Rocky Balboa and the Bimodal Supply Chain

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I recently watched this very inspiring documentary From Rocky to Creed: The Legacy Continues, featuring Sylvester Stallone and his costars, sharing their journey through the Rocky movie franchise. For those of you not familiar with Rocky, he is the fictional, perennial underdog boxer who won some very memorable boxing matches with odds heavily stacked against him. The franchise started with the Oscar winning Rocky in 1976. After Rocky V was released in 1990, Stallone decided to finish the series with Rocky Balboa in 2006. The movie was a treat to all diehard Rocky fans. However, the 60+ year old, out of shape, arthritic Rocky working his way to tackle the then young heavy weight champion Mason “Line” Dixon was bit of a stretch. I thought that was the last I saw of Rocky. Then came the movie Creed in 2015, launching the character of Adonis Creed, son of the most flamboyant, very likeable, champion boxer Apollo Creed from the original Rocky series. Here is what is different about Creed, the movie. It relaunched Rocky Balboa, in a far more believable role as one who coaches Creed, this ultra-cool, young, driven, and hungry millennial boxer to a successful championship. With its gripping narrative amplified by its perfect background score, the movie drew in an entirely new millennial demographic in addition to the previous generation of Rocky fans, setting up for what is guaranteed to be a highly anticipated spinoff franchise. But Creed did not become such a massive success without leveraging and building upon the strengths of Rocky Balboa. Rocky and Creed together really made 1+1 =3! Now, what does this all have to do with Bimodal supply chain? Gartner defines bimodal as follows: Bimodal is the practice 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. In other words, Mode 1 is evolutionary and Mode 2 is revolutionary. Mode 1 is legacy and Mode 2 is the new generation. Mode 1 goes through the traditional development and deployment paradigm of long cycles. Mode 2 follows the agile iterative testing and rollout process with continuous release of capabilities. Mode 1 automates the predictable. Mode 2 is smart, social, mobile, and collaborative; everything that is needed to tackle the complexity and volatility of today’s business. In the end, both modes have a role to play. Tying it to my supply chain world, Mode 1 consists of the legacy ERP investments that some of our customers have made. These are hard to rip and replace. By itself, the legacy capability has slow reflexes, and cannot keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the business. But it does capture transactions as they happen and retain them. However, with a Mode 2 approach, we see a new generation of hip, cool, collaborative, fast and cloud-based supply chain planning capabilities. Instead of ripping and replacing Mode 1, the capabilities of Mode 2 are layered on top of Mode 1. We do see this bimodal methodology in action with our customers as they continue to revolutionize their planning. They are doing this by moving away from a batch, functionally oriented supply chain planning to a real time, network level, scenario-based supply chain planning. In essence, the mode 1 legacy ERP investments are Rocky Balboa and the mode 2 RapidResponse capabilities are Adonis Creed. Both have a role to play. Let Mode 2 do the heavy lifting and hard work like Creed, while Mode 1 supports like Rocky Balboa. The combination truly makes 1+1 =3!


Karen Peterson
- October 31, 2016 at 8:17am
While I think Gartner is over-using the bi-modal analogy (it started using it to characterize IT development modes), it is an interesting analogy in supply chain.

I think it is simplistic to characterize supply chain technology as bi-modal. ERP systems have been around for 30+ years and are the transactional backbone for the enterprise. Supply Chain systems have been operating on top of these systems for almost as long as ERP systems have been around (as you well know). Were these also bi-modal supply chain systems?

The important differentiators of the "new" systems are that they are less focused on optimizing a single point in time but are architected to incrementally adjust as things (inevitably) change. In addition, we need taxonomies which take into account multi-enterprise relationships. Early supply chain planning systems did this to a degree but failed to address role based permissions, network analytics and flexible data conversion to a great degree.

I am excited that new technologies are appearing to enable true supply chain optimization. Congrats to Kinaxis for taking a lead in this market!
Madhav Durbha
- October 31, 2016 at 9:57am
Hi Karen,

Thanks for the kind remarks. If we think of mode 2 as something that would help your capabilities change at the pace of your business, I consider the following to be foundational to mode 2:

1. The speed of roll out and consumption of capability to business users
2. Specifically in the context of Supply Chain, the speed and agility in responding to the inevitable changes, which you pointed to.

Established Supply Chain systems that have been around, while delivered operational efficiencies within certain function domains, have not been successful in both of the above counts. Because of this I will not categorize these supply chain systems deployed in conjunction with ERP backbone as bi-modal. They all together form a mode 1 ecosystem.

Matthew Baggetta
- February 10, 2017 at 2:31pm
I really enjoyed this article Madhav, it made the bimodal framework fun and accessible, and helped me look at it through the lens of pop culture. Supply chain needs more content like this that has some flavor in it. Reading nothing but Gartner research can get stale after a while.

Karen I'm not familiar with Gartner's research applying bimodality to IT, but I have read a lot of it with an eye for supply chain, specifically last-mile operations. One helpful supporting framework that I've found to situate and add some nuance to bimodality is their HOOF model. The HOOF model shows the four different Postmodern ERP scenarios that are possible: Hybrid reality, On-premises monolith, Outsourced everything, and the Flip Model. Bimodal firms would be operating in hybrid reality scenario, but this is not a static case. The HOOF model also aligns well with your formulation of Mode1-Mode2, evolutionary-revolutionary Madhav.

I recently published a new whitepaper called Last-Mile Supply Chain Mastery: Is Your ERP Really Up for the Job? It goes in depth about the differences between new Mode 2 solutions (typically agile, flexible cloud-based SaaS specialist vendors) and Mode 1 one systems (monolithic, stable and reliable ERP systems), in the context of last mile logistics supply chain management. If you're interested to learn more, check it out:
Madhav Durbha
- February 12, 2017 at 11:59pm
Matthew - thanks for the kind words. Also for pointing me to your recent whitepaper. Shall certainly take a look!

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