I interviewed Jason Bloomberg who discussed A Critical Look at the Bi-modal Supply Chain.







...Bloomberg, and we're going to discuss A Critical look at the Bi-modal Supply Chain. So, Jason, can you first provide a brief background of yourself?


Yeah, this is Jason Bloomberg. I'm president of Intellyx, and Intellyx is an industry analyst firm focused on agile digital transformation, which means that we cover, really, any disruptive topic within the enterprise IT space, so everything, obviously, from supply chains to mainframes to cloud computing to big data. If there's disruption, then we talk about it and try to help clear up a lot of the confusion in the space.


Can you talk about what is the bimodal supply chain?


Well, let's start with a discussion of what bimodal means. Essentially, bimodal is the idea that in large organizations, you have existing, traditional IT, which follows traditional practices and traditional policies and processes and leverages existing technology assets. And we call that mode one, or slow IT. And then mode two would be what you might call fast IT. It's more agile, more devop-centric, customer-centric, much more fast moving in addressing digital priorities.


So bimodal, essentially, is the recognition that many organizations, especially large ones, have this situation where they have slow moving IT and fast moving IT. And then the question then is, "Well, is that a problem?" Or, "What do we do about it?"


So what do you see as any weaknesses inherent in the bimodal area?


Well, the question really is what to do about bimodal. And Gardner, the large IT analyst firm, is basically advising their customers that it's a good idea to take a bimodal approach. In particular in the supply chain area.So they're advising a bimodal supply chain strategy for their customers. So what that means is that you want to go fast and slow at the same time. Have a slow-moving group doing traditional IT that's focused on keeping the lights on, focused on efficiency, focused on stability, as well as the fast-moving group that is focused on innovation, focused on meeting customer needs.


But from our perspective, we think that's really bad advice, that taking a bimodal approach on purpose is really problematic. So, yes, we all recognize that the bimodal pattern exists. That's not the question. And it's also pretty clear what it is. There's slow and fast at the same time in different groups at different speeds.


But from our perspective, really the question is what do you need to do with the traditional IT in order to support the changing needs of the business.


So as customers demand increasingly rapid supply chains, as customers demand greater personalization of their products that they're getting. So how do you support a mass-personalization and how do you deal with many of the different requirements that customers have in terms of real time capabilities. They want products and services much more quickly. And so now the supply chain has to respond more quickly. The question is does it make sense to have the slow part of what you were doing stay slow.


From our perspective, that just doesn't make sense. What you really need to do is understand how to take that slow part of the supply chain, that is the traditional technology as well as the traditional processes and policies and properly transform that in order to support this end-to-end requirement for speed, for customer focus, and for greater competitiveness in the modern, global environment that we find ourselves in.


Is there anything more you can say about the implications of following the bimodal approach or problems that you can still see?


There are a number of different things to consider. For example, how an organization budgets. If you take the bimodal approach, then you'll have separate budgets for the slow, the mode one activities, from the faster, mode two activities. So it will be separate budgets with separate management, separate ways of making decisions. And that will adversely impact your ability to coordinate a customer-focused effort.


So if you're trying to coordinate, you're trying to streamline your supply chain so that from the end customer at one end receiving products, and you have the suppliers at the other end and all the moving parts in between...If you're trying to streamline that, you're trying to drive costs out of that, you're trying to make that more flexible and meet customer needs, you don't want to have separate budgets and separate siloed management structures because they're going to be competing for resources. They won't be aligned with the overall goals of the organization. So that's one of the challenges.


Of course, another challenge is in recruitment and retention. If you are looking to... If you're an employee and you either have a job at a company somewhere in the supply chain environment or you're looking for a job — and this might be a company you're considering — the question is which of these groups would you want to be in. And nobody wants to be in the slow group. The fast group is the exciting, interesting, modern group. The slow group is the old-fashioned group that's using older technologies. And it's very hard to recruit for that mode one. And it's hard to retain people. If you have a bimodal strategy for your supply chain organization, you're going to be losing people from the mode one because they would much rather work in an organization who is transforming their traditional IT as opposed to one that just says, "Well, we're going to keep using that old software forever, because at least we know it works."


Well, that's not an interesting job relative to some of these other more rapid, customer-focused, digital dem-opts, agile...all the great buzzwords right now. If you're working not an organization like this, that's where the action is. So it's very hard to recruit and retain people if you have a bimodal strategy.


Do you have any recommendations on how professionals can work on transforming traditional IT?


Yeah.It's important to realize that it's not a black or white affair. It's not that you have to choose between a) leaving everything alone and don't monkey with it, not monkeying with it, or b) we going to replace all the old stuff and move old to new. It's rarely black and white like that. If you look at your existing environment and you're talking about technology as well as your processes and policies. So all the ways that IT meets the needs of business, all the governance approaches and all of the decision-making policies and processes, all of those elements that make up a running IT organization, you have to understand that certain things need to transform and other things may not. And different things will transform at different rates. And there's different priorities for transformation.


So a very important rule of thumb, if itain't broke, don't fix it. Just because we're saying that you should properly transform mode one doesn't mean that all of it transforms necessarily. You may have parts of it that are working just fine, and there's just no business reason to change those things. So that's a very important rule.


Another rule of thumb that sort of goes hand in hand with the ain't-broke-don't-fix-it rule is the avoid-shiny-things rule. Don't just do something new because it's the hot buzzword. I mentioned some of these hot buzzwords —dev-ops and agile and digital — but don't do them just because they're hot buzzwords or the next greatest thing or whatever the new language is or the new technology. That's not a good reason to do something. You want to do it because it meets the business needs which focuses on either strategic goals of the organization, increasing market share, increasing profitability, as well as maintaining increased focus on the customer and what the customer is demanding.


So the customers are demanding greater diversity of technology options. They're demanding more real-time behavior from the supply chain elements of the companies that serve them. And so that is now driving transformation across the board. But it doesn't mean that everything transforms all at once or at the same pace.


So transformation is always difficult and it's never a single thing that you have to focus on. But the bimodal pattern is really an excess oversimplification. You're not going to have really modes at all. It's not a question of having different modes, different speeds, but rather understanding that transformation is multi-faceted. It involves many different...changing different things in different contexts, depending on the priorities of the business.


Thank you, Jason. Did we cover all the points you wanted to make?


I suppose. I mean, we could go in depth into more of them, but it depends on how much time you have, I guess.


I think this is good for this interview. And we could do a follow up into more depth, if you would like, in the future.


That sounds good. Appreciate it.


Thanks for sharing.


Thanks a lot. Happy to help.



About Jason Bloomberg






Jason Bloomberg


President of Intellyx & Contributor to Forbes ▶ Institute Analyst at the Institute for Digital Transformation


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