The value of a virtual CIO service

Employers today, in all industries, know that good employees are hard to find. This is especially true in corporate IT. Qualified, experienced IT managers are in demand, and they can be expensive to hire. That’s why many companies have opted to go the virtual CIO (vCIO) route—and have been successful with this model.

What’s the role of a vCIO?

A chief information officer (CIO) is the person in an organization responsible for managing information technology and computer systems. The person also develops strategic plans for how to use technology to fuel a business’ growth and ensures that business processes and the technology that enables these processes are functioning properly. The CIO is not a “mister fixit” type role. It is usually higher level and more strategic in nature and involves assessment, planning and even system design.

A vCIO is an outside contractor or company that serves as the CIO of an organization. He or she performs the same basic functions as an inhouse CIO would—advising the client’s IT department, formulating strategic IT goals, planning IT budgets, analyzing business processes and implementing technology changes. The scope of these duties may vary depending on the size of the company—and whether or not it has internal IT people on staff and how many.

A vCIO generally charges by the hour or a flat fee (usually on a monthly basis), and pricing varies. Some managed services providers offer vCIO services and so do some IT consulting firms, resellers and solution providers that may bundle vCIO services with others that they offer.

What are the advantages of using a vCIO?

Since small and midsize businesses typically can’t afford to hire a CIO, vCIOs are most common in these organizations.

While saving money is one important benefit of a vCIO, there are others:

  • It’s a time-consuming and expensive process to vet and hire a CIO.
  • A vCIO can be available 24/7, since the company fulfilling that role usually has multiple consultants serving in the vCIO capacity.
  • A vCIO, not being a staff employee, is not subject to internal politics and can be more objective regarding assessments and recommendations. As a result, relationships with internal employees, IT and otherwise, tend to remain professional and nonconfrontational.

How do you assess vCIO candidates?

Obviously, it’s important to have confidence in the party you’re hiring to fulfill the role. Here are some qualities to look for:

  • Strategic insight: the ability to understand the relationship between IT systems and business objectives
  • Technical expertise: knowledge of the latest technology trends and how they may impact your company
  • Proof of skills in IT project planning and management
  • Proven experience in IT budgeting

Is a vCIO right for you?

Talk to us at Next Dimensions. We’ll help you assess the pros and cons—and will be happy to offer our services. Hiring a vCIO may be an important next step in your business growth, and you want to make sure you do it right.