Why Bimodal Enterprise Architecture Needs SaaS

by Zak Cole       • December 10, 2015

You may have heard the term floating around. You may have even tried to adopt it already.

In any case, bimodal approaches to IT are steadily becoming the new normal, as new onus is placed on IT teams to be the forefront of business revolution, innovation and progression, rather than ‘just support’.

So what is bimodal IT?

Well if you go by Dave Aron of Gartner’s definition, it’s something to do with Samurais and Ninjas – which sounds highly impractical in a modern setting. Especially in business. But Aron may actually be on to something.

“Bimodal IT is not two-speed,” he said. “It’s about Samurais and ninjas. You don’t want an army of ninjas because it would be too chaotic, and you don’t want your innovation done by Samurais because it would be too boring. The end game is to recognize who your Samurais are and who are your ninjas and have them working together.”

IT Organizations will have a bimodal capability

Ninjas and Samurais rarely let me down in a metaphor, but in case you’re still not following, bimodal IT is all about recognizing that IT has grown.

It views IT as having two recognizable arms, or types. Type 1 being the traditional, stability and reducing overheads focused arm, while Type 2 takes up the mantle of modern IT expectations in agile organization and a focus on innovation, time-to-market and alignment – all among common the most common CIO struggles.

Bimodal IT is the recognition that IT is no longer a single purposed tool of support, and that it’s grown into a division of business with wider reaching responsibilities. It’s not two-speeds, it’s multi-pronged. Two business arms working separately, yet in tandem.

Bimodal IT in Enterprise Architecture

Today’s Enterprise Architects reflect the duality of bimodal IT. They fall into two identities, the foundational enterprise architects (EA) and the vanguard. The foundational EAs handle enterprise technology maintenance, and the vanguards drive innovation and tackle technology disruptions as they come. Sound familiar?

The vanguard evolution is largely down to the much increased weight on technology and digital business as a whole. This new market demands agility, innovation and the other vanguard EA attributes as fundamental system requirements.

So where does SaaS come in?

Well first of all, what is SaaS? Despite its homonymity, SaaS isn’t about snappy fingers and fierce attitudes. It stands for ‘Software as a Service,’ and as Gartner defines it, is “software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers.

“The provider delivers software based on one set of common code and data definitions that is consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers at any time on a pay-for-use basis or as a subscription based on use metrics.”

In essence, SaaS is a modern take on leasing software, that shakes off the installation costs, upkeep costs, and other headaches (that often cost), associated with locally stored software.

Instead of running locally, stored on on-site hard drives and discs, SaaS systems operate in the cloud.

But much like new-age IT, SaaS isn’t just about reducing overheads – it’s also a key enabler in business agility.  The hosted nature means the relevant parties can all be updated in real-time, and acts as a fantastic facilitator to dialogue around suggestions and queries. This collaboration is crucial in being able to adjust, pivot and realign quickly in the face of disruption.

Enterprise Architects find SaaS particularly useful for these reasons. The ease of collaboratively modeling, roadmapping and effortless communications are positives that can’t be ignored.

All of this equates to a model that’s not only ‘agility-capable‘, but primed for such reasons, making it a perfect harmony to EAs new song.

SaaSy Bimodal IT

For many businesses, the SaaSy approach to IT is the only way to facilitate adopting bimodal IT. Many small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) don’t have the resources to action a truly bimodal approach in house. Between maintaining systems, and other tasks typical of traditional samurai IT, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to be ninja.

A transition to SaaS would transfer much of the burden of maintaining systems to a third party, and leave space for IT departments to work on revolutionizing, innovating and improving business operations, a staple of efficient bimodal IT.

This is great for SMBs, as they don’t have to worry about stretching resources, or expanding the IT team. Instead, they can simply repurpose their current IT team, into the Type 2 IT professionals of modern business.

We’re already seeing businesses catch on to this principle, with an industry swing towards cloud based solutions being backed up by solid research.

A Dimension Data-led study found that on site data storage is “fading into the category of legacy technology.” One of the reasons suggested, was the advances in quality and stability, making the cloud a more appealing option than it might have been in the past. But also cited, and perhaps more importantly, was setting up and maintaining a cloud system has a “much lower cost.”

Despite the data, and relatively transparent benefits – including but not limited to enabling bimodal IT and saving money – there’s still an air of concern surrounding SaaS and the ‘Cloud’ in some corners. The former certainly isn’t helped by its ‘Shadowy’ epithet – SaaS has been dubbed Shadow IT by industry insiders.

It implies ill, and well… Shadowy practices. The naming can be deemed unfortunate, though, as the wide adoption of the SaaS label shows the industry trying to shake the moniker.

That’s because Shadow IT isn’t, and has never been an Emporer Palpatine figure, pulling strings in the background as a nefarious, classical composer. Rather it’s ‘Shadowy’ in that it can exist in the background, without any thought. And when it comes to an organization’s systems, that’s really how it’s supposed to be.

It’s key to repurposing IT departments to function in this modern era. If your IT department’s only function is support, when many of the most profitable modern businesses not only prioritize IT, but actually base their core functions on tech, you’re going to fall behind.

And these are precisely the pains that SaaS can effectively iron out. Time and financial costs of maintaining systems are taken out of the equation, so what’s left over, can get the intention that it not only deserves, but that the current market demands.

Whether it’s producing and selling technology, or giving consumers new and easier ways to interact with the business and its various services, IT is front and center now, and should be valued as such.

Go SaaS, and your old, boring, samurai, suddenly have that extra wriggle room to be ninja.

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