2015-29-April-Question-Mark.jpg

Managers today understand that keeping up with their agile workforces is the key to staying competitive, no matter what industry they're in. But these employees aren't necessarily making that an easy task.

Employees are turning to an array of collaboration and communication solutions that suit their needs, often regardless of company policies and security standards.

That's why, for large enterprises, to balance the stability of core IT systems and the need for agile IT innovation that meets employees' demands, Gartner recommends a "bimodal IT" approach. Bimodal IT involves having a "traditional" Mode 1 and a "sprinter" Mode 2 which maintains standardized IT elements to keep businesses going, while deploying parallel experimental communication and collaboration solutions.

There's a lot of confusion about how bimodal IT really works, what sets it apart from what organizations are doing today and how it can benefit the enterprise in the long run. Here are some insights into three of the most frequent questions I receive.

Shadow IT vs. Bimodal IT

Question: What's the difference between shadow IT and bimodal IT?

Shadow IT is any solution that employees adopt themselves, either individually or as a team, without either the knowledge or the regulation of the IT department. This shadow growth has its uses, but it can ultimately endanger the security and stability of the company and create problems and counter-productivity among the workers.

In contrast, bimodal IT takes the employee empowerment of shadow IT to get work done their way, and gives it visibility and accountability in the IT ecosystem of an organization.

Employees can still have the freedom to get work done. Non-IT departments can initiate non-traditional IT projects, but the key is clear communication with the IT department regarding solutions usage and objective evaluation of the project's success. For instance, the procurement department of a global technology solutions provider can implement a collaboration platform to keep in touch and track orders across companies, leading their own charge to increase productivity and work visibility, so long as the IT department is aware and can test the solution to ensure it complies with the company's security guidelines.

Formalized Process = Red Tape?

Question: Doesn't formalizing the process of trying out new IT solutions defeat the purpose, making it sluggish and wrapped in red tape?

I often hear this misconception. One of the main functions of IT and other departments collaborating on these IT adoption projects is to make them more efficient than if individual teams went about it themselves.

While employees have the best understanding of what they need, according to the unique nature of their work and their own work style, IT leaders still better understand the most advanced agile solutions out there and the customizations and integrations available. This bimodal approach combines workers' preferences with IT expertise to streamline and optimize customized deployments, as well as to continually assess their adoption and success.

The key to workplace agility remains in the tools you choose. For example, the director of engineering for a network of healthcare centers decided he wanted both a collaboration and a file-sharing solution that he could learn and adopt quickly. He found that he was able to integrate two simple, lightweight solutions, rather than implement a heavy, complicated platform that would require a dedicated worker just to manage it. The key was to find a customizable, agile solution that didn't restrict him into one way of getting work done.

A Question of Security

Question: If the purpose of Mode 1 ("Traditional") is organizational security, does that mean Mode 2 ("Sprinter") projects can compromise on security?

Think of the traditional mode and the sprinter mode's relationship as checks and balances rather than as two opposed entities. The sprinter mode promotes innovation in the traditional mode, while the traditional mode checks the sprinter mode to prevent its agility from becoming haphazard.

Even in temporary, rapidly iterated unified communications projects, enterprise security is important, and it is ensured by transparency between IT and other departments. Any IT solution in which business information is being shared should always meet your organization's security standards.

You don't have to worry about finding an agile, customizable unified communications (UC) solution that also meets your organization's security standards, because in order to survive and compete in a vast collaboration ecosystem, it has to provide top-notch security. A good platform can accommodate even the most security-conscious companies, such as those in finance or healthcare, which must meet rigorous compliance requirements. If a financial institution wants to try out a new platform to collaborate across branches that can be deployed behind its own firewall, it can find a solution that will do just that, because customization is the fundamental principle of agile UC.

The next step to painting an even clearer picture of what a bimodal IT approach to collaboration could look like is to open up the conversation at your organization. See what your workers feel they are lacking in their collaboration, or what they believe could boost productivity, and what your IT team is capable of undertaking. There is almost infinite variety for adopting this approach, and it ultimately depends on what works best for your business to meet needs of security and stability as well as innovation and flexibility.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  takomabibelot