Bi-Modal IT: A Brief History

Dave Shepherd By Dave Shepherd August 18, 2015

A long long time ago in a Data Centre not too far away…. Mainframes and Personal Computers changed the way we do business…

These investments were significant, both financially and culturally, driven by business leaders taking ownership of new solutions and embracing the technological shift from manual to automated business processes. They led to quick adoption and belief in IT based solutions to business problems.

The Craftsmanship Era

We lived in a world where IT, on the face of it, appeared to respond to and support business demand – also known as the ‘Craftsmanship Era’. Once the business had succeeded and could see the benefits, it wanted more and more and we quickly moved from mainframes to Open Systems, Out Of the Box or Commercial Off The Shelf software solutions. Our ability to solve business problems with IT became more and more the norm: this in turn led to business leaders being able to make decisions more quickly and accurately, eventually leading to the prevalence of IT we see in business today.

IT Industrialisation: Introducing ‘Mode 1’ of Enterprise IT

We then moved on from Craftsmanship to the era of ‘IT Industrialisation’ – we could build applications and repeat them easily, quickly and to some extent economically. This initial gold rush, and the often deeply integrated solutions built into pre-existing business models that resulted, then became constrained by capital investments, cumbersome organisational structures and the strategic direction set by large independent software vendors. This is impeding further innovation and change. Where we were once able to walk a request for information between the Sales Ledger and Purchase Ledger departments, we now rely on an interface, which is described as ‘closely coupled’ and will hinder any attempt to improve, modernise or improve agility within the business.

Gartner calls this ‘Mode 1’ or traditional IT.

Business frustration with Mode 1 IT

Due to these constraints imposed on the business today by rigid, legacy IT with a high level of technical debt, the once reliable, consistent and business aligned IT departments of today are struggling to keep pace.

Business leaders are looking elsewhere for solutions to their problems, and small boutique SaaS providers and relatively low cost cloud service providers are dangling what would appear to be a ‘silver bullet’ to solve these problems. In short, business leaders have become dissatisfied with their IT departments and have a growing desire to control their own destiny. They also have a growing confidence in technology, and growing comfort in consuming IT from non-conventional sources.

This divide is widening: almost every industry I see now uses IT from external providers as well as their conventional IT departments. It is without doubt those smaller more agile and ‘digitally born’ competitors who are using this new Digital Era technology to their advantage, and are therefore disrupting your industry.

In my next post I’ll talk more about ‘Mode 2’ IT and how businesses need to plan their digital transformation efforts based on real facts around application usage investment, usage and demand.

Dave Shepherd

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