Agile, specifically the agile manifesto, is a defined anti-standard practice that helps service desk leaders collaborate within software development departments, but the approach can sometimes seem in opposition to other stands, like ITIL, that you may currently have in place. ITIL is structure that describes processes, procedures, tasks and checklists that are not organization-specific nor technology-specific, but can be applied to establishing integration with the organization’s strategy, with the hopes that the framework will deliver value, and maintain a minimum level of competency. ITIL framework allows the organization to establish a baseline from which it can plan, implement and measure. It is used to demonstrate compliance and to measure improvement.

In other words, the exact opposite approach of agile. Agile development evolves through the collaborative effort of cross-functional teams and advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continual improvement, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. The benefits of agile, according to the strategy’s proponents, improves organizational agility for members of the service desk, but there appears to be little real evidence that this is the case. That matters little for those who love employing the approach.

Nevertheless, how can the apparently disparate approaches work together? The answer may be as simple as taking a bi-modal approach.

Bimodal IT is two methods

According to research firm, Gartner, bimodal IT is an approach of managing two separate, but coherent styles of work: “One focused on predictability; the other on exploration. Mode 1 is optimized for areas that are more predictable and well-understood. It focuses on exploiting what is known, while renovating the legacy environment into a state that is fit for a digital world. Mode 2 is exploratory, experimenting to solve new problems and optimized for areas of uncertainty.”

Gartner says:

These initiatives often begin with a hypothesis that is tested and adapted during a process involving short iterations, potentially adopting a minimum viable product approach. Both modes are essential to create substantial value and drive significant organizational change, and neither is static. Marrying a more predictable evolution of products and technologies (Mode 1) with the new and innovative (Mode 2) is the essence of an enterprise bimodal capability.

Simply put, apply existing processes to the operational part of the work, like call management and operations, such as updating the operating systems. These benefit from a bimodal structure.

Choosing between structure and agile

Continuing to use the Gartner model, Mode 1 is similar to how organizations manage their IT processes according to the ITIL framework or other structure; there are others, like VeriSM (though slightly different than ITIL). Likewise, Mode 2 is pretty close to an exact copy of agile service management. Mode 2 consists of short iterations and responding quickly to user need, which can change regularly. Likewise, your service desk teams will benefit, too, from quick innovations in an agile way, which makes bimodal IT very useful, and might be a step in the right direction.

So how do you use a bimodal IT approach within your organization? Don’t make total distinctions between Mode 1 and Mode 2, and do focus so much on ever-changing agile that you lose sight of your current processes, like those found in ITIL; in fact, it’s important to hold onto these processes as they do serve a benefit to the organization even when slow-and-steady doesn’t seem like the best approach to the present challenge. That said, a combination of both modes is easier than you may think, and the two workflow paths actually can be combined into a single workflow.

Kanban can do it

An example of this that we, at TOPdesk, like to point to is the use of a Kanban board. We use such within our organization for managing all upcoming tasks. The order of the tasks determines the priority, and the current status is easily shown in Kanban’s different columns. Through this approach, we can manage tasks with a specific agreement or ITIL workflow on a board together with the tasks that require a more ad-hoc or agile approach.

Creating goals through your team

A major benefit of agile is its ability to bring multiple disciplines together – that’s fairly well stated. This approach allows for teams to respond the most quickly. Because of these efficiencies both teams can tell each other more quickly where they should improve, which is a significant win for the entire organization. Implement any potential changes based on what’s currently important for your organizations; for example, maybe you want to improve customer satisfaction at a specific department or a department might be in the process of a big change.

Through such a bimodal approach, we see value in bringing team members together from multiple areas of the organization to best serve the organization’s user. Even with such a tacit approach, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be giving up any of your ITIL processes or service level agreements. Just start small, with a project or even a pilot team that is operating on a slightly different path or mode.

Bringing together multiple, or bimodal, processes can keep your organization on tract structurally, and can allow for it to be able to handle challenges as they arise. In this manner, your teams are able to respond appropriately as needed while keeping the long game in mind.