It wasn’t long ago that the concept of bimodal, or two-speed, IT was being heralded as the next big solution for companies’ IT problems. It was born out of the move towards agile IT in the early 2000s, which was all about collaboration and flexibility. The bimodal approach has meant a slower pace for some back-office applications, but a more nimble one for the development of customer-facing ones.
While some may argue that bimodal IT hasn’t been around long enough to judge its value, many organisations are beginning to discover that it isn’t up to the job of managing the complexity of today’s modern business. And this is where the concept’s next iteration – multi-speed IT – comes into the picture. Multi-speed IT includes a feedback loop, meaning testing takes place on a continuous basis, and gives it an edge over the older bimodal approach.
Why it’s time to add more gears
Bimodal IT has effectively addressed the fact that some aspects of organisations require more rapid development than others. For example, an employee appraisal system does not require the same level of speed as a customer relationship management system, which needs to keep up with the one offered by your competitors. Unfortunately, the bimodal approach can no longer stand up to the challenge of handling more complicated IT processes and the fact that nothing is truly ‘standalone’ any more.
A 2015 strategy survey of 900 ‘C’-level executives found that 88% of respondents thought IT departments should broaden their scope to evolve with the needs of the business, which isn’t unexpected in this consumer demand-driven world. However, a slightly more surprising discovery was that 81% of the respondents also said that most IT organisations don’t know how to support multi-speed IT. While most executives seem to recognise that they need to do more to ensure that their corporate IT systems are better suited to customer needs, many either don’t know how to achieve this, or don’t have the resources to do so.
Multi-speed means more flexibility
To implement a truly multi-speed approach, you need to have a methodology that encompasses all of your systems, and to understand that your customer-facing applications and your back-office applications are inextricably linked. One cannot be modified without an effect on the other, so a ‘multi-speed’ approach is required if IT teams are to be able to take an integrated approach to the ongoing maintenance and improvement of systems. Every operation needs to be adaptable.
So, how can you implement multi-speed IT?
To implement a dynamic, multi-speed model, two approaches will help:
Multi-speed IT involves making sure that your core processing systems can be accessed by modern IT tools and techniques. The strategic use of APIs to achieve this is becoming easier as the technology has developed. One example is data virtualisation APIs, which provide easy access to up-to-date company data without the delays and security concerns associated with making copies.
Legislation is also contributing to growth in API use. In the banking sector, for example, the new EU Directive PSD2 will soon be in place. This law will require banks to use APIs to provide third party providers with access to customers’ information. The onus is on banks to create the architecture to handle these APIs, as well as the extra management and security this requires. This legislation means multi-speed IT is less a choice for banks, and more of a necessity.
2) A collaborative approach – DevOps
The DevOps approach is key to a successful multi-speed IT environment. By ensuring a high level of communication and collaboration between the software development and the operations team, many of the traditional development pitfalls will be avoided, whether that’s the new IoT implementation that won’t run when the next security upgrade takes place, or the hardware upgrade that requires a different version of a key application. In many organisations, a DevOps approach now involves non-IT functions as well, ensuring that application development is fully in tune with the priorities of the business, as well as the practicalities of the technology.
Make multi-speed the future of your IT
For businesses, making the most of IT’s potential has always meant adapting working processes as new technologies and methodologies come along. For companies that want to expand fast or extend their geographical reach and need both their internal and customer facing IT systems to keep pace, the old bimodal approach just isn’t enough anymore. Simple measures such as a collaborative approach to development and the strategic use of APIs will help, but overall it’s essential for IT to become a truly multi-speed affair.