Strategy Session: A Tale of Two CIOs

I recently spoke with the CIOs of two very different businesses, and it got me wondering: How should NWC serve the unique needs of both these vertical industries?

Art Wittmann

February 2, 2007

2 Min Read
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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.To a certain degree, this is an exercise in restraint for the university. The CIO understands that some customization will be required, but what better way to find out just how much than to live with the application in its out-of-the-box state for a few months? Yet given that it's non-IT staff who will likely feel the pain, one wonders whether this a recipe for building a popular IT organization. There's a lot to be said for happy customers.

So how should NWC serve the unique needs of these two vertical industries? We could modify our testing to look for features that seem important to each. But we'd likely fall short--let's face it, we aren't going to exercise the API on a server-imaging application to the point where we could tell you if you could completely replace the UI. We don't test for a feature we wouldn't generally recommend using. Instead, NWC now does a much more thorough job of assessing which verticals a vendor serves. You'll find some of this information in our features and much more in our Analytics reports. When our goal is to help you build your shortlist, testing is critical to NWC evaluations, but it's only one weapon in our arsenal. Art Wittmann is editor in chief of Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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