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You Don’t Need a vCIO. What You Really Need is a Relationship

I was on the phone with one of my regular clients the other day, and we were discussing what we thought the next few years of his business might look like. We haven’t been working with him for too long, but even in the short time we have I feel like we’ve learned a lot about each other.

Which, of course, is when he asked me a question that stopped me right in my tracks.

“Why haven’t you recommended that I use a vCIO?” he said, earnestly. “I’ve been reading a lot about this online and I have to tell you, I think it might be something I can use.”

For those unfamiliar, vCIO is a term short for “virtual CIO.” It’s a service that many IT companies offer where they’ll essentially act as your business’ Chief Information Officer.

Because I believe that every relationship should be founded on honesty, I answered him as truthfully as I could:

“Because vCIO is an overused buzzword.”

It’s true – vCIO is a term that, in my opinion, has long since lost all meaning. If it ever had any at all, that is. Now, I’d like to explain why I think this is the case.

What’s in a vCIO? It Depends on Who You Ask…

Our own team member Mike Bates used to be our resident ‘vCIO,’ until he ascended to his current position of ‘Client Success Manager.’ His day-to-day work hasn’t changed, but we changed his title because it’s more reflective of the value he provides to our clients. To us, that means that Mike is in charge of making sure that the services our clients sign up for actually generate the outcomes that they signed up for.

Our clients deserve the fastest response possible. They don’t want to be frustrated by poor communication. They shouldn’t have to deal with being passed along from representative to representative until they’re not even sure who they’re working with any longer. The list goes on and on.

Virtual CIO, on the other hand, began as an industry buzzword and it’s going to die as one, too. When buzzwords like this are first presented, they’re exciting and fresh. But when everyone says they offer a vCIO service and nobody can agree on what it actually means in the first place, it loses all value.

One of the most common things we often hear in the legal industry, for example, is that clients have the desire to generate more efficiency in their workflows. Capturing time is always one of their major pain points, particularly remotely. One provider may swear up and down that solving workflow issues like these are covered by a vCIO. Another might say beyond the shadow of a doubt that this isn’t what a vCIO was designed to do.

Where, exactly, does that leave you?

With our Client Success Manager role, on the other hand, Mike was able to identify a time management system for a client that allowed their people to enter time records on a mobile device and then automatically sync that information back to their main system.

All of this was possible because we reject the idea that the vCIO is the “be all, end all” solution to fit your needs and instead focus on what matters most of all: relationships.

This goes beyond providing services and solutions, too. Mike always makes an effort to visit our clients at their workplace. To go out to lunch with them. To get to know them as people AND as a business, so we know where they’re coming from and what they’re all about.

More than anything, we want to have a seat at the table, so to speak. If a client needs us to review a vendor proposal or be a part of their annual planning, we’re going to do that. We’re not going to say “oh, that’s not what a vCIO does” because nobody can even agree on what that role is supposed to be in the first place.

vCIO is a marketing term, while something like Client Success Manager is a relationship term. Different providers call a position like that different names, but so long as it meets that description, you know you’ve found someone you can depend on.

Relationships Are Like a Journey. They Just Require That First Step

There is no one magical buzzword that can help you generate the results you’re after. You don’t need a vCIO anymore than you need an “Infrastructure Agility Aggregate Coordinator” (which is a fancy-sounding position I literally just made up to prove a point). What you really need is a relationship – not dissimilar to the ones you go out of your way to forge with your own clients.

At Frontier Solutions, we go out of our way to get so close to our clients that they don’t just begin to respect our business and our processes – they respect the advice that we’re willing to give because it’s based in a mutual understanding that we’re all in this together. Even more than our technological services, they ask us what we’re doing with HR, how to deal with millennials and everything in between – because that’s the type of connection we were able to earn over time.

Getting to Know Your Business

If this article resonated with you, I encourage you to reach out and schedule your getting-to-know-you phone call. It'll give us a chance to learn more about each other, so that we can take those first formidable steps towards a new relationship together.

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Chantale Benoit

Chantale Benoit is the CEO of Frontier Solutions, a Calgary IT support company that has been helping small businesses get the most from IT in a way that allows it to drive their business forward for the past 23 years. Learn more about Chantale and Frontier Solutions here.
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Chantale Benoit

Chantale Benoit is the CEO of Frontier Solutions, a Calgary IT support company that has been helping small businesses get the most from IT in a way that allows it to drive their business forward for the past 23 years. Learn more about Chantale and Frontier Solutions here.

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