A CIO is a multi-faceted tech expert responsible for leading a business’s technology development, establishing safe data practices, overseeing new technology deployments, and guiding myriad other tech-centric actions and initiatives. Many small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from the expertise of a CIO, but do not have either the budget or the express need to put someone exclusively in that role. In these instances, businesses can turn to a technology leadership service (also known as a vCIO or Virtual CIO) for à la carte IT offerings based on each business’s individual needs.
Bringing a technology leader into your organization allows you to investigate your business’s growth opportunities, efficiencies, and information flows; doing so via a technology leadership service lets you do so at a reasonable monthly fee instead of via an exorbitant full-time salary (Salary.com pegs the median CIO salary in the US at $391,923 after bonuses and benefits). In simpler terms: Same insights, smaller price tag.
A technology leadership service will meet with you on a periodic basis, often once per quarter, to provide continual, direct feedback on technology options for your environment. These organizations leverage their internal expertise to minimize evaluation time, speed up implementation, and improve the impact of technology inside your business. Because you’ll be working closely with your technology leader and using their recommendations to make changes in your organization, it’s important that you thoroughly vet each service until you find one that feels like the right fit.
Here are some quick guidelines for approaching your search:
It is critical that you trust your service provider. Check references for current clients, ask for examples of previous work done, and don’t be afraid to take your time making a decision. You have to work with a vendor that has a strong understanding of your business and can make meaningful recommendations on how to refine it and evolve it — whether this relationship functions will come down to how much you trust the vendor’s recommendations.
Most of all, technology leaders need vision. They need to clearly see how technology operates as an integral growth factor of your business, and they need to imagine small changes that can deliver enormous results. Make sure your service provider can build a multi-year path of technology that makes sense for your industry, company size, and budget. Aimless is not where you want to be.
Choosing a technology leadership service is a tall task, but yields immense benefits. It’s all about uncovering new and more effective ways to make technology work for you.
Look for tech leaders with at least 15 years of experience. Long-term success shows that these leaders are adept at dealing with evolving technology and can consistently deliver effective solutions to their clients. Tech leaders who have been through several technology evolutions/revolutions can see trends, reflect on past innovations, and flow with technology shifts to provide clean, elegant solutions that will stand the test of time.