Understanding mobile development in the era of bimodal IT

By Jonathan Hassell

Today, the demands of employees and customers drive companies to launch mobile development projects that apply to each encounter and every task. This demand for apps places tremendous strain on IT departments, which have traditionally run very methodical, tight ships. Enter bimodal IT.

The premise of bimodal IT

Bimodal IT refers to a two-pronged approach to delivering IT within an organization. One prong is the traditional IT approach that focuses on stability, security and reliability — these are the projects that take years to complete, are fully tested, are key to the entire organization’s functionality and are crucial to execute correctly.

The second prong is a newer, faster, more agile approach in which it is OK to deliver unreliable code — the consequences are minor, and “failing faster and better” is actually key. Almost all exploratory projects in bimodal organizations fall in the agile branch, while things such as migrating to a new enterprise resource planning system or moving content management systems to the cloud fall under the traditional plan-test-repeat-migrate-rollback approach.

Mobile app development in a bimodal IT environment

How does mobile app development fit into this rubric? Most mobile app projects move at a quicker pace, so development teams within internal IT departments will generally be in the agile track.

Some mobile apps that can be put on the agile track include the following:

  • A large number of smaller mobile apps that perform one or two functions
  • Apps that require a smaller budget
  • Apps that serve a limited audience
  • Employee or internal-facing mobile apps that never get exposed to customers
  • Apps that need to be deployed quickly (typically within 60 days or less)

These types of mobile development projects are best suited for the agile track, and they work best when business users are close to the development at all times, from speccing out requirements to using test code as alpha and beta users. Many times, these projects will be built on platforms that require little to no code, and they’ll often be developed using another platform entirely so developers can export or download a mobile template version of the data and views.

On the other hand, mobile apps that are central to the customer experience should not be put on the agile track. One example of this category of app might be a financial institution’s mobile platform that connects customers to an online interface of their accounts. That is a core experience for customers, and enterprises should likely reserve that app for a more traditional mobile development experience.

Development considerations for bimodal IT

As a developer, what do you need to be aware of when integrating mobile development projects into existing bimodal infrastructures? First, you need to beware of tool selection. Try to standardize tooling options and resist the urge to bring yet another new tool in for an ad hoc project.

Second, you should choose a cloud-based mobile development platform. Encourage your IT leads and CIO to allow agile mobile efforts to use a cloud-based platform that gets updated and runs securely without having to wade through IT bureaucracy.

Finally, choose mobile platforms and development environments that integrate with your existing investments. Once your agile-track app reaches maturity, there should be a smooth pathway to transitioning the app into the traditional IT workflow once development and iteration has stopped.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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