When your business is small, managing IT is relatively easy. But over time, you find yourself spending more and more time on your technology. Eventually, it becomes overwhelming.
What’s more, lack of knowledge means you often wind up missing out on opportunities to improve your IT. There might be all sorts of innovations and solutions out there that could transform your enterprise, but you’re none the wiser.
In these situations, hiring a full-time chief information office (CIO) seems like the obvious solution. But it’s expensive. Candidates with extensive experience in the IT field are rare and command big salaries. Often the cost of hiring them outweighs the benefits, ruling out this option for the vast bulk of small businesses.
Fortunately, there is a solution: virtual chief information officers. These professionals provide the support you need without the hefty price tag. With more than 75 percent of SMBs outsourcing elements of their IT, the concept is becoming ever more popular.
What is a vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer)?
A vCIO is a person who supports your business’ relationship with technology. Their job ranges from keeping track of your day-to-day network operations to overseeing your digital transformation strategy. They look at the existing software and hardware ecosystem and ask how you can leverage it to serve your enterprise.
vCIOs, therefore, have a similar role to regular in-house CIOs, but with one important exception: they don’t work solely for your business. Most have other clients too.
Such a setup might sound like a negative, but it actually serves your company. If you run a small business, you usually don’t require a full-time CIO to work exclusively on company-related projects. Mostly, all you need is somebody to contribute here and there – as it suits you. Thus, vCIOs are a way of getting all the tech support you need without paying a full-time salary.
What does a vCIO do?
The range of activities that a vCIO can undertake on behalf of your firm is enormous. Here, we categorize them into two distinct conceptual groups: services that improve your existing infrastructure and services that transform your enterprise.
Improves your existing infrastructure
Most commonly, SMBs view vCIOs as people who work on maintaining and improving their existing systems. Often firms have a technology stack that they like and want to use for the foreseeable future. In these cases, vCIOs do things like:
- Improve how companies make use of their internal resources
- Implement data-based cost control strategies to prevent overspend
- Use training to enhance employee productivity
- Improve the company’s security and protect against data breaches, ransomware, and other forms of cybercrime
- Respond to cyberattacks with security solutions
- Provide the business with detailed monthly reports relating to their IT efficiency
- Monitor networks and dealing with infrastructural issues
Transforms your enterprise with technology
Sometimes, though, SMBs bring in vCIOs to oversee wholesale tech-driven changes that adjust their business models’ nature in some fundamental way. In these cases, a vCIO can do things like:
- Redesign the existing IT infrastructure
- Fill technological gaps in the company’s current stack
- Recommend to business owners technologies that could improve customer outcomes
- Implement technologies that change the operations of the business (for instance, moving from in-person operations to online)
- Discuss how the company can use IT strategy to gain a competitive advantage over rivals
How can a vCIO lead to digital transformation?
Seventy percent of companies currently have a digital transformation plan in place right now or plan to implement one shortly. Twenty-one percent say that they’ve already achieved this. Thus the time to act is now.
However, carrying out a full digital transformation isn’t easy. It’s not just about “going paperless” or improving your software stack. It also means fundamentally rethinking how your business operates in light of currently-available technology.
For example, at the start of the 21st century, it didn’t make sense for Blockbuster to continue operating VHS rental stores. If the brand had heeded advancements in technology and launched a streaming service, it would probably still be here today. The fact that it isn’t is a testament to the importance of moving with the times.
vCIOs help your enterprise avoid such a fate by leading the digital transformation agenda. They’re often able to see what current technology allows and how it could benefit your firm. They start with a blank slate and imagine what your business might look like if you built it entirely around modern technological capabilities, ignoring anything that came before.
Why should you hire a vCIO?
Hiring a vCIO offers a host of benefits, some of which we’ve already touched on in our discussion. These include:
- Improved disaster recovery. Bouncing back from disaster isn’t always easy. But vCIOs can help you come back stronger than before with a disaster recovery plan (DRP). Typically, these involve backing up files, resetting computers, and reinstalling operating systems rapidly.
- Enhanced strategy. vCIOs often thoroughly understand the technology landscape. They often know what’s coming down the pike and can foresee how it will affect business models. For this reason, they can give you the jump on changes in your industry, allowing you to be a leader instead of a follower.
- Save time and money. Finding a competent vCIO isn’t easy. The average CIO earns around $175,000 per year – way over most SMB budgets. Furthermore, finding suitable candidates often eats up your time, representing considerable opportunity costs.
- Secure your networks. While vCIOs can help you clean up the mess from a security breach, they prefer to prevent disasters from occurring in the first place. SMBs often hire them to design bespoke security strategies for their IT infrastructure, ensuring regular updates and patching known vulnerabilities.
- Better use of your technology budget. As a non-technical executive, you don’t always know which technologies to choose. Some products seem like a good idea, but you don’t always know whether they will be or not without relevant experience. vCIOs can help you avoid wasting money by allocating your budget to projects with the highest expected return.
In short, vCIOs should be a part of any company struggling to manage its current technology stack or transform its operations.