Bi-modal/two-speed IT: the chaos with traditional and agile projects

Bi-modal/two-speed IT: the chaos with traditional and agile projects

Lisa HodgesWe’re living in an environment where most organizations will need agile practices – methods, projects and DevOps – in order to respond to the market.

Equally, most organizations still have to run some projects with a more traditional and methodical approach; that means operating in two modes. But rather than thinking about “slow and fast”, or “new and old”, it’s about the demand for an agile, iterative mode of operations driven by market conditions.

However, I’ve witnessed some of the chaos in organizations not doing this well; jumping in without thinking how to do it or how it will work. The risk is seeing the “shiny, new object” and deciding “we must do this!”, just because it’s new.

Some are adopting agile methods because they’re unhappy with traditional (slower) approaches, but that’s also the wrong reason to do it: some projects are simply no good for agile as the risk is too high. What they need is a mechanism to decide which projects are right and which are wrong for agile, routing projects to either mode, intelligently.

Without having this can result in stakeholders feeling let down when a project should have been agile and, conversely, when a project unsuitable for agile causes disruption and isn’t right for customer needs. This can’t be a group or function decision – it needs a whole organization perspective to decide which approach is right for what.

Finding a bi-modal best practice solution

Both types of project need to co-exist, sometimes integrate and be successful. But it doesn’t mean that “important” projects need agile and “less important” projects are run traditionally. That just messes up the mechanism for choosing intelligently!

For example, a mobile platform which interacts with customers is a good candidate for an agile approach. However, if it has to integrate with legacy systems and platforms handling financial information and logistics, these aren’t good candidates for an agile approach.

So what best practice solutions can help?

Using PRINCE2®, Management of Risk (M_o_R®) plus risk insight from the PMBOK is a good starting point. But why?

  • PRINCE2 is the method to execute PMBOK knowledge to help organizations set up a system for making the agile/traditional choice
  • PRINCE2 is also the solution for organizations having to adopt a bi-modal approach, providing a framework in which both agile and traditional approaches can co-exist
  • The PRINCE2 method creates a natural structure to wrap around an agile project or pieces of a project that need integrating, therefore supporting bi-modal and increasing the odds of success.

Having project teams speaking the same language is one of the biggest issues and, with PRINCE2, you can run the different modes and speak the same language without creating silos that put the organization at risk. With this mechanism, it’s possible to switch between modes while minimizing risk and increasing the chances of success.

The imperative of mobile and automation

It’s vital to be thinking about this in 2017, as everything is going mobile. For example, at universities students are increasingly skipping the desktop computer as a tool and the overall direction of business is mobile. Therefore, it’s critical that project management techniques react so organizations can shift to make mobile a focal point. But without a structure in place, they will fumble and bumble between project modes and will be left behind.

And now there is talk about the next wave of technology: automation. This involves platforms to automate back office, mundane tasks to liberate people for more sophisticated work. PRINCE2 can help this also with its natural fit for agile working and it’s a crime if organizations don’t take that opportunity to reflect the way the world is moving.

Are organizations ready for this? It doesn’t matter – they have to be, otherwise, they won’t survive. Yes, the situation is complex, but the solution is there for experienced project managers to create a mechanism for selecting the right project mode: adopt it, adapt it and move forward.

See our PRINCE2 and M_o_R sections for more information.

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