June 28, 2017
We live in a world that has forgotten how to wait. We burn our mouths on hot pizza, we run red lights, we fast forward through commercials – the list goes on and on. In a society that places such high value on speed, it’s interesting that many stakeholders are OK with a leisurely pace when it comes to devising and enacting digital innovations
Perhaps not OK with, but complicit enough not to rock the boat. Traditionally, organizations divide their digital infrastructures into two worlds. There are front-end experiences – interaction layers and user touchpoints – and back-end systems – the legacy softwares and technologies that power digital performance. Although distinct, companies lump the mechanics of both components together when making improvements, treating what are in reality separate initiatives as one massive project.
Fortunately, this mindset is quickly changing as legacy digital-transformation strategies become less and less able to deliver on consumers’ expectations for rapid, seamless digital experiences. The emphasis on time here isn’t an exaggeration.
The Call for Bimodal IT
According to our recent study, one-in-five organizations (19 percent) lack an architecture that allows changes to be deployed quickly and continuously to address business requests. Likewise, 76 percent of organizations report that the average duration of a technical initiative from business request to deployment is six months or more at their organization, with over a third (34 percent) saying it takes at least one year.
A 12-month release cycle for new digital experiences leaves organizations dead in today’s market. That’s why it’s hardly surprising that bimodal IT strategies are popularizing in response to real-world demands for speed and ease. Conceptually, bimodal IT is quite simple. By detaching front-end and back-end systems to instead manage each via separate workstreams, organizations are empowered to quickly iterate on the front end. Rather than doing everything at once and allowing the slowest component to set the overall deployment pace, companies can get user-experience improvements to market faster while still pursuing more complex back-end updates over time.
To me, bimodal IT is like riding a tandem bike. The machine can certainly move with just one person peddling, but the entire operation is more efficient, and frankly more enjoyable, when both riders put in effort at the same time.
However, unlike a tandem bike, it’s important to note that our digital transformation riders don’t always have to pedal at the same speed. Because front-end and back-end goals are pursued simultaneously but along independent timelines, the wheels can spin at different rates without stopping the forward momentum of the whole.
Merging Legacy Systems With Scalable Bimodal Solutions
Plenty of people in the CIO and CTO roles are being pushed to adopt a bimodal IT structure, or are already advocating for it themselves. However, they’re working against decades of legacy systems and mindsets.
Older back-end systems engineered within enterprise environments are often frankensteined together by multiple people. They also touch numerous complex and custom processes across all departments of an organization. This makes back-end systems tough to update, and the stresses of change overshadow legacy systems’ greatest weakness – prioritization of larger and slower upgrades over the rapid needs of front-end experiences.
Again, the numbers don’t lie. Eighty-four percent of respondents say their organization has disparate legacy systems that impact the speed of development of new digital experiences. Legacy systems may be a thing of the past, but the time-limiting impact on organizations are still very much a reality of the present.
With this in mind, what bimodal IT earns is not cost savings or cutting corners, but agility. The strategy also does not eliminate legacy systems, but makes them easier to work with and work around. When front-end and back-end endeavors are viewed in isolation, companies no longer have to gate their overall releases processes by whatever the slowest timeline of change may be. However, this benefit becomes problematic when it’s treated as an excuse to avoid the parts of a digital infrastructure executives simply don’t like.
Hard and fast rule: bimodal is not shorthand for “we can do this cheaper” or “we can leave legacy systems as they are and still be OK.”
The velocity of change may be independent for each part of the larger digital transformation roadmap, but front-end and back-end changes must still progress in a holistic manner. Why? Because truly successful digital transformation demands thinking critically about all aspects of your business, not just the parts that are the most appealing.
At PointSource, we follow through on that promise to help address our clients’ unique digital transformation needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for change, which is why bimodal IT is not only a trend we’re excited to see growing industry-wide but a strategy we’re eager to use when working with your business.
Curious what your timeline looks like? Contact us to find out!