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Bimodal IT may already be in your organization, you just have to find it

Having the right talent in your organization is crucial to success. When a company is lagging and just can’t seem to pull ahead of the competition in its marketplace, one solution is to acquire a startup that can do what, so far, your company has not been able to do.

This idea of having a startup-like entity within the IT organization has been named “bimodal IT” by Gartner and is an emerging trend, Penny Gillepsie, research director at Gartner, said.

“[It] is becoming a requirement for differentiation,” she added.

And while simply buying a startup in order to get the talent you need is certainly effective, it is not the only way to achieve this. In fact, you may have the IT people necessary to drive innovation already within your organization, but “you kind of have to look at your people and they will tell you where they belong,” Barbara Gomolski, managing vice president for CIO and executive leadership research at Gartner said at the Fusion 2015 conference last week.

Some employees within the IT organization are better suited to what she called “mode one” (the startup mode) and generally are the multi-taskers that like to move quickly, Gomolski said. Others are best suited for “mode two” and are the people who are detail oriented and like digging deeply into a problem.

“Your people will almost gravitate naturally based on their work style,” Gomolski said. CIOs should observe their employees and see who has the skill sets, the work ethic, the mindset that fits either “mode one” or “mode two”, she said.

Beware a house divided

While having two modes running within your organization has its clear benefits and is even essential to differentiating yourself and getting ahead, analysts said, it also has the potential to pull your team apart.

One thing to be careful about when it comes to utilizing bimodal IT within an organization, Gomolski said, is having the people within “mode one” labeled as “the cool kids” and the people within “mode two” labeled as “everybody else”.

“What I think you really have to be careful [of] is [the mentality that] mode one is hot and sexy and young and fresh and mode two is where you go to die. We don’t want to create that kind of a karma in the IT organization,” Gomolski said.

In fact, her point of view is that both are needed because it’s the two modes working together that, in the end, create success. “Mode one” may be the startup where innovation happens, but “mode two” is “where we actually scale and make it industrial grade,” she said. “So that is really on us to say, ‘Look, they’re equally important’ because, let’s face it, we cannot do everything in mode one nor would we want to.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Kristen Lee, features writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.