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To really take advantage of the cost effectiveness, agility and flexibility that cloud computing, or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides; your organization’s structure, processes and probably people will change. The silos between application development and operations are an impediment. Likewise, the concept of quarterly or semi annual releases to production also falls by the wayside. The top savvy cloud organizations release every few days to every few hours.

Poor change management is one of the largest reasons many IT programs stumble. It is in your best interest to get ahead of the curve. That being said, you have got a lot of stuff running that is just not going to go away in a flash. So what do you do?

A number of models have been advanced and critiqued. Let’s start with the “Bimodal” or “dual mode” advanced the Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Gartner among others. This is an easy to grasp approach. Here is how Gartner defines it

Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.”

Makes sense doesn’t it? You keep all that stuff that is needed to LODO (keep the Lights On and the Doors Open) in pretty much your current organization with its tried and tested structure, processes and people. You put the new stuff – like cloud – in more of a “skunk works” shop that can quickly raise up or shut down cloud based infrastructures to develop and launch new applications. What could be easier?

Actually, this concept only got about a two year run before being torn apart as unworkable and even harmful to enterprises wrestling with the digital age. Why? Creating essentially two IT shops within one enterprise will foster divergence, not convergence toward the overall goal of speed, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. In the end IT is a human and social endeavor. Consider how one “mode” maybe resentful of the other. What about them competing for resources? Think about their struggles for influence – not only within the IT shop but also from different business groups that rely upon IT. Maybe we should park this model for a minute but we need some sort of approach right?

How about Tri-mode? This is an organizational evolution model championed by Simon Wardley. Basically he argues that as things evolve from the innovative and new (Genesis) through to standardization (Product) and finally into Commodity and Utility and organization should evolve in a parallel fashion. He labels the phases Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners. As you might guess, the structure, process and people move from the creative and flexible (Pioneers), to the Settlers standardizing things, and finally all the way to the very well structured and bureaucratic (Town Planners).

You can see how that might work with IT. The pioneers are doing the cutting edge things in new and creative ways all the way to the town planners who handle the LODO stuff and may even outsource it completely. This model has got a nice positive, intuitive feel. After all, haven’t we all seen how yesterday’s brilliant cutting edge becomes tomorrow’s utility – it just is there when needed. (Cue the yawn.) This just maps the right organization to the correct state of maturity.

That’s it then, right? No, not exactly. The critique of the tri-mode model is that it is addressing the wrong question. Jason Bloomberg suggests that the real organizational need is not just how you take something new, like cloud, and turn it into a dependable, predictable and repeatable part of the business but how you make today’s “slow” IT into flexible, agile and cost-effective “fast” IT.

Consider why do different groups in an enterprise circumvent going to the IT department to fulfill their needs? Most IT shops are seen as too slow and expensive. Instead, these groups seek out many different Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions or even build their own running on some IaaS cloud – creating a vast jumble of potentially dangerous “shadow IT” in most firms.

Cloud is something different. It is platform that brings new capabilities to how you do business. If you treat cloud, just like outsourcing your infrastructure (the Utility/Town Planner phase in tri-mode), all that does is continues the thinking of IT as support for the business. You’ll reduce some costs but that’s not where the big payoff comes from. But, if you recognize cloud enables the digital transformation of IT becoming the business then you’ll get speed in innovation and flexibility to respond to market needs rapidly. Isn’t that the big kahuna you are really after?

Now, you see cloud only looks like it’s just another new IT technology. It offers you so much more. You still need to organize for the changes it will bring. However, you might want to take a look at the bigger picture of how your whole company is organized for innovation. Sounds like too big an issue? What are your competitors doing?

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