What is Bimodal IT Operations?

Bimodal IT can be defined as the practice of managing two separate, yet coherent modes of IT delivery within the same organisation. The term was first coined by IT consultancy Gartner Inc (Wigmore, 2013), which defines the two tiers as follows: “Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasising safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and non-linear, emphasising agility and speed.”


The two-phase Bimodal IT approach recognises that an IT organisations ability to quickly respond to business goals require different groups of people, processes, technologies and budgets than the provision of traditional and reliable IT systems.

For those not familiar with the term it is explained concisely in this short clip here:

Bimodal IT in Business

Using a Bimodal IT strategy enables an organisation to create space within traditionally conservative and risk-adverse IT organisations for some disruptive experimental start-up activities. However, managing the two modes within one organisation is easier said than done and can lead to increased conflict between business and IT.

An increase in demand for scarce IT resources is not uncommon and must be taken into account when initiating a Bimodal IT programme Managing two modes of IT is not new. Forrester Research used the term “IT MOOSE” (Rouse, 2011), to differentiate between nondiscretionary budgets and discretionary budget expenditure in IT innovation. (MOOSE stands for “maintain and operate the organisation, systems and equipment.)

Bimodal IT Mode 2

IT is becoming service-orientated, virtualized and cloud-like; however, Gartner’s Bimodal IT (Laskowski,2015) Mode 2 allows organisations the freedom to start afresh and build cloud applications. Mode 2 is all about designing systems around high-level platforms and services, making the solutions more granular, distributed, scalable and stateless.

Mode 2 is the perfect place to break down silos within IT and between business units. This can be done by building multidisciplinary, project-focussed teams unencumbered by bureaucracy and empowered to make quick decisions.

Agile Development Processes

Bimodal IT Mode 2 is all about agile development processes. Current application development life cycle is measured in weeks, not years, meaning neither customers nor employees have the required patience for lengthy software development processes. To remain competitive organisations need to capitalise on the emerging digital business opportunities available to them. This approach will disrupt a well-functioning Mode 1 organisation but is perfect for Mode 2 experimentation.


Introducing Bimodal IT enables the CIO to separate IT into two modes. The 2 mode approach enables IT teams to ensure that they have the correct people, processes and technology to support business initiatives without impacting long-term maintenance projects.

For more information about Bimodal IT and how it can be applied in your business, please contact the author.


Wigmore, I. 2013. Gartner. Available: Gartner’s Bimodal IT definition [2016, April 4]

Rouse, I 2011. IT MOOSE management. Available: IT MOOSE management [2016, April 4]

Laskowski, N 2015. Gartner. Available:  Bimodal IT needed to navigate centralised / decentralised debate , [2016 April 4]

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