According to Gartner, Inc., bimodal IT is “the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery: one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.”
Basically, project execution is no longer a game of “either/or.” Maturing technologies have given rise to bimodal—making it possible to combine execution methods within the same portfolio and enabling PMOs to decide what model is right on a by-project basis.
The rise of agile methodologies
The Agile Manifesto was published in 2001. Since then, there’s been a slow adoption with many PMOs preferring tried-and-true traditional methods to get the job done. And for good reason.
Up until recently, a PMO would have to rely on a PPM framework that could only support a certain kind of execution model (hence, the “either/or”), but today, PPM solutions can manage multiple methods within the same portfolio, making the transition, or combination, less daunting and more profitable.
Agile principles emphasize:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Four fallacies about bimodal IT and PPM
The differences between agile and traditional execution models are many. That’s true. However, misconceptions about combining the two have led to some pretty deterring fallacies. Those, of course, are not true.
Four common fallacies are:
- Multiple methodologies can’t exist in the same portfolio
- Agile projects don’t provide enough executive visibility
- Agile projects don’t have reliable “scheduled finish dates”
- Agile and traditional practices aren’t compatible
Integrating a traditional PPM framework and agile processes
Integrating an agile project methodology into a PPM framework is no different than integrating a more traditional methodology, with four exceptions:
- Don’t stifle the process: The concept of an agile team is much more fluid and nimble than a traditional framework. Don’t disrupt the agile culture with stakeholder reviews and checkpoints that are meant for a different execution model. Go with the flow. More or less.
- Story points track progress: Agile progress isn’t tracked by task hours. It relies on story points, and often the owner of a story point may change it in order to ensure delivery is on track.
- Project resources are dynamic: Because task assignments are dynamic, it’s better to treat the agile team as a unit instead of as individual contributors.
- Reviews are based on working software: Agile is less about pre-determined milestones and more about how the software is working based on the stakeholder needs.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is…
providing executive visibility. It’s not out of reach, but it does require a new mindset.
Creating a bimodal view—regardless of the execution method—comes down to standardizing project metrics and making sure that everyone is on board. The five common metrics that provide executive visibility are:
- Scheduled finish date
- Percentage complete
- Scope changes
- Actual cost vs. budget
- Project health
Providing these metrics in a dashboard format using a PPM system helps everyone involved—from senior management to employee—to quickly identify project status, regardless of the execution method being used.
Three benefits PPM provides for bimodal strategy
A PPM system provides a clear view of agile and traditional project execution—helping to eliminate communication issues across departments and teams
Consistent project reporting
A common reporting framework within the tool standardizes how reports are generated and communicated
Integration improves efficiency
Integration with different methodology tools eliminates multiple (and manual) data entry into the PPM system