Should your company go ahead and hire a virtual CIO? A CIO or CTO is the highest-ranking technology executive at any organization. They are involved at strategic level decision making, highlighting their importance. The average CTO in the USA earns about $160,000.
Most small to medium organizations may not have the capacity to have a full-time dedicated CIO. This is where hiring a virtual CIO becomes viable. They work as consultants on information technology matters.
They are sometimes called a fractional CIO because they work less time and draw a smaller salary compared to a full-time employee.
Having a tech-strategy lead, even on part time, is crucial when a company has thousands or perhaps millions of dollars invested in technology. Their input goes beyond advising on what to buy. A good virtual CIO can be a lynchpin.
The Value of a Virtual CIO to a Company
Besides the savings on salary, a virtual CIO saves the company much more through their knowledge. A company can utilize them in one of four ways:
- Part time- for instance 4 hours a week
- Ad-Hoc- When an issue arises
- On tap advice- Consulting around a specific area such as hiring IT staff
- Meetings- A virtual CIO sits in board meetings to discuss strategy
The specific roles they would undertake can be enumerated as follows:
1. Setting Strategic Priorities
A virtual CIO would help a business identify how tech-infrastructure ties up with the rest of the strategic objectives.
- What does the business need to acquire?
- What budget is needed?
- Are there compromises that need to be made?
Involvement at strategic level means the virtual CIO does not get involved in day-to-day operational matters. A middle level IT specialist would do that. However, a virtual CIO can help the IT team draw up a tactical plan drawn from the company’s strategic plan. They then help execute by consulting periodically.
2. Change Management
A virtual CIO will carry considerable experience in areas they are consulting. Therefore, they should advise on areas where change is necessary. They should be able to justify the recommended changes to the executive team.
An example of a change would be moving to a new cloud computing service provider. The CIO should help the company anticipate potential hurdles and make necessary contingencies. This can make the difference between the system being down a few hours and days.
Part of change management is being able to identify technologies that may not necessarily add value to the business. Cash-rich, mid-size company CEOs sometimes fall into the trap of acquiring every new piece of software that vendors propose. Skepticism can be a good quality of a virtual CIO.
3. Regulatory Compliance
A virtual CIO has great input on regulatory and compliance matters. This helps especially when a company collects customer data. The last data has seen big tech companies get fined for breach of data laws.
Previously, companies had only to worry about compliance with national laws. However, new laws that have international jurisdiction are cropping up. For instance, in 2018, the European Parliament’s General Data Protection Regulation law came into effect.
A dedicated service provider would perhaps be more effective than an in-house CIO in this case. A virtual CIO services company works with different companies and is more likely to keep abreast of latest regulatory trends.
4. Facilitation of Team Collaboration
The first time a virtual CIO comes in, they are likely to conduct an audit of the company’s infrastructures. They then come up with a plan to maximize collaboration in the most effective manner.
They may recommend acquisition of more hardware and software and perhaps some training for staff. All this should help improve collaboration and boost productivity.
5. A CIO can Improve Information Security
The virtual CIO manages the workflow of daily technology activities in a company by making sure the environment is safe and secure. He/she achieves this by ensuring smooth running of all applications and services.
Take for instance a company that uses a lot of open source software. Every update may represent a potential security vulnerability. A CIO can develop and conduct tests to assess such susceptibility.
6. Clarity on the Future
When the CIO is constant communication with the board, the company stays proactive. The CIO can identify fast changing areas and advise accordingly.
For instance, if a new model of a technology is set to launch in a few months, it may not make sense to buy what is currently in the market. The company can then wait and spend on something that is futureproof.
Part of clarity is having the fractional CIO on call in case something goes wrong. Because they already understand the infrastructure, troubleshooting can take a shorter time.
What to look for in a Virtual CIO
1. Experience and Qualifications
Depending on the demands in a company, a virtual CIO should have some experience or would be enrolled at an entry level. Experience in the IT budgeting process is also important. They should help determine how to split the IT budget between operations and innovation.
2. Objectivity in Judgement
A virtual CIO should be unbiased. He/she may provide a greater objectivity because they are less subjected to the company’s internal politics.
If the fractional CIO is hired as a firm, they should be impartial in their recommendations for where to purchase or outsource tech services and products.
3. Flexibility and Versatility
Companies have a myriad of tech infrastructure that a CIO needs to understand. Cloud computing is perhaps the latest trend and tech staff are rushing to get certifications. A virtual CIO should also have soft skills that can help the company in other areas such as hiring IT staff.
Today, there are hundreds of companies offering not only virtual CIO services but bundled managed IT packages. This can be quite appealing to a small or medium sized company.
Transcendent Software LLC CIO Services
Successful CEOs sometimes overwhelm themselves by trying to be experts at everything. They are unaware of personal bias and information deficiencies. It leads to suboptimal IT decisions.
Transcendent Software LLC helps optimize companies’ IT infrastructure. Our Virtual CIO services provide a part time resource for small to medium-sized businesses. We have helped companies operate efficiently for over 20 years.