November 1, 2015

Bimodal IT is an impractical invention from the Gartner marketing department. Although Gartner has yet to release a documented regimen for Mode 1 or Mode 2, would like to respectfully chip away at the three cornerstones on which Bimodal IT rests.

It’s a New Approach for Today’s Digital World: This is not new at all! The tension between agility and stability goes back to the foundational days of IT. A short walk down Memory Lane includes: “IT vs. Shadow IT”; “Dev vs. Ops”; “on-prem vs. cloud”; “native vs. Web-based”; “mainframe vs. client server”; “waterfall vs. incremental”; “batch vs. interactive”; “analog vs. digital”; and even “David vs. Goliath.” The tension between sturdy and slippery has fueled IT innovation since Herman Hollerith got his first slide rule.
Two Separate (but Equal) Modes: An astute student of IT history may point out that in the examples cited above, several require three, four or even five approaches. It wasn’t really just waterfall vs. incremental. It was waterfall vs. incremental vs. rapid prototyping vs. extreme programming vs. ad hoc. Why? Because the agility vs. stability postulate is a false dichotomy.
Since the early days of IT, there have been many axes of tension besides agility and stability–how about the old RAS model (reliability, availability and serviceability), security, affordability, scalability and all the other little “ilities.” Said another way, bimodal is too trivial–the real-world is multi-modal. You need as many solution approaches as you have business drivers. It is not as simple as an “either-or” bifurcation. As always, today’s pressing IT challenges are an “all-and” problem. It turns out that human society has developed an entire practice to balance the tradeoffs of opposing constraints and offer the best blend to solve the problem at hand–we call this arcane art “engineering.”


-Rakesh I

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