Understanding Pre- and Post-Digital Operating Models

It’s not a transition, but an expansion of the IT operating model


By Bradley Clerkin, CTO


To have the most success from digital transformation, you must understand the relationship between pre-digital and post-digital outlooks toward the IT operating model. Though pre-digital came before post-digital, post-digital values are not meant to replace the pre-digital model. Rather, post-digital values should be seen as an addition to the pre-digital model, not a transition.

It’s All About Assets

In the pre-digital times, leaders viewed technology as a necessary tax for doing modern-day business, which is how we began to look at the data center and IT overall as a cost center. This concept has continued to drive the thinking around IT — the cost must always be justified. Thus, the main priorities of the pre-digital IT operating model were incredibly asset-focused, concentrating on predictability, stability, and control. 

These values (predictability, stability, and control) continue to govern three core functions of the pre-digital IT environment:


  • ITIL/ITSM: An operating model for controlling costs and managing assets.

  • Project Management Office (PMO): Waterfall-based working methods.

  • Data center: A company-owned, non-multi-tenet dedicated infrastructure.

These values and functions of the pre-digital IT operating model aren’t going anywhere. However, in order to reap the benefits of being post-digital, enterprises must add new values and functions into the mix that focus on generating new profits.

Post-Digital Means Profits

A post-digital perspective of the IT operating model began when IT gained the potential to become a revenue generator. With advancements like cloud offering the ability to scale and create new business solutions using technology, it became clear that technology was no longer the cost of doing business. It is how we generate new business (and how modern customers expect to do business).

With increased earnings on the line, the IT operations priorities of post-digital became adaptability, autonomy, and velocity — the capabilities that inform the digital triad:


  • DevOps: How we manage the technology within the post-digital IT operating model that drives the revenue center.

  • Agile: Work management methods that prioritize change and adaptability.

  • Cloud: A network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data with little constriction.

When comparing pre- and post-digital values, they are apparent opposites: stability vs. volatility. Yet, they aim to govern the same areas and solve the same problems. That is okay! They should be different (check out our blog post on Busting the DevOps vs. ITIL Myth). 

To operationalize a genuinely successful IT operating model, you can’t simply force all aspects of IT into a post-digital mold. Post- and pre-digital are both necessary for high-functioning IT. You must think of operationalizing DevOps, Agile, and Cloud as an expansion, adding post-digital values through these methods to specific focus areas within the organization, all with the goal of activating new revenue channels. 

Simple to Explain, Complex to Utilize 

We’ve given a relatively simple explanation for how and why pre- and post-digital values co-exist. So why is it so complex to operationalize DevOps, Agile, and Cloud? Let’s lay out a few reasons why this digital addition becomes challenging for organizations.

1. Vendors don’t want their existing revenue streams to go away.

Vendors perceive post-digital methods as a threat to their revenue streams that are based on pre-digital values. To combat this, they’ll often apply post-digital language to pre-digital tools, such as adding “DevOps” to the name of their program. This has led to misinformation and poor advice from vendors on how to institute DevOps, Agile, and Cloud.


2. Change resistance is at an all-time high within IT. 

There are multiple reasons for change resistance. We think a prominent reason for this resides in the DevOps vs. ITIL myth — the “us vs. them” mentality. The addition of post-digital methods can become a battle between old vs. new or antiquated vs. modern. This bi-modal mindset created an unnecessary divide and conflict. Teams must manage both correctly.

3. The addition of DevOps, Cloud, and Agile is a large undertaking.

DevOps, Cloud, and Agile operate best when they’re all present. This post points out the issues that arise when you aim to operationalize one without the other. To operationalize all three is a massive, complex undertaking. But the investment is well worth it.

As we’ve seen, post-digital methods are a response to the changing business landscape and the need for organizations to be able to adapt and innovate quickly. However, as with any change, there are challenges associated with adoption and operationalizing it within an organization.

If you’re looking to add IT revenue channels, reach out to BreakFree Solutions. Our team has years of experience helping businesses like yours make the addition and see all the benefits that come with it.



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