Bimodal IT leads to technical debt that must be paid, with interest

You’re doing IT wrong. Possibly. According to research firm IDC, many enterprises are facing the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation by taking a bimodal approach, which it said in the long run is not sustainable.

In a recent webinar, The Shortcomings of Bimodal IT: Digital Transformation Demands of a Full Spectrum Leadership Model, Joe Pucciarelli, IDC group vice president and IT executive advisor said other firms are recommending a bimodal approach, but IDC believes it’s critical that rather than silo off traditional IT and internal, innovative incubators, they must be integrated.

The reality for most enterprises, he said, is the gap between their best and their average ability to support IT and innovation is widening, “and the latter is not enough.” Many are struggling with the speed and high level of expertise required to support both traditional IT at-scale processes and innovation driven by business requirements, so the answer has been to split those teams. “Having two modes of IT is not an adequate response.”

Instead, it has created a great divide, said Pucciarelli. “This siloed, divided approach brings frustration, disappointment and failure in multiple ways.” For one thing, it doesn’t support healthy team spirit, he said, and the innovation side tends to operate fast to deliver business solutions without the accountability around reliability, quality and security that is expected from the traditional IT side. “It leads to redundancy and inefficiency.”

More significantly, it leads to what IDC calls “technical debt,” which the research firm defines as “work left to do.” What happens in bimodal IT, which on a simple level is fast IT versus slow IT, is the fast IT is not integrated properly with regards to things such as security, businesses continuity, cloud platforms, compliance and auditing, among others. Over time, this debt accumulates, constraining the organization’s ability to innovate, adapt and respond, while redundancy and inconsistency increase, ultimately leading to skyrocketing operational costs that in the long run bankrupt any digital transformation initiatives, said Pucciarelli. “Technical debt must be paid down with interest.”

Ultimately, there needs to be a rethinking of leadership as enterprises embark on their digital transformation journeys, a journey which many are accelerating as digital disruption is creating hyper competition in every industry, he said, highlighting fintech, which as seen a tenfold increase in investment in the past five years to US$19 billion. “Clearly it is a leadership challenge.”


IDC created its Leading in 3D framework to guide CIOs and IT leaders through their digital transformation efforts. It places emphasis on integration, change management and nurturing talent. “Leaders must handle the process of integration,” said Pucciarelli. This involves combining the lessons from the traditional IT and incubator teams.

Serge Findling, IDC VP of research, said integration must include a focus on IT service management and enterprise architecture. Integration is essential to creating customer facing applications that meet business needs. “The need for a more effective enterprise architecture is more critical than ever.”

He outlined four layers within a CIO’s operating framework to support integration (see illustration). “For each of layers, a clear set of business outcomes must be targeted. Each layer is enabled by the layer below.”

For integration that supports digital transformation to be efficient and effective, said Findling, CIOs should be asking questions. “Leadership is about asking the right questions.”

IDC sees many organizations beginning the process of digital transformation, but other research suggests IT decision-makers (ITDMs) are struggling to keep up with the increased digital demands placed upon them by employees and business leaders, according to research sponsored Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS).

Conducted by specialist research agency Vanson Bourne, the survey found that 52 per cent of ITDMs from businesses in the U.S., U.K., France, Ireland and Sweden feel their organization cannot transform digitally at the speed that management expects, while 54 per cent believe the speed of digital transformation is not meeting office workers’ expectations.

Additional challenges around digital transformation center on a lack of understanding, with 47 per cent of employees claiming they haven’t received the right training. The research also highlights a geographical split around the biggest “soft skill” barrier to digital adoption; respondents from the U.S., Ireland and Sweden state that communicating benefits of digital transformation to senior leadership is their biggest hindrance, while in the U.K. and France, the biggest barrier is understanding the business benefits of digital.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

Featured Articles

Stemming the tide of cybercrime

By: Derek Manky Technology continues to play a significant role in accelerating...

Power through a work-from-anywhere lifestyle with the LG gram

“The right tool for the right job” is an old adage...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now