What to Look for When Considering a Virtual CIO or CTO

A CIO bridges the gap between a business’s goals and the technology required to get there. Businesses today are heavily reliant on technology in virtually all areas- communication, accounting, analytics, procurement management. A virtual CIO helps a business take full advantage of the technologies available for the business to operate optimally. They do this at the fraction of the cost it would take to have a full-time CIO on board.

A CIO is guru whose input into a business should be considered at the strategic level. Their advice will influence technology planning and hiring decisions. It’s therefore important to spend time to find a CIO who best fits the bill in terms of experience and knowledge. Here are X things to consider when hiring a virtual CIO or CTO.

A Virtual CIO Should Be Experienced

The person or firm being considered to provide virtual CIO experience should have demonstrable experience. Their role will involve a wide range of deliverables. They should be good at managing people, overseeing projects, business planning and forecasting, and reviewing results. vCIOs are consultants in the industry and their bar should be that high. They should be able to see and help others understand the relationship between technology and long-term strategic goal. Virtual CTOs should at least have worked in several areas of IT in-depth. A person who has earned their stripes gets the respect of those they are leading quite easily.

Virtual CIO Be a Good Planner

A virtual CIO must be a good planner. Their input will be used to budget for the future technological needs of the business. They must be creative so that the business does not end up spending too much when similar results would have been achieved with a smaller budget. Part of good planning is being able to pivot when need be. A virtual CIO should help the business stay flexible enough to adjust to new unique challenges.

In Touch with Emerging Technology

No matter how experienced the virtual CIO is, they must be able to keep up with emerging technologies. Most of a CIO’s work is future-looking. They should be able to make predictions about how emerging technologies will impact industry and a specific business. This will help them make recommendations on which technologies to adopt or how best to respond when competitors adopt new technology. The virtual CIO should be a regular contributor in forums that discuss technology and emerging issues in a specific sector. This is usually a sign that they are always looking to explore new possibilities.

Good Security and Disaster Management Skills

A virtual CIO will be extremely important in the event of a security breach at your company. Their experience and leadership will help the business communicate effectively to stakeholders. They will also lead the disaster recovery efforts to ensure minimal downtime and full restoration of service. There should be a well-laid-out plan of how to handle such events when they occur.

Before disaster strikes, the virtual CIO should help create concrete security systems to mitigate potential threats. Part of this is establishing a culture of security awareness among staff members. This happens through training and availing resources to disseminate information to staff.

Virtual CIOs Need Good Hiring Skills

Planning for a business’s technological needs should include acquiring the right talent. A vCIO will help carry out a needs assessment in terms of talent. Any gaps can be addressed through internal training and promotions or through external hiring. The virtual CIO should lead the organization through this process including planning ahead for future talent needs. If a major talent is leaving the organization soon, the virtual CIO will help put together a continuity plan. There should be a way of tapping into the knowledge of the person leaving by perhaps letting someone shadow them so they can eventually take over.

Communication Skills

A virtual CIO’s knowledge and experience may not fully your business if they are not good communicators. They should be able to see and highlight issues in an intelligent manner that does not cause disharmony. If a bigger IT budget is necessary, they should be able to champion it in board meetings. Good communication skills also help when leading an IT team through projects. The CIO will assign roles, follow up on deliverables and provide feedback.

The vCIO should also be great at collaborating with other high-ranking officers in an organization. For instance, they may have to work with the human resource department to come up with remuneration packages for new talent. They will also work with other executives in drawing up strategic plans for the company. They may also need to to take up a mentorship role for emerging talent to prepare them for leadership roles.

Managing Expectations with a Virtual CIO

A virtual CIO ought to be an expert in their field and will no doubt add great value to your strategic technology-related decisions. However, the vCIO is not a silver bullet to all your tech problems. First, ut must be clear why you want to hire virtual CIO service. If your internal team is avoiding dealing with certain problems, a virtual CIO might help solve the problem, but it could enable the culture of avoidance.

The scope of the virtual CIO’s work must be clear, together with the period during which they will be at the organization. In some cases, the vCIO mentors a young IT leader to take up the role internally. In other situations, the vCIO stays for the long haul. Such clarity will help avoid possible power struggles within an organization.

It is also advisable to develop standards that will determine the value that the vCIO brings to the organization. This will depend on the reasons for hiring them in the first place. Deliverables might include managing budgets better, improving employee retention, improving data security, and ensuring compliance with laws.

If your organization is seeking to hire a virtual CIO, please check out Transcendent Software’s offering. We are a fully-fledged IT services company helping companies make the best out of their tech infrastructure. We offer fractional CIO and CTO services to both small and medium size businesses.