Synchronize two-speed IT to create your digital business

  • Posted on March 3, 2015

Synchronize 2-speed ITA topic that is near and dear to my heart is the notion of two-speed IT.  Another popular term is bi-modal IT, which was coined by Gartner.  Another way to say this is operating mission-critical systems while also successfully inspiring, enabling, and realizing the innovation that the Digital Business requires.

While balancing these two mandates may feel like a Cirque Du Soleil act or a Mission Impossible movie, I've found that the most successful technology leaders in this space share a common approach.

At first, the two mandates feel independent and therefore like two entirely different programs.  On one side, some leaders focus on maintaining and renovating the core, ignoring the innovation mandate, leaving it to those with time, passion, and/or get to it when maintenance and upgrade cycles allow.  Does this separate IT from the needs of the business?  Does this promote Shadow IT?

On the other side, others are actively looking for ways to outsource commodity workloads and quickly focus on the needs of the digital workplace, its blended work force of people, things, and intelligent systems, and get closer to the business and its digital customers embracing a services broker role.  Does this reduce the need for IT staff?  Does this reduce Shadow IT?

No matter how you answered my questions above, I think we can agree that there is no Yellow Brick Road for your journey leading to the Emerald City where the two-speed IT wizard lives.  If you are looking for that automated form to provide you with the magic answer, please click the ‘back’ button in your browser now.

So with no road, where are you?  You’re most likely a blend of both and that is the most common place to be…and it’s O.K.  Depending on your background, your reporting structure, your leadership, and your preferences for the kind of impact you want to have on the business, you may be closer to one side than the other.  Regardless, it’s probably safe to say that you want to provide meaningful value to the business such that it maintains and can evolve its differentiation for the long-term.  Using this as a foundational constant in our two-speed IT equation, we can proceed.

Two-speed IT gearsBack to what I've observed with those that are making progress on both work streams, the visual that I have when I see these teams at work is that of a mechanical watch.  Let’s look at the visual to the left. Note that it’s a static image.  However, we all know how this works.  Some gears are spinning at a rapid pace.  Others are moving very slowly.  Independently, they would simply be gears within the case.  Some may be spinning as they are connected to the spring while others move listlessly purely being reactive to external forces.  Combine everything together though, they work in harmony and unison to accurately tell time.

The goal of two-speed IT is to design your gears (i.e., systems, APIs, teams, joint business and IT innovation programs, etc.) in such a way that they are aligned with your company’s goals and work in harmony and unison to deliver the outcomes and results that your Digital Business requires.  Your gears may look different than others’ and that’s fine.  In fact, much like classic timepieces, the uniqueness of the platform is what makes it even more beautiful.

So go ahead and add “Watchmaker” to your LinkedIn profile.  Embrace the role of a skilled watchmaker who knows how to clean the watch and wind the mainspring powering the two-speed IT platform that is the backbone of your Digital Business for years to come.

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