If your IT department is like many in the U.S., you are struggling with day-to-day operations — leaving very little time for strategic thinking about your business. Even if the time was available, would your team have the expertise and skillsets necessary to create a fully-featured technology plan, budget and business plans for the future? Organizations often hire all-purpose employees, people who are able to wear multiple hats. These generalists are excellent at keeping the business running and creating a great deal of value, but may not have the depth of knowledge required to survey the technology landscape and make recommendations that will guide the future of your business. As organizations turn to IT managed services partners to outsource more of their technology needs, there’s still a gap in terms of strategic thinking. A virtual CIO can help step into that gap and provide your business with the long-term strategic insight that will help you optimize your operations and crush the competition.
What is a vCIO?
Chief Information Officers, or CIOs, are rarely found in small to mid-size businesses as this can be an extremely expensive skillset. You may not need someone employed at this level full-time, but there are several times throughout the year when their guidance would come in handy. Budgeting, competitive analysis, operational efficiency planning and cybersecurity are a few of the topics that a CIO would address in an enterprise, and smaller businesses have the same concerns with a greatly reduced annual budget. A virtual CIO is a high-level executive who is able to step into your organization, understand your business needs and model, and make solid recommendations that will help your business be competitive in the future.
How Can a vCIO Help My Business?
You can see how a vCIO could help with budgeting, and longer-term strategic planning, but are there other ways that these individuals could add value to your business? Planning for the next several years requires a solid understanding of your business model, employees and competitive landscape. Your vCIO will also need to a great deal of research to understand your current software and hardware platforms and other options that are on the market. Your vCIO can also:
- Provide crossover business knowledge as a subject matter expert on a variety of topics
- Define IT infrastructure lifecycle recommendations, feeding into your multi-year technology budget
- Target inefficient operations, proposing changes that will save time and boost productivity
- Align technology strategies with business objectives to facilitate business process improvement throughout the organization
- Review vendor contracts and relationships, looking for economies of scale and reducing overlap
- Make suggestions for new business technologies that have recently entered the market
- Review overall disaster preparedness, including backup and recovery procedures and cybersecurity posture
- Determine operational readiness to deliver key product offerings
- Competitive analysis with an eye towards consolidation and information business technology solutions in the future
As you can see, these services are best delivered by an individual with over a decade of experience in business and technology, with the insight needed to recommend solutions that will meet core business requirements.
Getting Started with Your vCIO
Before your virtual CIO makes any recommendations for your business, they will be doing a great deal of listening and learning from your internal teams and may even request to interview vendors. They will review the competitive landscape, see what type of technology your partners and competitors are using and make lists of the current technology being used in your business. Your vCIO should ask a lot of questions, trying to determine where there are logical breakdowns in operations that could be addressed by advanced technology solutions. Finally, they will need to understand the budgetary landscape — is your business going to be able to make significant investments in technology in the near future, or are you looking for ways to reduce overall expenses? All of this information will go into their overarching analysis, as they attempt to plot a workable technology roadmap for your business.
Understanding the Technology Landscape
The technology landscape is complex and ever-changing, and your vCIO needs to have a solid understanding of the technology that will impact your business — as well as any future functionality for core software and hardware. Understanding your services delivery model and staffing requirements allows your vCIO to appropriately scale software and hardware rollouts, determining whether it’s time to move critical functions to the cloud, for instance. A firm understanding of the value proposition for cloud-based storage and applications versus the value of on-premise solutions is crucial, as technology and business teams become more mobile and look for flexible work solutions that are less dependent on their physical locations. Physical security as well as cybersecurity are hot topics for Chief Information Officers, as the threat landscape continues to morph and cybercriminals become more aggressive.
Having access to a vCIO provides your organization with a broad-spectrum talent, someone who can look not only at the problems of today — but at the solutions that will drive your business in the future. Your IT managed services provider may be able to provide this type of support, with the added value that they are already familiar with your business model and needs.