Going bi-modal in an open environment

Bi-modal can facilitate an integrated way of storing data securely, managing it and analysing it in an almost real-time environment.

Muggie van Staden.
Muggie van Staden.

Previously, I discussed the importance of embracing openness in South African business, how using an open methodology can relate to a single view of the customer, and how to position a digital enterprise strategy built around an open environment.

The last Industry Insight in this series explores how all these elements can combine to achieve bi-modal (or two-speed) architecture within an organisation.

Cynics argue that bi-modal is yet another phrase that holds very little real value in business and is not something that can necessarily be achieved in a digital environment. But what does this entail? Gartner defines bi-modal as the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability and the other more on exploration.

When it comes to technology, the former can easily apply to those systems and processes that are focused on 'keeping the lights on', while the latter can refer to digital innovations such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and the like. Already, many organisations have embraced a semblance of this in bridging the gap between legacy and digital systems.

Unfortunately, the frustrating thing about modern technology is that very few companies take the time to train people on it.

In the past, when computer rooms still consisted of massive mainframes, enterprises were focused on providing employees with the training and skills required to use those systems effectively. It seems the more modern and innovative we get, the less focus there is on getting these basics right.

Best practice

This hinders the growth of bi-modal in a business. If users cannot maximise innovative solutions in the existing organisational environment, what is the use of implementing it even if done so alongside more traditional systems?

Bi-modal is happening locally, but the basics must be done right to achieve it.

Another cause for concern is that the temptation of rushing in to installing the latest and greatest technology comes at the price of little understanding how the integration will take place.

Far too often, the technology is blamed for being ineffective or a waste of investment. This happens all too easily when driving an open approach, especially when the systems are designed to interoperate with each other, unlike the legacy solutions of the past.

The argument goes that businesses operate in a plug-and-play environment and the technology should follow suit. However, ignoring best practices or failing to do a detailed business case for any implementation, could result in failure.

Others argue that the rate of change required in a digital environment means there is no opportunity for bi-modal to work. Companies need to adapt to customer requirements and there is no chance to make a two-pronged approach (such as bi-modal) effective in this regard. The reality is quite different for South African businesses.

Reality check

Bi-modal is happening locally, but the basics must be done right to achieve it. So, despite the pressure to develop bespoke customer solutions, the basic principles of business still apply. The C-suite is facing many challenges but if they are committed to building digital solutions on a solid business foundation, there are opportunities to be had.

Furthermore, the realities of good corporate governance contribute in guiding the business towards a more effective implementation of bi-modal IT. This sees a focus on securing solutions, developing business cases, focusing on the basics, and ensuring data is managed the way it is supposed to. Granted, the rate of implementation is happening faster than many anticipated, but it just means it needs to be managed on a continual basis.

If we have seen anything over the past four Industry Insights, then it is that open systems are quite different today than what they were 20 years ago. These are more enabling of the digital business environment now than ever. Irrespective of the technology deployed, do companies really understand what they are implementing and the impact it will have on their existing systems, processes and solutions?

While much of the attention is now on storing data securely, managing it and analysing it in an almost real-time environment, bi-modal can facilitate an integrated way of approaching this by providing the best of all worlds. How open decision-makers will be to this change will be up to them.

Muggie van Staden
MD of Obsidian Systems.

Muggie van Staden has been at the helm of open source solutions company Obsidian Systems for 15 years. Leveraging the Linux open source way as a driving force, Van Staden has embedded a culture of innovation, relevance, dedication and collaboration in this niche software house. As an engineer, Van Staden's nature is to solve problems in unique and effective ways. As MD, he has overseen the growth in the company in both services on offer and revenue. Outside of work, Van Staden is a devoted family man and geek at heart.

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