1. Bi-modal IT is real, and it\u2019s likely to be embraced by your company\nPeter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, said last November that while CIOs might not be able to transform their existing IT department into a digital startup, they could turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. \u201cForty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation,\u201d said Sondergaard, \u201cand we predict that 75 percent of IT organizations will be bi-modal in some way by 2017.\u201d\nJerry Luftman, Ph.D., professor and managing director at the Global Institute for IT Management, also confirms that there\u2019s a bifurcating of the IT department. \u201cIt\u2019s clearly happening,\u201d Luftman says.\n2. Larger companies are more likely to try a bi-modal setup\nArjun Sethi, a partner with the global consulting firm A.T. Kearney, where he leads the strategic IT Practice for the Americas, confirms that he\u2019s seeing an increase in the number of IT organizations that have this duality, although he qualifies it by pointing out he sees it mostly in large, progressive companies. \u201cI\u2019m not talking about small and medium-size organizations,\u201d he says.\nRob Meilen, vice president and CIO at Hunter Douglas North America in Broomfield, Colo., oversees an IT team of 120, supplemented by another 30 to 40 workers in outsourced or contract positions. \u201cWe don\u2019t have a formal separation, but in the past two years we\u2019ve been talking more about the different focus of those two areas,\u201d he says, noting that the company is beginning to review how it budgets and allocates resources to reflect those two IT functions.\n[Related: What Gartner\u2019s bimodal IT model means to enterprise CIOs]\nHe says creating any more of a separation between the two sides wouldn\u2019t work well in an organization his size because it could either leave some areas without needed talent or force the company to hire more talent. \u201cSometimes we\u2019re only two people deep in a particular skill set, so it gets pretty thin if you\u2019re going to divide it up into two sets of teams,\u201d he says.\n3. How IT is funded plays a role in the decision to go bi-modal\nRobert Quarterman, vice president of Infrastructure Architecture and Technical Services at Service Benefit Plan Administrative Services Corp., says operations \u201cis really about running the business, so once innovation is done, it becomes operationalized,\u201d adding that that side of the house \u201coperates at a different speed. They have different priorities, and different funding.\u201d Funding for operations comes from the central IT department, he explains, whereas funding for innovation comes from business units \u2013 as does advocacy for individual projects.\nJerry Luftman, Ph.D., professor and managing director at the Global Institute for IT Management, says the split is driven in part by the decentralization of IT, with more and more of the strategic applications owned by the business units and \u201cless and less going into central IT.\u201d\n4. Bi-modal IT isn\u2019t exactly new\nGreg Davidson, a consultant with AlixPartners, says IT departments have always had some aspects of a bimodal approach. \u201cThere has always been the IT staff that works on the keep-it-running side of the business. When you\u2019re looking at things like desktop support, data center monitoring, application maintenance \u2013 those kinds of things have been around for a long time,\u201d he says.\nLike other CIOs, Meilen says it\u2019s the work itself that often falls into one of two camps, with one focused on new technology-enabled business initiatives and the second focused on keeping everything up and running smoothly. IT workers, too, seem to fall into these two buckets, Meilen says, although like the work itself, there\u2019s usually some overlap.\n5. Bi-modal IT can coexist with outsourcing\nGiven the commoditized nature of the operational work, many CIOs are turning to third-parties to handle a large chunk of the operational tasks, Sethi says \u2013 typically the very standard parts, such as low-level programming. They keep high-value skills in-house, skills such as high-level architecture because internal workers have the skills and organizational knowledge needed to help define the CIO\u2019s overall infrastructure strategy.\n[Related: 10 outsourcing trends to watch in 2015]\nCIOs can make this move to more outsourcing, he says, in large part because they\u2019ve spent a lot of energy in moving IT toward \u201ca more standardized and more predictable stack, all the way from the hardware to their application layer. And the moment it becomes more standardized and predictable and the level of customization is low, they lend themselves very well to a hosted or managed service environment, and then it becomes easier for a third party to run them.\u201d\n6. Bi-modal IT doesn\u2019t have to mean two separate teams\nDale Denham, CIO of Geiger in Lewiston, Maine, has a 25-member IT department that supports 750 workers (300 staffers and 450 independent contractors). Denham recognizes the inherent value of a bi-modal IT philosophy. \u201cIt\u2019s absolutely true in a lot of places, and there\u2019s no doubt that both functions exist,\u201d says Denham, adding \u201cI handle it differently than most places\u201d \u2013 by mixing operations and innovation within a single team.\nWhile Denham acknowledges that a handful of help desk folks and networking staff are straight operations, he still feels they support innovation by, for example, spinning up a server when needed.\nBut overall, he explains, \u201cwhen we launch new projects and new tools, the same people who support old tools are creating the plans and executing the plans for the new tools and then support them when they move to operations.\u201d\n\n\t\n\n7. Bi-modal doesn\u2019t have to mean bifurcated\nEven infrastructure and operations workers do tend to have some interaction with innovation projects. A data center worker, for example, might install a large server array for a new analytics program. Davidson sees that setup continuing \u2013 he doesn\u2019t see his company many moving to a fully bifurcated IT department.\nDavidson also says that piece of innovation work added to operations positions can add \u201cspice to their jobs,\u201d and that that balance really helps morale.\nJust as important, Davidson says, is that that intersection helps everyone stay up to date; Davidson says having staff working on a mix of operational and innovative work in the end helps projects be more successful, too, \u201cbecause the infrastructure people who do the keep-it-running work can plan better, they\u2019re aware of the resource requirement, they may know and often do know about performance issues \u2013 for example, there may be need to increase network bandwidth, something that the other team might not be aware of \u2013 and those are the hidden landmines.\u201d\n8. Two teams = twice the management headaches?\nQuarterman says he\u2019s moving carefully down the path to a fully bifurcated IT team. \u201cThere\u2019s a cultural implication, which we don\u2019t fully comprehend yet,\u201d he says, noting that \u201cif we don\u2019t get that right it would be extremely damaging.\u201d\nMaking the move without thoughtful communication and attention could alienate some workers, particularly those on the operations side. Quarterman points out, like others do, that operational work remains essential \u2013 after all, if the engines aren\u2019t humming along, the business cannot operate at all, let alone focus on the next big thing.\n\u201cWe don\u2019t want to alienate a whole group of people so that they feel their contribution is diminished because they\u2019re operations,\u201d he says. \u201cLeadership can\u2019t build a wall. It has to be viewed as two equal parts for the same purpose: the same purpose is the delivery of the product and the service. And I don\u2019t mean just delivering innovation; it\u2019s also delivering operations on a daily basis.\u201d\n[Related: How CIOs can create the IT workforce of the future]\n\u201cOne of the cool things about [his] model [where everyone does some operations and some innovation] is the teamwork is incredible,\u201d Denham says. Of course, disagreements come up, \u201cbut everybody is pulling for the same goal.\u201d It comes down to knowing your people. \u201cThe people who are more operational are better suited to that and that\u2019s where they want to go, they prefer that. So they\u2019re already self-motivated because it\u2019s what they enjoy,\u201d he says.\nQuarterman agrees. \u201cThat\u2019s why we\u2019re proceeding with caution. It\u2019s a very tricky thing to get right. There are some people who are suited to operations and that\u2019s what they want to do, and identifying who they are and then who has the skills and aptitude for innovation is tricky. I\u2019m not sure everyone is going to sort out in it, so we\u2019re proceeding with caution and we\u2019re being very clear to why we\u2019re doing it.\u201d But he also points out that professionals on both sides will find challenges and advancement opportunities. For example, Quarterman says those on the operations side will have the chance to dive deep into the guts of operations, and \u201cthat\u2019s very challenging and there are a lot of people who get excited about that.\u201d\n9. Bi-modal IT can give you a competitive edge\nHunter Douglas\u2019 Meilen thinks it\u2019s possible that companies with a decentralized IT department could have an advantage. \u201cIf you formally bifurcated and took the teams on the innovation side out of IT and put them into business units, you\u2019re going to drive a much closer connection between the technology folks. It\u2019s probably easier to rapidly innovate and that can lead to some competitive edge,\u201d noting that the approach might mean that you also give up control around architecture and infrastructure.\nQuarterman adds: \u201cFor us, it\u2019s all about agility and flexibility for speed to market.\u201d\n10. Bi-modal IT has career implications, both good and bad\nWithin a two-speed IT organization, some professionals are finding themselves on one path or the other. Sethi says that once on a specific path, IT workers stay on it as they develop specialization in certain areas, progressing along their own division\u2019s path but not necessarily moving over and up on the other.\nSethi says each path has its merits and its steps to senior levels. Operational professionals can move into senior technical roles, CTOs jobs and into positions with hardware and software vendors. Those on the innovation side become CIOs. \u201cIn the past it was people from the ranks, developers, who used to grow up and become CIOs. What I see now is the business analyst, those are the folks who grow up to be CIOs. We already see that trend,\u201d he says.\nLuftman adds that job opportunities are going to be there, and more so in the next 10 to 20 years, but they\u2019ll be in new places \u2013 with more operational folks coming from third-party providers and innovation folks belonging to business units. \u201cThe infrastructure is essential. You can\u2019t run a business without the infrastructure, like you can\u2019t run without telephones and electricity,\u201d Luftman says. \u201cBut the strategic value comes from those in IT who can work with the business partners.\u201d\nBut even as more IT departments segregate their operational and innovation teams, IT professionals will still have great job prospects, Luftman says.