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The quest for predictable exploration

By Janeiro Digital | May 2, 2017

These days, CIOs and CTOs have their feet carefully balanced on opposite banks of an ever-widening chasm. Under one foot lies the need to provide stable and secure services for their organization that keep the lights on, never disrupting business as usual. Beneath the other foot is the drive for exciting technology-intensive initiatives that transform the organization, solving business needs in innovative new ways with the latest technologies available.

Sometimes the uncertainty of innovation can paralyze an organization into only pursuing safe or well-defined projects that carry little risk. They’ll often survey the longer-term roadmap and move forward with only the initiatives that feel comfortable or have expected and achievable outcomes.

On the flip side, if all you pursue are new-shiny projects and you neglect core systems, it can be difficult to build any real momentum. These projects are less likely to impact the greater business at hand since they rarely build upon each other in a meaningful way. The failure rates can be high and risk-averse companies often feel buyer’s remorse after the fact or shy away entirely.

There is a way to address both needs simultaneously, however, to find solid footing even while your footsteps fall in unknown territory.

Charting a clear path

To bridge the divide, you need to manage two separate styles of work simultaneously. Gartner, Inc refers to this approach as “bimodal.” They write, “Bimodal is the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration.”

To answer the first concern, focus on building an intentional and predictable evolution of your core products and technologies. For the second, explore the new and innovative in your problem-solving. The simultaneous combination of these two ways of working, while sometimes difficult to get used to, is essential to building a two-pronged approach for projects in any enterprise, since both play key roles in any transformative digital project.

At the core, with this mindset an organization experiments in careful and selective areas, testing their hypotheses to determine the next likely course of action. A measured approach makes it possible to explore and innovate with intention while reacting to what is discovered, thereby reducing risk along the way.

Laying the course according to plan

When focused on predictability, the main goal is stability for the organization when the requirements for a digital project are well-understood in advance.  An analysis process at the outset paves the way for the necessary investment in opening up and refining the legacy environment in ways that are more predictable and better understood at the outset.

Train your thinking to stay on track with business strategy by taking advantage of elements of the project that are known while renovating and modernizing any legacy environment. As you problem-solve the existing architecture and infrastructure with a modern mindset, your technical design can be evolved into a state that is more fit for the modern digital world. This will ensure that your core systems are up to date and current.

Cutting a path into the wilderness

Taking an approach that favors innovation, exploration, and managing uncertainties would be the right tactic when requirements cannot be well-understood or well-defined before beginning a project.

These types of initiatives often start with a series of hypotheses that are proven, disproven, or evolve through a process that is typically built from short iterative work periods or sprints. Each sprint builds on the findings of the previous, as the understanding of the work needed becomes more clear. This can be an effective way of discovering more about the proper course for the project as a whole.

Keeping forward momentum

Most organizations have entrenched habits for building their plans based on history and known factors. It takes an awakening for new habits of innovation and discovery to come to life. Innovative thinking nested within a tactical and measured approach serves to reduce risk as much as possible. By keeping both of these parallel ways of working active in your organization, you are better able build a reasonable base to innovate upon, adapt to the variety of challenges you’ll face, and deliver transformative solutions in a predictable way.

In order to open up the culture needed for this dual-path approach to thrive, it’s necessary to adopt experimentation, design thinking, and iteration. From that perspective, it’s possible to understand the business problem and business strategy to design an effective new or revamped experience. Breaking down the work into predictable cycles of innovation helps big advancements align with what’s feasible, both technically and based on incoming data, to adapt organically as it grows within the process.

In this way, it’s possible to cut down on wasted development cycles and keep your feet confidently moving forward on the right path.

You may be interested in these related articles:

→ Need some help adjusting your organization’s mindset? Learn how Janeiro Digital merges predictability and innovation in their process.

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