Critical Read

Why bimodal IT is terrible

room of computers

What: "The False Promise of Bimodal IT," a report from Forrester Research.

Why: Bimodal IT is a system in which IT delivery is divided into separate agility- and stability-focused flows. But Forrester's report claims that what some CIOs see as a best-of-both-worlds compromise will only hamper organizational effectiveness.

The report lands amid comments by U.S. CIO Tony Scott in which he previewed upcoming guidance on using bimodal delivery at federal agencies with large legacy IT footprints.

Scott later clarified to FCW that he wasn't necessarily wed to any particular definition of "bimodal IT," but wanted to stress that, "[W]e've got a bunch of old stuff that we've got to manage our way out of, and have a bunch of modern approaches we will move to."

Forrester researchers say that by distancing IT decisions from the broader business, the approach threatens to isolate IT at a moment when technology has never been more integral to an organization's operations.

Its two-class setup would gut any quick-moving organizational culture, and it could enable agencies to allow badly outdated legacy systems to continue in the name of stability, the report warns.

Instead of bimodal IT, Forrester's analysts said organizations should pursue a customer- and data-driven, unified business technology approach.

Verbatim: "When the business needs simplicity-driven innovation, bimodal IT adds complexity with its siloed, two-class system around a fast and slow approach. It makes no sense to have two groups competing for funding, resources, skills and the business' attention."

Click here for the full report. Click here to read Forrester's blog post on bimodal IT.

Note: This article was updated on May 5 to add additional comment from federal CIO Tony Scott.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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