Innovation Management & Enterprise Architecture’s Role in Bimodal IT

Coasting and jogging was okay when IT was an agent of support. Infact, the intermediate pacing was ideal for the job, that required teams to operate and maintain mission-critical legacy infrastructure. But since the ascent of digital business, IT teams are now front and center and have garnered a new onus to innovate – and innovation is a sprint.

The problem is, IT’s old guard is far from retired and the support cogs still need to turn. Yet expecting a legacy/traditional IT team to take up the mantel of ‘new IT,’ is akin to substituting chalk for cheese at a dinner party for mice.

Enter bimodal. The technology equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Bimodal IT is a Gartner-coined term and IT practice that fundamentally acknowledges the separation between new and old IT.

Bimodal IT – A Jog vs. A Sprint.

Mode 1 vs Mode 2, Jog vs SprintThe two (bi) modes couldn’t be more different – Mode 1 is more suited to the traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. Whereas mode 2 is primed for non-sequential and often ad-hoc, emphasizing agility and speed.

A well executed bimodal IT practice seeks to blur the lines between the antitheses, and create a harmony between the teams.

Why Bimodal?

Industry adoption of bimodal practices is already evident. In a 2015 study, Gartner spoke to CIOs to determine their spending priorities for 2016. (Further reading: for CIOs 2016 concerns, click here)

They found that from a list of twelve, mode 2 occupied half of the list, and of the top three, mode 2 accounted for the number one and third spots respectively.

2016 Investment priorities

But adopting bimodal shouldn’t be solely down to industry trends – your business should adopt the practice on its own merit.

The reason being, is because bimodal is fundamentally intertwined with the DevOps and Agile Development philosophies – coupling rapid, evolutionary application and service development with IT operations and maintenance to deliver products on a rapid release cycle. This is an idea that resonates with organizations both big and small, as organizations across the board are already familiar with concepts such as Agile and Lean.

Implications of moving to Bimodal IT

This table shows the implications of IT moving to a bimodal setup. Remember, the overarching goal of Mode 1 is reliability, supporting the business critical applications, whilst the goal of Mode 2 is to enable the business and IT to act with agility in response to new opportunities and challenges.

bimodal implications
Source: Gartner

Why decouple mode 1 and 2 in this way? Well, legacy systems are typically responsible for an organization’s most critical processes – managing critical data – and are valued for their reliability, availability and security. With these “brownfield” environments, it is far too complex and risky to experiment with innovative new ideas and introduce cloud services.

Where does Enterprise Architecture fit in?

Enterprise Architecture (EA) helps in several key ways. Firstly, in identifying your Mode 1 and Mode 2 assets; but also in improving communication throughout the organization, building accurate models and roadmaps, understanding the impact of change and identifying the real costs.

Additionally, EA helps in increasing project success and reliability, standardizing business and IT assets, and in traceability of objectives to projects for increased visibility.

It’s nearly impossible to experiment with innovative application development tools and cloud services on brownfield environments: the IT equivalent of spaghetti code, a byzantine tangle of systems, software and support personnel.

Instead, the bimodal approach identifies areas where IT has less to lose, but large potential gains, by using iterative development, new software tools and public cloud services. Many times, even the business model for an emergent IT service isn’t well understood and subject to rapid, market- and user-driven change. Here, it’s far better to have development and IT operations’ processes with the smallest possible overhead.

While the tortoise wins the slow, steady marathons, the hare is far better on an unpredictable course full of twists and turns.

Defining Mode 1 dependencies

To understand Mode 1 dependencies in your enterprise architecture, you should ask yourself questions such as:

  • What are the key systems?
  • What affect do they have on key processes?
  • Which locations are impacted?
  • Which organizations and roles are responsible?
  • What data is affected?
  • Is there any technology required?
  • Which business capabilities are affected?

One way to identify Mode 1 EA concepts is by querying relevant attributes. For example: all Business Processes that have high criticality AND all Applications that are supporting critical business processes. Applying this type of query to your EA models helps you visualize the assets and their relationships.

Identify Mode 2 candidates

To identify Mode 2 assets in your enterprise architecture you should identify concepts with low to medium Risk attributes, and high or relatively high Organizational Value attributes.


Running this query on your architecture models helps you visualize assets that fit Mode 2 IT approach. An example of this is shown below:

Visualizing Mode 2 assets

Different viewpoints, such as circular diagrams, can then help you better understand the relationships between your concepts.

Diagram - circular layout

Introducing an Innovation Management process

A managed innovation process feeding into your enterprise architecture workstreams acts as a mechanism for discovering the opportunities associated with Mode 2 assets. You can see in this framework, new ideas and initiatives (in the upper-left) relate to overall approach.

Innovation framework

Innovation Goals and Campaigns

Campaigns are an effective tool in focusing innovation/ideation efforts around an objective or goal. But how do you know where to focus first?

Our recommended approach is to target the “low hanging fruit” that you’ve identified by classifying Mode 2 assets. These efforts can then be aligned to the CIO’s goals with the use of Business Capability Maps and Motivation models.

In this example, you can see that the concept called Claim Management is both a Mode 2 technology priority and is connected on the Motivation view.

Innovation ManagementInnovation Management

In Summary

A strategic planning lifecycle can support a bimodal approach to enterprise architecture. Businesses should use traditional enterprise architecture to identify Mode 1 dependencies and Mode 2 dependencies, answering questions such as: “What attributes make Mode 1 assets for you?”

Additionally, organizations should command innovation management to look at opportunities for Mode 2 assets. This way, business leaders can discover and focus innovation on areas of the business/architecture that carry less risk but considerable value.

A firm grasp of these principles can be the difference in adopting a truly bimodal approach, readying your business for the present market, whilst future proofing processes by enabling a truly Agile method of responding to change.

1 Response

  1. Interesting and well-written article, for those that understand this approach getting the business to understand this can be challenging when budgets and long term view is constrained. Nevertheless its worth aiming for.

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