Meeting the Challenges of Bimodal IT

By Michael Liebow  

Among cloud technorati, there’s been chatter about Bimodal IT, which is essentially the separation of old legacy systems, people and processes from new, mostly cloud-native systems, people and processes. There is a growing realization that these technology approaches truly represent two different worlds. Though they are often uttered in the same breath, they rarely intersect.

As business leads and application developers increasingly realize the technical and economic benefits of moving to the cloud, the traditional legacy crowd is left to figure out what to do with existing applications and assets. To add insult to injury, they are often tasked with embracing the challenges of governing, securing and optimizing these shadow efforts without hindering innovation or encumbering new capabilities with added cost or latency.

For many companies, this represents the start of a long and often painful journey. 

It’s widely acknowledged that legacy applications and assets are not going away anytime soon. It’s not possible to “lift and shift” all applications, while also generating business and technical benefits and reducing costs across the board.  

Numerous large companies are weighed down with thousands of applications, many with no clear business benefit or even a business owner. Making matters worse, these enterprises may lack the skills, tools and competencies required to discover, refactor and move their portfolios.

Many think a private cloud environment is the magic answer. It might be, but converting on- premise or hosted assets into so-called private clouds requires specific cloud capabilities and skill sets. Companies may have hundreds of virtualized servers sitting on cement, while lacking the operating model and tools needed to automate workflows, provision capacity, meter usage, and bill or catalog services.

Hence, the saga of bimodal IT, for which there is no silver bullet.

The Clock Is Ticking

The cloud offers remarkable elasticity and variability. But, just as in any paradigm shift, organizations that want to take full advantage of the change need to rethink their operating model. They need new skills, new business processes and new application designs, among many other things. And the clock is ticking.

Organizations that don’t plunge head-first into this journey are risking a widening gap with those that do. The market is moving so fast that without the proper tooling, skills and funding, businesses will be hard pressed to catch up. Fast forward 18 to 24 months from now, and the public cloud will be cheaper and more ubiquitous, and it will offer more innovative services than anything you can conceive of today. 

To achieve elasticity, speed, flexibility and scale, companies should start thinking with a public-cloud-first mentality. That means taking a hard look at legacy applications and assessing everything to figure out what moves where and when.

This will not be a smooth, seamless journey.  However, in the near-term, organizations that start in earnest now will realize the ability to better provision, manage and cost-control a growing catalog of dynamic services.

Forward-thinking companies understand this, and they are already seizing every opportunity to reap the benefits of cloud. To these companies, “cloud first” is not an empty slogan for management or the board room, but the beginning of an intelligent digital business foundation. It’s the start of delivering everything as a service.

These firms believe in making investments in their own people, which, in turn, drives innovation at an accelerated pace. They are not hampered by an increasingly antiquated mode of IT.

Now is the time to push a real cloud-first agenda in your organization. It’s time to set a vision for creating value at scale and speed. It’s time to embrace the dual mode of IT and navigate that challenging and complicated landscape so that sooner, rather than later, you’ll realize the tangible technical and business benefits that lie ahead.

Michael Liebow is the global managing director of the Accenture Cloud Platform. He manages Accenture’s cloud investment, myriad ecosystem partners, and a 400-person global team to build and operate the cloud platform business.