As the concept of bi-modal IT becomes the new ‘in-vogue’ way of organising one’s IT department, one aspect that seems to go amiss in many organisations
is the impact of Bi-modal on individuals and their career paths.
Put simply, mode one denotes the classical tenets of IT: stability, standardisation, efficiency and security. Mode two emphasises agility, innovation, scalability, flexibility and the exploration of frontier technologies that are on the cusp of becoming relevant to business.
At an individual level, mode one encompasses a wide array of technical skillsets, accreditations and experience. It calls for the kind of ‘steady hands’ that keep the core of the IT operations functioning.
Mode two, on the other hand, requires individuals with an entirely different arsenal of attributes – in disparate areas like business acumen, innovation and creativity, behavioural science, and forward-thinking approaches, among others.
One of the biggest fallacies of the Bi-modal concept is that those with purely mode one skills will lose relevance in the ever-changing IT and business landscapes.
Without doubt, there is always going to be a need for the classical IT pros – the guys who know how to apply ITIL, ISO, or other security and governance standards. There’s always going to be a place for those that must stabilise and nurture the myriad of assets that comprise the organisation’s total IT estate.
Risk, governance, compliance and security are areas of increasing, not decreasing, importance for business executives. It’s in mode one where these aspects are addressed.
Discovering who should go where?
It seems that the concept of Bi-modal IT is essentially IT Business Operations framework – forcing IT leadership to consider the best placement of their human capital.
But organisations should avoid the temptation to immediately start boxing their IT staff into certain categories. With clearly-defined skills matrixes, individual development paths, and programmes that help to cycle staff in and out of different roles, it becomes easier to determine which mode suits which individual.
Of course, there are a number of professionals who can straddle the line, and perform well in both mode one and mode two, when tasked to do so.
But with the right frameworks in place, it becomes possible for individuals to find their niche – and plot their career paths accordingly.
Encouraging the ‘big shift’
Bi-modal IT also encourages IT leadership to start shifting the focus away from the tactical world of mode one, and increasingly towards the strategic realm of mode two. This is the shift that ultimately helps drive the transition from IT being a cost-centre, to a value-adding and profit generating business enabler.
And, as more and more legacy infrastructure reaches its amortisation lifespan, and new cloud-based models become viable alternatives, the shift in thinking can accelerate: towards outsourcing the core (mode one) to trusted IT partners, while investing energy in ensuring one’s mode two operations add true business value.
The ideal scenario is that the mode two team is able to discover new insights that fuel development ideas – validating, incubating, and finally handing these new innovations to the mode one team to maintain and grow.
The organisation’s in-house IT team (mostly mode two individuals) will become closely joined-up with lines of business, as the team members capitalise on their deep knowledge of the organisation’s operating models, external market landscapes, and ever-changing customer dynamics.
Depending on the nature of the organisation, its size, its IT resources and skills, and the maturity of its IT team, the relationship between service provider and client will look slightly different every time.
But one thing that does seem likely in the future, as the Cloud revolution continues its strong momentum, is that most of the mode one professionals will find their home within the IT service provider, rather than on the client/business side of the relationship.
And while mode one professionals may continue to be the unsung heroes of the IT world, their relevance in the modern era is by no means diminished by the arrival of Bi-modal IT.
AJ Hartenberg is the Portfolio Manager at T-Systems.