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Strategy Session: A Tale of Two CIOs

I recently spoke with two CIOs about their philosophies on deploying everything from server-imaging software to enterprise applications like PeopleSoft. One CIO was running a major university's IT organization, while the other was running the IT shop for one of New York's biggest financial institutions.

While these CIOs don't quite represent the Dickensian dichotomy of poverty and wealth, it's fair to say their businesses are as different as could be. Seconds matter to the financial institution, and they matter to the tune of millions of dollars. No surprise there. So, when this organization goes out to buy software, its No. 1 concern is customization. In fact, this IT organization expects that it will tailor every piece of software it buys, right down to something as basic as server-imaging software.

It's hard to imagine that buying a tool like imaging software and then spending months to customize it makes business sense, even when seconds amount to more money than I'll ever see in my lifetime. After all, server-imaging software hardly sits in the critical path of transactions. Is customizing it really a good use of IT resources?

Then there's the university CIO. Efficiency matters to the university; in fact, it matters so much that this large institution is attempting to bring in applications as crucial as PeopleSoft and run them for six months without customization. Image that! An institution with many thousands of employees and tens of thousands of students would substantially modify its own business practices rather than go through the pain and expense of customizing some of its enterprise software.

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