The Era of the vCIO: What Is It and Does It Really Matter?

By Chris Souza | October 18th, 2018

As someone with several decades of experience as a managed services provider under my belt, I’m often struck by how quickly technology continues to change the world around us. Thanks to IT, entire industries have been disrupted over the last few years to the point where they barely resemble the initial functions from where they were originally created.

This is very true of organizations operating in high tech spaces, but it’s even true of the concept behind what an MSP is supposed to be itself.

Case in point: I was talking to a client of mine the other day and we were having one of our regular “State of the Union” meetings. I was telling him about a number of interesting things on the IT side of the equation that I thought could help his still-young company as he worked towards sustaining a better level of growth for the future.

The conversation turned towards a subject that I happen to be very passionate about – the vCIO. At first, his reaction was one that I’d seen countless times before:

“Oh, come on. This is getting to be a little much, isn’t it? What do I need a vCIO for? I have an IT Manager and my CFO works with him” he quipped.

Yes, he was joking – but the sentiment at the heart of it was rooted in truth. For as savvy as he is, he’s also from an era where outsourcing the duties of a position as important as this one to a third party like an MSP is basically unthinkable. “What’s next, outsourcing my CEO too?” he asked.

Not quite.

While it’s true that this is a sentiment that a lot of people share, it’s also one that fails to see the bigger picture playing out in front of us. A vCIO isn’t another example of “technology for the sake of it.” For a lot of SMBs, it’s a real chance to operate on a larger scale and align your business and your IT in a way that creates a true competitive advantage for yourself at the same time.

Now, I want to talk about how.

What is a vCIO, Exactly?

A vCIO, as its name suggests, is a virtual CIO – it’s essentially a third party that, using the foundation of modern technology, acts as an organizations chief information officer and performs all of the duties that this implies. This includes but is not limited to things like IT resources forecasting, addressing regulatory compliance, implementing the support mechanisms that will enable their own end users to focus on their core competencies and much, much more.

But a vCIO is more than just an independent contractor – far from it. This is a person or even a team of people who collaborates with and advises the IT departments of a business in all of the same ways that a “traditional” CIO would on a daily basis.

A vCIO can be responsible for helping plan an IT budget, analyze business processes to improve inefficiencies and formulate a tailored, strategic plan oriented to your specific areas of focus.

But regardless of how a vCIO is used, it’s the “why” that is the most important. A vCIO is about more than just giving smaller organizations the opportunity to implement seemingly inaccessible new business technologies. It’s also about helping them understand their relevance to their specific needs by providing a clear, objective analysis of the solutions they would benefit from the most.

Why This Matters… and Couldn’t Matter More

Simply put, a vCIO is a cornerstone of any company within an industry with these three priorities:

  • They want to be able to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology.
  • They want to make sure that the changes that are being experienced are properly aligned with both their short and long-term objectives as a business.
  • They’re looking for any and all opportunities to maximize IT return on investment and decrease operational inefficiencies and expenses, and are willing to collaborate with an industry expert in order to do so.

Does any of that sound familiar?

For smaller businesses in particular, a vCIO presents an incredible opportunity to unlock all of the benefits of a “traditional” chief information officer WITHOUT spending a proverbial arm and a leg to do it. You can see what you have, what you need and effortlessly identify opportunities to improve your systems all at once – all while keeping in line with all of the latest industry best practices and security standards.

According to one recent study, the average business spends anywhere between 6% and 8% of their revenue on technology-related expenses. A vCIO doesn’t just guarantee you’re getting the most for that money, but it’s also a way to make sure you don’t have to spend more money than you have to as well.

In a lot of ways, it’s not too dissimilar to why people choose to work with an MSP in the first place. An MSP is a collection of industry support experts who are able and trained to provide that strategic focus to the specific areas that mean most to you. A vCIO is the exact same thing, but on a much broader, strategic scale.

But more than that, it’s a unique opportunity to use your technology in a much more strategic way than ever before. It gives you a chance to view IT within the lens of your specific, organizational goals and challenges.

So sure, a virtual CIO may sound like something that Stanley Kubrick would have made a movie about 40 years ago on the surface. But once you start to take a closer look, it’s easy to see how this could easily represent the major shift you need to finally guarantee that your IT strategy and your larger business strategy are one and the same.

In a short amount of time, a vCIO has become one of the keys to evolving towards the next phase of your business’ life cycle. That evolution is going to happen whether you want it to or not. The only thing you can control is whether or not you’re ready for it and a vCIO is how you do precisely that.

About Chris Souza

In his position as Chief Executive Officer at Technical Support International, Chris Souza has dedicated himself to empowering his team with everything they need to do the same for the company’s valued customers. He had over 16 years of experience in technology before joining TSI and is proud to call the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth his alma mater. If you’d like to find out more information about the era of the vCIO, or if you have any additional questions about what a valued partner like TSI can bring to the table, please don’t delay – contact Chris or a team member at TSI today.

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