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Bimodal IT as a solution for Shadow IT? Nope!

NOTE: Sorry for the lack of writing last week. My Service Provider caused my domain to not function properly (ghost domains interfering) and I ended up changing Service Providers. 

On Friday, I received a message from Sanjay asking me to talk about Mode 2 IT Initiatives and how Architecture can support them. To tell you the truth, this was the first time I’d heard of Mode 2 IT initiatives. So I spent the weekend trying to understand what exactly Mode 2 IT initiatives are. And I again marvelled at how IT can come up with new names for old concepts.

Now, before I write about what I’ve learned, I want to point you to a website that is offering a copy of the Gartner report titled “Kick-Start Bimodal IT by Launching Mode 2”. This is one of the ways I find Gartner reports without having to have a licence with Gartner (which is really expensive). Click on the link, enter your information, and you’ll get a copy. Just beware that you may get Sales people calling you.

Let’s start by understanding what Mode 2 and Bimodal is. Without understanding them, you can’t talk about Architecture support.

From what I can tell, Mode 2 is a term that has been created by Gartner as a subtype of something called Bimodal IT, a new buzzword that Gartner has created. They are using the term Bimodal as a way of describe the methods of delivering IT projects.

Bimodal 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, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed. – Gartner 

Bimodal IT is the method of managing two separate types of project delivery within the same organization. The first is termed as Mode 1, the traditional “waterfall” situation where an organization delivers a project in a very stable, consistent basis. There are gate reviews for the projects and projects are delivered using plans and governance approvals.

The second method is termed as Mode 2 and is the “Agile” method of delivering projects. Rather than having the “Big Bang” approach to delivering projects where you assign a budget to specific projects, Mode 2 talks about continuous delivery of small, incremental improvements. These types of activities aren’t really project based but, rather, take asks from the business and deliver incremental improvements.

Waterfall vs Agile. Sound familiar? Except, in this case, the assumption is that an organization is using BOTH methodologies, not just one or the other.

Now, when I hear Gartner using the term Bimodal, it brings to mind a series of situations I’ve gone through with various clients where Vendors come in claiming to develop solutions using Agile methodology and it turns out that their methodology was just simply a way of delivering an application or solution that cut corners to ensure delivery in a specific time frame. They didn’t follow Agile simply because they didn’t understand Agile.

So when I hear that Gartner talks about organizations moving to something called “Bimodal”, I cringe. I don’t believe this is anything new and, in fact, is just a new name to an old concept. CIO Insight magazine wrote an article on it stating that “bimodal is too trivial–the real-world is multi-modal”. I actually have to partially disagree with that article. They may be correct in stating the real world is “multi-modal” but I think the practical aspect of this is that “multi-modal” allows organizations to avoid ANY “modal”.

How many times do we see Project Managers find a reason to avoid doing a specific activities in a PMO process?

So why has Gartner come up with this terminology? Why now with Bimodal? I have my suspicions that this is tied to the entire pressure that CIOs are facing (and passing along to their organizations) to deliver to the Business quicker and cheaper. A waterfall methodology, while ensuring projects are delivered with concrete results, is rather slow and bulky. There’s a pressure to find a better way and Gartner is probably just trying to put the proverbial “lipstick on a pig” by talking about Bimodal.

So, let’s go back to Sanjay’s Mode 2 question. How can Architecture support Mode 2? Well, first I’m going to advise Sanjay to look into how Architecture supports Agile. There are lots of articles on how the various layers of architecture (Enterprise Architecture, Solution Architecture, Application Architecture) deal with Agile and, by looking at those articles, you’ll find ways of supporting Agile. For example, I found this article titled “5 ways to make Agile work for Enterprise Architecture“. My search in Google for “enterprise architecture” “agile methodology” came up with 31400 results.

But I’m going to suggest a much more important approach by suggesting that by looking at Mode 2 or Bimodal doesn’t really deal with the core issue, which is that the Business wants results faster and cheaper. It’s this demand that is causing a growth in ‘shadow IT’ and causing IT to become viewed as not supporting the business. So let’s focus on the core issue rather than the Mode 2 question.

Stratecast (a division of Frost and Sullivan) produced a study for McAfee called “The Hidden Truth Behind Shadow IT” and had 6 primary findings tied to Shadow IT:

  1. Lack of Approvals – around 35% of all SaaS applications are used without having gone through an approval process.
  2. Everyone Does It – it turns out that it’s not just LoB personnel that use Shadow IT but also IT personnel. So IT is avoiding IT processes. Interesting.
  3. Lack of clear and agreed to SaaS policies – In other words, organizations typically don’t have a plan on how to use SaaS, if they should, in what circumstances, and how to get approvals. Plus, it’s not clearly communicated with ALL employees.
  4. Employees just want to do their jobs –  in other words, people want to get work done and don’t want to be slowed down waiting for others to gets stuff done. Plus, they want to use a tool that they feel comfortable with rather than one that is “foisted” on them by others.
  5. It’s not just one type of SaaS app – it’s not just one area in a business that uses SaaS, it’s all areas. 
  6. People that use Shadow IT understand the risks but feel justified – so there’s going  to be two possible reasons for this; either people don’t fully understand the risks OR the risks are overblown by those that make decisions (eg. IT Managers, EA, Security, etc.).

So this tells me that the entire process of delivering IT solutions:

a). takes too long

b). does not deliver what the individual employees want, regardless of LoB (including IT)

c). has a perception of not supporting the business

So now we come to the crux of the matter. Mode 2 / Agile / etc. are meant to speed up the process and adjust to what the business wants by taking smaller steps and adjusting on the fly. But, by speeding up the process, you reduce the surity that a project will deliver, you are much more tactical, and you reduce the governance aspects to the delivery of IT solutions.

Plus, by having two methodologies (a waterfall and an agile methodologies) you introduce the opportunity to create multiple hybrids of project processes and that means you end up with nothing working well.

There are 3 layers to an Architecture practice; Governance, Strategic, and Project level. Each layer has a part to play in the delivery of solutions but there needs to be a way of ensuring that the 3 issues are dealt with. But you have to remember that each aspect or process adds time to delivering. So can you have these 3 layers and still deliver with speed?

I’d actually have to say that, without having these three layers, you actually will have things taking longer, not quicker. From the Project level, you know what to deliver and, as a result, you can get really good of delivering the same thing over and over. But, just because you have a Project process doesn’t mean that everyone’s demands to be included in the project level processes should be included. 

From a Strategic level, if you don’t have strategy, you can’t plan longer term and, as a result, will have higher costs and it will take longer to actually change directions. But strategy means talking to the right people, not being self-focused.  Otherwise, it’s the same as not actually having a strategy in the first place.

From a Governance level, guidance on how to get things done supports the organization as a whole and ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. If everyone can do what they want, then all of a sudden, you have a very dysfunctional organization. But if you don’t communicate the “WHY” of the governance, people can’t make informed decisions. 

Shadow IT exists because people need to find a way of doing their jobs as quick as possible and as easy as possible. People are, by nature, lazy. So they will always look for the quickest and easiest way of doing things. So Architecture needs to look at all the things that the End Users do and figure out how to make it as easy as possible for them to do their jobs. If it’s harder to work internally than it is to find a solution externally, Shadow IT will continue to exist. 

Mode 2? Agile? Nice thoughts but wrong question. Deal with the core issue and your organization will be that much better off.