Agile has been a standard way of collaborating within software development departments for years. Nowadays, Agile is used more and more in other departments as well, including the world of IT. Still, the question at many organizations remains: how? How do we combine Agile with how we’ve been working for years?

Bimodal IT: not one, but two methods

Bimodal IT is the practice of combining two ways of structuring processes within an organization. Mode 1 is optimized for ‘improving and renovating well-understood process in a more predictable way’, according to market analyst Gartner. Simply put: apply as many existing processes to the operational part of your work, such as Call Management and Operations Management. After all, you don’t want to any changes to uproot your core business. Especially operational tasks, such as updating the operating systems, benefit from this structure.

Mode 2, on the other hand, is about exploring and experimenting. According to Gartner, working with mode 2 lets you take on mostly new problems. Instead of working towards big goals with structured planning documents, these initiatives begin with a hypothesis that is tested during short iterations. This lets you better adjust your work to your goal, or even change your goal if necessary. When is this most useful? For instance when you develop new services.

Choosing between ITIL and Agile?

Do both modes sound familiar? That makes sense. Mode 1 is very similar to how you manage IT processes according to the ITIL framework. And Mode 2 is almost a carbon copy of Agile Service Management.

Market analyst Forrester says that the essence of Mode 2, which consists of short iterations and responding quickly to your customers’ changing needs, is the only thing that IT organizations should focus on. Not two modes, but rather a flexible mindset. Your service desk will also benefit from quick innovations in an agile way. According to Forrester, Bimodal IT is very useful, but you have to regard it as a step in the right direction.

Don’t choose – combine!

How should you use Bimodal IT at your own organization? Not by making a sharp distinction between Mode 1 and Mode 2. And also not by focusing so much on Agile that you lose sight of your current processes – which you might have recorded in SLAs and ITIL. In practically every part of your organization, from service desk to Operations, you’ll find set (ITIL) processes and agreements – and usually for a good reason. It’s important to hold onto those processes and SLAs. But working together in your own team? Then Agile is a good option.

Combining Mode 1 and 2 is easier than you think. You can even combine them into a single workflow. Take a Kanban board: a handy overview of all upcoming tasks. The order of the tasks determines the priority, and the current status is easily shown in different columns. Who ever said you can’t manage tasks with a specific SLA or ITIL workflow on one of these boards, together with the tasks that require a more ad-hoc approach?

Create multidisciplinary teams with one goal

One of the advantages of Agile is that several disciplines can work together. For instance: your service desk and operations team can work with the marketing department. This lets you respond more quickly to marketing needs, such as better reports or integration with other tools. If marketeers have short lines of communication with technicians, they can more easily make these kinds of improvements. And both teams can tell each other more quickly where they should improve.

Development + Operations = DevOps.
Read more about how DevOps goes together with ITSM.

What’s the best way to implement these changes at your organization? That’s something I can’t predict. Try and implement changes based on what’s currently important for your organizations. You might be looking into improving customer satisfaction at a specific department. Or another department might be in the process of a big change.

At TOPdesk we see added value in bringing together people from several disciplines who serve the same customer. These multidisciplinary teams respond quickly to the customers’ needs. And it matches perfectly with the Agile mindset. Does this mean you have to let go of useful ITIL processes and SLAs? Nonsense. Just start small, with a project or pilot team. If you place the right people in those teams, who enjoy talking about what they’re currently working on, you’ll get the ball rolling in no time.

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