The myth of two-speed IT

Before IT leaders can re-design their organizations, they need to be honest about entrenched organizational behaviors.

The Myth of 2-Speed IT

Literature—never mind popular culture—loves dualism, the tendency to explain the world using two competing forces. Good and evil. Dark and light. The sacred and the profane. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Chocolate and peanut butter. The list goes on.

Lately people have been using dualism to explain IT as two-speed or bi-modal. In this divide IT can fall into either the traditional model of “keeping the lights on,” or it can be more agile and innovative. Industry analytsts who espouse this notion insist that in the new world of digital, it must be both.

This dual construct is a convenient structure that underscores the point that operationally-focused IT teams risk being marginalized or replaced. But it also risks simplifying a complex issue involving corporate culture, leadership styles, reward systems, and corporate politics to name just a few of the forces that inform IT behaviors.

In The New IT: How IT Leaders Are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age, I lay out six different profiles—I call them archetypes—that describe different organizational preferences of IT teams. They’re summarized here:

The New IT
The Six IT Archetypes

The Six IT Archetypes

I know what you’re thinking. “My IT department is a little of all of those archetypes.”

Nevertheless there are always dominant behavior traits that typify an IT organization. When in doubt, ask people in the company to describe IT. Your IT archetype will emerge in no time. In the book I’ve laid out a series of self-assessments that can help pinpoint your current IT archetype.

Your “as-is” IT archetype needn’t be your “to be” archetype. Reviewing the archetype descriptions in the book can help you determine not only what IT archetype is desirable, but which one is practical. It’s one thing to want to be a Brokering IT team, it’s another thing to understand whether the culture will allow it.

No one will argue that IT needs to move faster while satisfying core operational commitments. And that means having more than two speeds.

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