It seems not so long ago (6 months in fact) that we were writing about Bi-Modal IT and how it has the potential to help deliver your IT portfolio - with the idea of multi speeds or modes of operation dependant on the project and end deliverable. Well move on 6 months and we are seeing more and more of our customers start to look at multi-mode or multi-lane delivery within their organisation - with two modes/speeds not being fit for purpose.
Bi-Modal and Adaptive IT
This type of thinking resonates with us here at Coeus, we have been tracking and using two models in our work, "Bi-Modal" as defined by Gartner and "Adaptive IT" as proposed by the CEB. We even like to stretch it out to good old fashioned leadership here and there, who would have thought it. In reality, we are finding that "Bi-Modal" happens to be a great way of first level triage, to try and understand what is more operational vs innovative/leading in focus. It is a fantastic initial way of visualising how different parts of your organisation work and describing it in an understandable way. In fact it's the attributes that are seen as key differentiators between the two modes that help organisations and people to assess their projects more effectively we think.
We are seeing that Bi-Modal rarely covers the full culture and need of an organisation and actually Adaptive IT is a much better model of how to define, design and deliver as required in any specific circumstance. Adaptive IT allows you to run however many modes you wish and therein lies its strength and weakness. What is the right number, how do you ensure you don't end up in a world of multiple methods and multiple speeds.
Adaptive IT relies heavily on Leadership, being able to decipher the optimum way to deliver something in your organisation using core building blocks and resisting the urge to send everything off on its own way. And here is where we think the two models -work in tandem, Bi-Modal creates the two big general buckets of how we should tackle a problem. Adaptive IT gives us the flexibility to choose the next level of granularity when it comes to delivery and allows us to set multiple lanes/modes of delivery that are suited to our environment.
So what are we saying?
Well to us it appears that as usual you are best served by using the methods, frameworks and associated buzzwords as you see fit in our organisation. It's unlikely that you will be best served by pinning your flag to one idea or another, as it's much better to adapt and pull the best bits for your situation. But here lies the crux of the problem, to be able to do that you need great leadership and a fundamental understanding of what you are good at, where you need help and align it with your method and modes to define your operational speeds. Let's look at a cracking example with one of our larger FMCG customers. Their initial view being that single mode was all they would ever need and it worked fine. After one week onsite and working with their demand teams, there was a general consensus that actually they needed three modes of operation all with their own characteristics.
Marketing - (weeks) agile, transient, temporal, visible but lifetime of 3mths, low IT strategic impact but low lead time / planning etc
Back-office - (quarters & years) traditional IT waterfall activities, manage risk, manage cost, competitive sourcing market, mid-term life and consequences
Operations - (years & decades) very constrained evolution, sustaining model, low volume but business critical, limited sourcing options
We think that there is a combination of things that could help them, including – recognition and formalisation of a multi-speed approach for certain business domain use-cases and prior simple expectation management with the units (e.g. brochure style playbooks, menus of services & capacity for these differing routes). Have we completed this journey? No, it is ever evolving. But what we do know is that the task of understanding the cycle time requirements alone has helped the business to understand the limitations and frustrations being felt in the delivery of key IT services - a key first step into understanding how to get things right.