A midsize business may survive in the short-term using grit, cloud-based tools, and contracted consultants. Still, there comes a time when every organization must embrace a digital transformation to compete in the digital age. From there, it is critical to hire not only a CEO, but also a CIO to ensure every IT decision is backed by research and strategic planning to avoid financial pitfalls while building resiliency.

There is a moment in a company’s growth where they need to determine if their in-house IT team needs leadership and support. At what point does the IT department burn out because managing overlapping and complex tech stacks starts to become overwhelming and cumbersome?

Similarly, if your company is working on a rebrand, new product line, or migrating to the cloud, then you will need someone with the technical expertise to manage these types of transformations. Invariably, technology is a component of almost every prominent company transformation within the age of Industry 4.0.

In addition, if your systems keep breaking, and your IT team is more responsive rather than proactive and innovative, what happens next? If your current systems can’t integrate sufficiently, then perhaps it’s time to change course.

Why is this important?

Many IT departments work hard to maintain the systems, but rarely do they have any time or energy left for strategic IT planning.

While some have extensive experience in certain systems, they may not have the type of business knowledge like someone who can fill the valuable CIO role. Under-qualified IT technicians cannot do the work of a CIO, unfortunately. Further, the significance of having a CIO is ensuring you have someone leading your IT roadmap.

A CIO can have proactive conversations around real strategies that scale with your business. They will offer innovative insights to ensure your business is on a path towards true future-proofing and resiliency. The good news? If you don’t have anyone on site with these qualifications, you can use Virtual CIO managed services.

A brief description of a Virtual CIO (vCIO)

A vCIO does exactly the same things as a CIO without the full salary and benefits package. Instead, they work with your company on a contracted basis in a way that is mutually beneficial.

A primary reason for partnering with a vCIO over a traditional CIO is that vCIO's often have wide-ranging experiences but can work on a strategic basis. For instance, if you are interested in a long-term cloud migration, a vCIO can lead and design the roadmap for the ultimate resource utilization and integration.

Hiring a vCIO means you get access to the experience they have gained from working across various sectors and organizations. Also, a vCIO is often well aware of any regulatory and other developments that may impact your business.

In contrast, a traditional CIO may have only worked for fewer than five companies and stayed within the same industry over the span of their career. Thus, they have less experience overall and cost more. Moreover, their focus would be more narrow.

Since a vCIO has worked with a multitude of companies, they are already exposed to and experienced in handling simultaneous projects without skipping a beat.

What are the benefits of a Virtual CIO?

The vCIO will work closely with the CEO, CFO, and other leadership team members to integrate an IT roadmap that aligns with your management’s long-range picture for the business. A vCIO is a C-level executive based on their training and experience. They have an idea. Similar to a CEO who has a big-picture vision for the business, the vCIO can take that dream and convert it into an optimized IT strategy that complements and assists its efforts.This path is generally presented as an 18 to 24-month IT roadmap with an accompanying budget for your company.

What does a vCIO incorporate in your IT roadmap?

  1. What the organization wants to achieve with technology
  2. Prioritized business objectives
  3. The overall budget

A CIO should focus on the following elements:

  • Long-term planning: A vCIO adheres to a consistent vision when making big-picture IT decisions. Their decision process is centered around your business requirements, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the transformation, and the IT solution's Return on Investment (ROI).
  • Resource utilization: A vCIO values your time. They will avoid implementing an IT solution that will inevitably break in the future and require that your IT team spends time fixing the issue…again. A vCIO thinks proactively, and will predict and prepare for IT roadblocks before they occur.
  • Proactive communication: The role of the vCIO is to communicate IT opportunities, risks, knowledge, and trends, and opportunities to company leadership. A vCIO may host state-of-the-business reviews with management to plan for future IT needs.
  • Look at both sides: A vCIO will always question the intent behind every IT decision. If an employee requests a specific application for their department because they are already familiar with the technology, is that the best solution for future-proofing? Maybe, but maybe not. Unquestionably, effective systems must have the ability to integrate, communicate, and share data without silos. A vCIO will drive the IT discussion while looking at both sides from a business perspective.

While you can easily virtualize many task-oriented and lower-level roles within your company, it’s difficult to ask a computer to take over a highly-specialized position such as a CIO. For companies struggling to keep up with the rapid clip of technological advances, a Virtual CIO is vital.

Typically, a seasoned Virtual CIO comes with the right experience and expertise to avoid pitfalls while giving a fresh perspective on resolving serious technical issues. Unfortunately, many midsize companies do not have the budget to hire and retain a proven CIO. Therefore, a Virtual CIO is the cost-effective option. They can help your company transition to digitization, with the right systems, in a way that makes sense and helps your company scale as needed.

Is it expensive to hire a Virtual CIO?

Many midsize businesses do not have the expansive budgets as enterprises do. So, they often can’t afford to hire a full-time CIO. Why not? Well, many CIOs are hired at an annual salary between $150k and $500k. The average is typically in the middle. Further, there are other costs such as profit-sharing, bonuses, benefits, PTO, and more.

In contrast, a vCIO may have a flat fee or an hourly rate with a predictable and structured subscription model you can pay monthly. And you only pay for the time you use.

The hourly rate varies depending on multiple factors, but it is a lot less expensive when compared to hiring a full-time CIO.

We’ll elaborate.

A subscription service (monthly recurring) is even harder to calculate. Still, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2k to $10k a month, depending on the size of your organization, the services you want, and many other factors.

For example, depending on the size of your company, what services you need, how many hours you need, and other factors, monthly subscriptions may start at $2k and up. Now, if you only need a vCIO for six months out of the year, then you can certainly add up the savings.

If you want to scale your business, you're going to need to do quite a bit of technology planning to make sure that your IT infrastructure keeps up, not to mention incorporating adequate cyber security.

Even if you have an in-house IT team, it is often the case that no one even knows where to begin concerning creating a long-term technology plan. So, not only does a Virtual CIO save on costs of hiring a full-time CIO, they also help to save on future expenses concerning systems breaking down and overwhelming your current IT staff.

Align your business objectives with your IT roadmap

A Virtual CIO will take sufficient time to understand your organization's core processes so that they can adequately develop a strategic blueprint for your business. The strategy they develop will also prioritize cyber security to prevent potential data and network breaches from ever happening.

With all the work that goes into simply running your business, it's easy to forget about critical aspects such as IT compliance, IT audits, and staying relevant in your market by keeping up to date with the latest technologies so that your company can avoid or get past any systemic gaps.

It all comes down to this.

Moreover, a vCIO would efficiently tackle these necessary tasks while aligning your technological requirements with your core business objectives.

Using flexible scheduling options, a vCIO can provide your organization with timely suggestions and research-backed insights regarding your company’s technological infrastructure and needs. Moreover, they can manage any current IT projects underway and suggest proven tactics for restructuring to optimize performance.

One of the other benefits of partnering with a Virtual CIO offered by an MSP is that they can design the strategies your organization needs to succeed, they'll also have the resources of their MSP as support so that your company can implement the future projects easily.

It's vital to consider that you can access your vCIO when you need them. Also, included in your rate are the thought processes and services they provide. Isn’t it time to think of technology from a strategic perspective?

In summary

The primary function of a Virtual CIO is to ensure your company can create a strategic IT roadmap, develop future-proofed strategies, and effectively deploy complex IT projects.