisation.


More so than Mode 1, Mode 2 depends greatly on teamwork. If people are at the heart of the digital age, then IT needs to empower and motivate their staff to not only embrace change but to be a fundamental element of the change itself. Essential changes to operations—and the way in which team members are recognised and rewarded—need to be implemented to achieve success.

Reports suggest that many organisations have attempted to recruit using a different staff profile but have not succeeded in implementing all of the other elements required to drive cultural and behavioral change within an organisation.


For an agile, Mode 2 approach to work, IT departments need to integrate—not just align—with the business. While tools and techniques exist to facilitate communication between IT departments and business leaders, the most beneficial way to successfully implement and maintain Mode 2 operations is having a trusted partner manage the transition. A hybrid IT service provider can assist both departments, broker relationships across the organisation and ensure all parties’ needs are met.

Bimodal IT operations will be increasingly important for established organisations as more disruptive companies continue to enter the market, and hybrid IT service providers will serve as the most effective way for established players to stay competitive.

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