Thursday, 30 April 2015

Achieving Digital Agility with Bimodal IT without making a mess

Yesterday was spent in a workshop with colleagues from other Universities and Sheffield on Biomodal IT.

So, What does that mean? Biomodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability, and the other on agility.
Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasising safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and non linear, emphasing agility and speed.

That's the text book definition, and we spent a lot of time unpicking what it actually meant.

Gartner estimates that by 2017 75% of organisations will have a Bimodal capability. Half will make a mess.

Bimodal IT is not a nice to have - we will have to embrace it.

So, here are some notes of my key take-aways.

Bimodal is not:
Anything that splits in two.

Agile development

Pace layering

An IT capability, it's a business capability. Requires engagement from the business.

An operating model or organisational chart change

Shadow IT

This slide perhaps illustrates what the differences are between Mode 1 and Mode 2

Key risks in implementing bimodal IT:
Really important that both modes are connected. You need to work in a collaborative style with shared alignment.
You fall into the timid middle   Because second mode can look scary, there is a temptation to  de-risk it. Wrap it in comfort blanket.
Technical debt. Inevitable that you will take shortcuts. Have to monitor and manage it
Create an us and them situation. Need to create equity between teams
Renovating the core. A lot of agility in second mode comes from what you do with your core applications, so need flexibility in those

Need to apply filters to decide which projects you apply Mode 2 to. Customer experience, mobile, social, all are common

Mode 2 is always iterative. Apply the principle of producing the smallest viable product. Then use and iterate.
Have to delegate the autonomy to the team.

Need innovation management as part of governance.  Prune ideas.  Fail visibly and fail fast. 
 If the organisation is not prepared to accept failure, then it won't work.

 Need to identify people who can work in this way.

Start before you think you are ready

Some people start with an innovation lab

Or innovation team

Others start with agile

Then show how you can apply this to your digital strategy
Everyone starts small

Important thing is to start

Answer these 3 questions in order, as you go through a project:

Does this idea has value
What shape should this idea take?

How do we scale this idea


Mistake is to start with last question, or nothing will get off ground

Bimodal is very experiential, you have to do it to learn it.

You have to find a part of the business to work with you in this way. If they won't, find a different project.

Select projects which have minimal interaction with mode 1 team

Important to avoid tension between teams, Need to make sure there is equity between teams in terms of recognition and reward.  
Be careful with language
.  There has to be more that unites them than divides them -  common goals, values, priorities

Some examples from other places:

One University uses students to come up with and develop ideas - they are a cheap resource and enthusiastic.
Provide some money to have a competiton and let them work with you over the summer to develop something.

Another University has created a small innovation team in IT. 2 people - one a developer and one with a web marketing background. Exploring gamification. 
Also have students working on mobile app development.

How do you transfer things into services? Especially if developed by students
Easy to develop a bright shiny object, and then move on to next bright shiny object
Organisation needs a clear understanding of what "done " is
Mode 2 needs to take responsibility for something to be useable.
Going back to 3 questions, when you get to last one, have to decide whether you can afford to scale it or not.

A very interesting workshop, and something I am keen to take forward.

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