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Over the last few years the concept of delivering different IT developments at a different pace has become a mainstream philosophy. Whether you call it bimodal IT, two-speed IT, multi-speed IT, or simply IT, the concept is widely acknowledged. Unfortunately, in some cases it has been misunderstood as a strategy to stop the development of back-end systems. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

Multi-speed IT is an enabler for all areas of the IT organization

The rush toward "agile" IT developments across all industry verticals can be seen as an understandable business reaction to decades of IT projects perceived as overly complex, lengthy, and expensive. After the initial euphoria has subsided, many mature organizations have recognized that while there is generally an opportunity for an "agile" approach across a portion of their project portfolio, there are also initiatives for which "slow and steady" is the appropriate methodology.

Recognition of the need to choose "horses for courses" is encapsulated in the concept of multi-speed IT, with the trick being to correctly match the right approach with the right project. Unfortunately, the language used in a number a scenarios has led to the multi-speed IT concept being misunderstood as a call to abandon developments on core, legacy business systems.

Ovum has highlighted the importance of carefully considering the language used to describe the various streams of development to ensure that organizations do not imply negative connotations, albeit unwittingly. The common terms of "fast" and "slow" have the advantage of being easy to understand, but in a modern organization, who with significant career aspirations is going to volunteer for the slow lane? Unfortunately, despite the term being in widespread use within the IT industry, "legacy" carries similar connotations. Ovum has suggested "foundation" and "enhancement" as possible descriptors – but organizations will find their own non-pejorative terms that do not reinforce a predefined prejudice.

Rather than being a call to abandon those foundational systems, multi-speed IT should be seen as a way to enable development that best balances the risk/reward profile for each initiative within an organizational context. Organizations should regard it as a framework that implies considering, understanding, and most importantly questioning why a specific approach is being taken in specific circumstances.

Understanding "why" allows for a mature discussion between IT and the wider organization as to the implications and trade-offs involved in moving the dial further toward or away from the "speed" end of the scale – rather than reinforcing the perception that a specific development team is either "slow and wearisome" or made up of "ad hoc cowboys."


Further reading

Multi-Speed IT: Can We Have It All?IT0007-000814 (May 2015)

Framework: Assess which IT proposals fit the "fast lane,"IT0007-000819, (June 2015)


Al Blake, Principal Analyst, Public sector

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