I recently went to the Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando. One theme that showed up in several Gartner analyst presentations was “Bimodal IT”, which involves using both traditional and agile approaches for designing, developing and implementing new IT projects. Bimodal IT is also a proactive and strategic way for CIOs to leverage the culture, behavior and processes often found in Shadow IT, coupled with the tried and true IT methodologies accumulated over the years.

Here are some of the interesting Bimodal IT stats a few of the Gartner presenters threw out:

  • 45% of CIOs already have a second fast/agile mode of operation
  • 64% of CIOs are pragmatic by nature
  • By 2017, 75% of organizations will have bimodal capabilities, half will make a mess

What strikes me the most about Bimodal IT is that they were really talking about organizational Left Brain | Right Brain behavior and activities. When I realized this, my first pithy thought was, “It had to be a left-brained person who named it ‘Bimodal IT’ and the clincher is they called the two modes ‘Mode 1’ and ‘Mode 2’. A right-brained person would have named it something like ‘Rapid IT’ with ‘Rubber Raft’ and ‘Kayak’ modes.” [BTW: I love understanding why people do what they do; I even co-authored a self-help book called the Kryptonite Factor, which discusses personalities and how they act based on Left Brain | Right Brain strengths and weaknesses.]

Here’s how the two modes of Bimodal IT work:

  1. Mode 1 (Left Brain) – Well-planned, long-haul projects that are process-driven, with known outcomes focused on reliability, cost savings, and ROI.
  2. Mode 2 (Right Brain) – Rapid, agile, short-term projects that are framed in creative or agile processes with unknown and exploratory outcomes focused on brand, customer experience and revenue.

If you look at successful teams, a key ingredient is having the right chemistry and skills to take on whatever challenge the team faces. If you’re creating an advertising and social media campaign, you don’t put a lot of accountants on that team and if you’re doing a year end financial report, you don’t need a lot of designers. However, you do need to have at least some representation of both brains on your team to counter-balance personality-related biases to see things from the other side. This way, you execute your media campaign on time and according to budget, and your financial report is easy to read, highlighting the key findings, and looks great to stockholders. The same is true with building out your Mode 1 (left brain) and Mode 2 (right brain) IT teams. Here is what your Bimodal IT teams should focus on and what skills or traits they need:

Left Brain Right Brain
Mode 1 Team Skills/Traits Mode 2 Team Skills/Traits
Focus on reliable systems with a predefined plan Pragmatic with the ability to structure a lot of data Focus on agility and experience with a vision, purpose or desired direction Creative, intuitive, and works well with a shared cause
Waterfall, V-model approaches Loves working within a “good” process, adverse to constant change Agile, Kanban approach Handles change well, inventive
Measure against plan/ROI Consistent goal setting and reviews about progress toward set goals Gather feedback as they go, react quickly to make significant improvements Fulfillment is in the experience – for both the team and the end user/customer
Long term goals and agreements Sequential or linear thinking Short term goals toward shared vision Prefers dynamic environments
Optimize all systems Creativity is in tweaking what’s already there – Use a right brain person here to help see more options Change agent Creative thinking to come up with next big idea
Easy to define results Quantitative, detail-oriented Less defined, experimental Qualitative, intuitive, good at making connections between disparate data
Centralized command & control Someone who takes control or is a strong follower who performs detailed instructions Make team decisions through consensus or common understanding Enjoys small, dynamic teams
Long project cycles Sense of accomplishment from what he or she does Short project cycles Celebrates continual successes – loves working on the big idea or customer cause
Operate with a set project budget Ability to perform within budget, cost-conscious Ongoing, adjustable budget spanning multiple projects or cycles Less focused on costs and more focused on results to corporate brand and experience – Need at least one left brain person here to keep team to some general schedule and budget

Traditionally LANDESK has helped companies focus on their left brain IT initiatives by automating IT processes, saving money, and speeding up longer-term projects like moving to the latest OS using LANDESK Management Suite while securing end-user devices with LANDESK Security Suite. However, we’ve also seen more companies using products like LANDESK Service Desk to create processes that track communications, help resolve issues, and provide decision-making data—for example, creating service-oriented systems that track IT tickets, library fulfillments and campus police incidents all within the same educational institution. Our service management offering is also used in creative ways to provide self-service portals or a corporate service catalog. If you want long-term success as a business, you need to use talents from both sides of your organization’s brain. So whether you’re engaged in improving processes or creating new ways to provide services, check out the integrated IT solutions from LANDESK – they’re easy on both sides of your IT brain.

Just as a side note, here are seven additional Bimodal IT ideas gleaned from the Gartner symposium:

  1. We are entering the Bimodal, or third, era of IT
  2. Bimodal is how IT can build business value faster
  3. Use both modes or you’ll die or be rendered to only an operational role
  4. Find the right mix of Bimodal IT for your business – no one size fits all
  5. Manage, fund and measure each mode differently
  6. Get started now before you think you’re ready (otherwise you’re already using Mode 1 thinking)
  7. A cultural shift is required for Bimodal IT to succeed

For more information about how to develop Bimodal IT in your organization, here are a few more links to explore: