The Age of Virtual CIO is Here

If you are small to a mid-sized company it is vital that you consider having a Virtual Chief Information Officer (VCIO). A Virtual CIO is the technology quarterback of your business responsible for establishing technology roadmaps. They provide your company strategic IT direction while working within a budget by using checkpoints along the way through reviews and reports on the state of your company’s technology and IT department.

How to Have a Cost Effective Virtual CIO

It isn’t feasible for a lot of companies to employ their very own dedicated Virtual CIO with a salary ranging from $150-250K per year. However, outsourcing a vCIO has it advantages because it is a cost-efficient alternative. Some companies like Frontier Solutions will offer a Virtual CIO component as a part of their overall monthly service.

What Does a Virtual CIO Do?

A Virtual CIO gathers detailed technology information on a company existing IT to see if it is aligned with best practices. From that detailed information, they make recommendations on what a company should be doing. A company like Frontier Solutions acts as the bridge between reporting “what should happen” and then turns around and “makes it happen”. They are an all inclusive service that not only offers detailed reports but then goes ahead and implements the strategy by working very closely with the client over a period of time (anywhere from six months to two years). They have a dedicated network administrator who looks at the system alignment and makes sure that your company’s technology is aligned with Manage Service Provider (MSP) technical standards.

How Often Do You Meet with Your Virtual CIO?

A company willing to invest in technology sees a Virtual CIO as a trusted advisor and is willing to accept their recommendations in the IT strategy solutions they provide. A Virtual CIO will meet with their client on a quarterly basis in addition to having monthly technology review meetings. A Network Health Report, put together by the dedicated service administrator, shows the components of the companies IT systems, processes, and structures. This becomes a road map showing where the company’s technology is in alignment and where it is out of alignment. From that your Virtual CIO will build a strategy and budget for the company. In addition, they will look at trends in their industry or in technology and offer more comprehensive solutions as well as set a time frame for making them happen. They put steps into place in order to get from A to Z and discuss business continuity plans.

Why Have a Virtual CIO?

It is an ever changing and evolving technology world. If you “don’t know what you don’t know” then there is a risk that your competitors “know what you don’t” and are gaining a competitive edge while you are being technology ignorant to what’s available in a particular industry or vertical. A Virtual CIO helps you sort through the technology issues without slowing a business down. They offer technology review, budgeting, forecasting, and information on the business impact of technology. They have discussions surrounding, “Why does your company need to spend $40K for a new server? Why does your company use application X instead of application Y?” A Virtual CIO ensures that your company’s technology is staying on track and that there is no unforeseen hiccups.

Isn’t a Virtual CIO Just IT Support?

No! While some people think a vCIO is closely linked with IT support they do offer different functions. IT support is an expense or company overhead while a Virtual CIO is an expansion tool focused on business growth to help you gain more clients. A Virtual CIO helps you to utilize technology in a strategic way to be more competitive in your market and ensures the investment you are making in technology is sound by giving you a ROI. Instead of just sinking money into “something” it allows you to put together a plan and budget the same as you would for other aspects of IT. For example, if you are going to invest $100K into refreshing your technology where will that leave you in two years? A Virtual CIO helps you to make the right strategic decision by choosing a modular path that can be built on instead of a path that pigeon holes you into a particular direction. You want a plan that helps you evolve but if the direction were to change then it wouldn’t be so rigid that you would have to throw everything out and start over. A good Virtual CIO creates a plan you can tweak on the fly.

Three Benefits to Having a Virtual CIO

Many executives or business owners are more confident managing things like finance and HR than they are with dealing with IT. A Virtual CIO removes the mystery of IT by opening the door so you can look behind the curtain to see what IT is about and how you can use it as a competitive advantage. This gives you a strategic direction that stays on budget and makes you aware of what technology tools are available to ensure that your company is competing, growing, and thriving. A Virtual CIO reduces the risk and fear of being left behind by other companies who “know more” and are using more technology than you to improve the client experience. You want your clients to have a modern efficient way of interfacing with your company.

Criteria for a Good Virtual CIO

A good Virtual CIO is a thought leader that uncovers the next generation of technology; they should be invested enough to investigate, lead, and stay on top of the latest trends but should also have the foresight to see how a business can strategically move forward. They fuel growth by helping a company to differentiate themselves. A good Virtual CIO should have 7-10 years of experience and understand budgets as they are essentially a companies first line of defence when it comes to technology spending. They should know how to create a technology roadmap and use that information to present a case to business leaders on why it is needed for the company to stay relevant in their industry. A Virtual CIO should reduce IT costs as a company is being transformed while developing a strategy that ensures the company technology is in alignment with best practices.

If you are a small to mid-sized company that needs a Virtual CIO to help focus your IT direction but lack the capital to hire a dedicated consultant then outsourcing a company like Frontier Solutions is a great way to incorporate your company needs while keeping you on the forefront of cutting edge technology solutions.

Shaun Rowsell