CyberLog

Informative articles on Cybersecurity, IT Services, and cyber threats as they relate to small and medium size companies.

What is a Virtual CIO?

Against the backdrop of technological advancement, the term “virtual” is quickly catching on to create more job opportunities and ease in every walk of life. In terms of information technology, the job of a virtual Chief Information Officer is to do everything a conventional CIO already does but remotely and at a lower price.

 

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What is a vCIO?

A Virtual Chief Information Officer or a vCIO is a professional consultant who advises you on your technology strategy as a third party as opposed to an in-house CIO. It refers to an MSP employee that manages the IT infrastructure of the company and plans its growth.

By optimizing the company’s IT plan, a vCIO ensures that the overall business operations are running smoothly and according to the latest technological security standards. 

vCIOs are a budget-friendly, versatile, and remote IT solution for businesses that need expert advice but don’t want to spend a fortune on an in-house CIO.

When Should You Look For a vCIO

You should hire a vCIO if you are facing any of the following:

  • Poor strategy and planning within the department
  • Poor data management and information security
  • Lack of back-up and recovery plan
  • Lack of resources to hire an in-house CIO
  • Requirement of IT expertise and support
  • Compliance issues

What Does a vCIO Do?

Virtual CIOs have a lot of responsibilities to maintain the IT department. Some of these duties are as follows:

    • IT Budget Planning: vCIOs plan IT budgets in accordance with the company’s financial situation and allow them for different purposes.
    • Technology Roadmap: vCIOs plan the IT roadmap ahead of time so that they can prepare for the next period with great attention to detail.
    • Reporting to Company: Report to the management of the company so that they are aware of the ongoings within the IT department.
    • Stay Relevant: Stay up-to-date with relevant, upcoming technologies to incorporate them in solutions for company issues.
    • Ensure Compliance: Advice the company’s staff on the best practices that are both ethical and compliant with the laws and regulations.
    • Client Management: Build a good relationship with clients so that they can share the major technical faults and issues facing the company.
    • Company’s Roadmap: Meet with the management weekly or monthly to discuss the company’s overall goals and how IT plays a part in them.
  • Vendor Management: Coordinate with the vendors and delegate tasks.
  • Information Security Management: They ensure that there is no breach of security and that all the information is encrypted so that nothing valuable leaks from the company.
  • Network and Security Assessments: They conduct regular assessments of the network and security to ensure that the company has maximum protection.
  • Back-up and Disaster Recovery: In case there is a loss of data or a dreadful hacking incident, a vCIO is entrusted to retrieve and restore the data.
  • IT Strategy and Planning: The most important duty of a CIO is to create strategies and plans related to the technological aspect of the company.

What Should You Look For in a vCIO?

When looking for a vCIO, there are certain qualities and capabilities that you need to make sure they have before confirming the candidate. Here is a small checklist that will assist you in reviewing applications:

 

  1. Ability to Provide Expert IT Advice: A vCIO should have extensive knowledge and experience related to Information Technology in every aspect so that they can give well-rounded advice to your company. They should be able to meet your organization’s need for technological expertise which will help you reach your business goals and objectives.
  2. Should Stay Up-to-Date with New Trends: Since technology is always evolving, a person concerned with the advancement of IT in a company should stay up-to-date with all the latest technologies. They should be able to explain how emerging technologies can be helpful for the organization and make it perform better. vCIOs are concerned with meeting the new demands in the business with the help of tech innovation.
  3. Well Versed in IT Project Planning and Management: A proactive vCIO plans for future business projects in relation with IT on the basis of the organization’s needs and the budget allocated by the company. By planning ahead, vCIOs can save your company a great deal of time and errors.
  4. Ability to Adapt to Business Goals: vCIOs should understand that business goals, objectives, and priorities are constantly changing. A business is based on many departments working in collaboration so the IT department has to adapt to the overall business plans and not the other way around.
  5. Excellent Interpersonal Skills: Any employee should have the necessary interpersonal skills to work with their colleagues and other staff members. A healthy work environment would cultivate productivity and efficiency. Whoever you hire should be able to work with the IT staff and clearly state what they expect, what they can work on, what they can’t work on, and their availability/response time.
  6. Assist in IT Budget Plans: A vCIO should be able to assist in IT budgeting and cost optimization to save unnecessary costs.

Difference Between a Conventional CIO and a Virtual CIO

People who are familiar with traditional CIOs must be wondering why they need a virtual CIO if they already have an in-house one. Here is the difference between a conventional CIO and a vCIO:

 

  1. Employment Contract: The major difference between a CIO and vCIO is the difference in their terms of contract. vCIOs are not employed by the company as members of the staff. Instead, they work for the organization as a third party who works remotely and can have multiple clients at a time. They have separate contracts according to the agreement and work on a need basis.
  2. Recruitment: The way through which these employees are hired is also different. A conventional CIO is hired through traditional channels while a vCIO is hired through a third-party provider such as an IT consulting firm. 
  3. Duties and Responsibilities: Since a virtual CIO does not work in the company office, they don’t have a thorough understanding of the internal politics, the working environment, or the dynamics between the employees. On one hand, the knowledge of company dynamics that an in-house CIO can prove valuable when making IT plans. On the other hand, the fresh perspective of a vCIO can be a good change.
  4. Salaries: Since a conventional CIO works on a contract basis, they are given fixed salaries with benefits. However, a vCIO works on their own agreements which means that they can negotiate their salaries. They can choose to charge an hourly fee or a flat fee that doesn’t include benefits. 

Why Should You Hire a vCIO

It’s valid to wonder why you should hire a vCIO instead of an in-house CIO. Here are some benefits of hiring a virtual CIO:

 

  • Cost Avoidance: Conventional CIOs are usually well-compensated with good salaries and benefits. If you hire a vCIO, you will avoid hefty costs and don’t have to provide any additional benefits.
  • Greater Availability: A vCIO is available round the clock so you can ask for their consultation any time you want as opposed to a CIO who is only available during the office times. 
  • Simpler Hiring: Hiring a CIO through traditional channels is more time-consuming than hiring a vCIO. You will have to invite people to apply, review their applications, and conduct interviews.
  • Better Insight: Since a vCIO is not intimately involved with the office staff and doesn’t have a nuanced understanding of the internal politics, they can provide a fresh perspective and a better insight.
  • Ensure Compliance: vCIO will offer advice regarding regulatory and compulsory matters. They understand the importance of sticking to rules and regulations imposed by the government to avoid financial loss and tarnishing their reputation.

Disadvantages of Hiring a vCIO

Hiring a vCIO has some challenges such as:

 

  • vCIOs work for some companies and don’t work for others. If your company needs long-term business strategy in IT terms then a vCIO can provide invaluable advice to promote growth and development. They can boost innovation, and technological advancement, and impose better practices throughout the department.

    However, if your company is looking to keep the existing systems up and running and to not make big changes then they have no use for a vCIO and should stick with an in-house CIO instead.

  • A traditional CIO is aware of how your company is run, they are aware of the strong suits of their colleagues, and the cultural environment. As opposed to this, a vCIO will need to have excellent communication skills to keep up with the business operations. They will work as an outsider so they might have a harder time tuning in with the expectations and priorities of the company.

  • vCIOs are not always there for in-person interactions. Their virtual presence may be available round the clock but sometimes that is not enough. You might face time zone issues or logistical difficulties to reach the officer if you hire a virtual CIO. 

How Can a vCIO Help Your IT Strategy?

A vCIO can give your business a strategic edge by using technology as an asset. With their strategic use of technology and knack for innovation, your business will reach new heights and gain a significant advantage over competitors.

Their focus is to incorporate user-friendly and affordable tech solutions within the company to promote reliance on technology and more hands-free time. Good vCIOs ensure an efficient transition to new IT processes so that there are no lapses in productivity or confusion within the staff.

vCIOs know how to delegate resources and handle technology management well. You don’t want to be a company that is stuck with outdated IT approaches and scalability problems. So hiring someone who has knowledge and experience related to these problems can work wonders for your company.

Takeaway

Hiring a vCIO or shifting from a conventional CIO to a virtual one can be daunting but the change comes with a lot of benefits. Taking this step might prove to be the best decision you can make for your company as you gain invaluable insight that only an expert can provide.

Consider if your company needs this transition and what kind of expectations you have from a vCIO and make this change for a better future.

FAQs

1. How should I charge a vCIO?

Usually a virtual CIO charges according to an hourly rate or a flat fee that doesn’t involve benefits. You can negotiate the fees based on the workload the employee should expect.

2. How do you become a vCIO?

To become a vCIO, you need a bachelor's degree in management information systems, business administration, information technology, computer science, or a related field. However, people with a master’s degree are preferred.

3. Can a vCIO help small businesses?

vCIO can help all kinds of businesses, big or small. If you need their services, all you need to do is convey your expectations, build strong communication, and reach a point of agreement.

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