Bimodal Considered Harmful

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In my conversations with customers and vendors over the past 18 months, I’ve been trying to find someone who speaks highly of Gartner’s bimodal approach to IT. This, by now famous, approach classifies IT into two modes: Mode 1 is traditional IT, and Mode 2 is new-style DevOps/Agile/buzzword laden IT. Mode 1 keeps the lights on, while Mode 2 goes off and does all the new, fun, ‘innovative’ stuff.

I haven’t found any.

Usually, I am met with a polite “Well it’s not completely useless” response before we discreetly move on, or something like “well, what they mean is…” explanation that re-frames bimodal to mean something completely different to what Gartner actually say.

However there are plenty of people who are happy to stick the boot in to what they see as a wrong-headed approach to running IT: Author of Lean Enterprise and Continuous Delivery Jez Humble, fellow Forbes contributor Jason Bloomberg, Tech Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise John Jeremiah, to name just three who have written about this publicly. Add to this dozens of executives with whom I have personally spoken.

I agree with them. I think bimodal is dangerously wrong and organizations should absolutely not use it.

Why Is It Wrong?

The core of the problem with bimodal is that it ignores change. What is termed Mode 1 IT didn’t start that way. Once upon a time, mainframes were new and exciting. So was client-server. The fact that many people are currently falling all over themselves in a rush to embrace the new, shiny, DevOps/Agile/nimble approach to IT doesn’t change history. What is now termed Mode 1 started out as Mode 2.