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    Do You Need a CIO or vCIO? | Small Business IT Solutions

    By: Clay Ostlund
    September 3, 2014

    small_business_it_solutions_-_CIOAs most people know, CIO is an acronym for Chief Information Officer. But, this is where the common knowledge ends, generally speaking. Most people working in non-technology industries understand the value of the CIO and the need for this role – but what is mis- or not understood is the exact role a CIO plays and what the job tasks and responsibilities look like. Steve Knutson, our CTO (Chief Technology Officer), wrote a blog a few years ago defining this role. He said:

    A Chief Information Officer is a member of the executive team who is responsible for developing a strategy that leverages technology to improve business, setting standards and metrics for usage and keeping an eye on the future for new opportunities.

    This definition gives us a clear understanding of what a CIO is responsible for doing and achieving – plus it relays the value they provide within a business. In today’s world, the need for this role exists in every business. The problem, for small and mid-sized businesses, is limited resources combined with IT needs. Steve also stated in his blog:
    A CIO is a common position in large companies, but few small and mid-size organizations have the financial resources or ongoing need to support the position. Even if they do, they struggle finding a CIO because of the short supply nationally.

    So now, your questions may be, “How do I know if I have the need for a full-time CIO? And, if I don’t, what options do I have to cover these responsibilities?” You will find the information you need to answer these questions below.

    Do I Need a CIO?

    Now that we’ve decided that all businesses need someone to complete the tasks and responsibilities typically assigned to a CIO, we need to distinguish your business’ specific requirements.  Unfortunately, I can’t provide a checklist for you to complete because it isn’t that straightforward. My recommendation is to work with a Business IT provider and determine what your technology needs are, then together you can determine your level of CIO needs. In a conversation with an IT provider you will cover some of the following:

    • Number of Employees
      Generally speaking, organizations with less than 250 employees may not need an on-staff CIO. However, this largely depends on the extent of how your business relies on technology for operation and growth.
    • Role Technology Plays in Your Business
      You’ll work through questions such as: What applications do your employees and customers depend on? What are your security requirements? What data access needs do you have?
    • Growth Plans
      Discussing your growth plans will help determine what your current infrastructure needs to support and help anticipate what your future technology needs will be.
    • Business Objectives
      Together you’ll determine how technology will help you achieve your goals, as well as what technology you will need to reach those goals.

    What Are My Alternatives?

    If, during your consultation with a Business IT provider, you determine you do not need and/or have the financial resources for a full-time CIO, an alternative solution is a vCIO, or virtual CIO. This option provides you with the knowledge and expertise of a CIO on an as needed basis. This will not only decrease your financial investment, but it more importantly gives you access to an expert that can provide insight into how the right technology can take your business to the next level, while prioritizing and monitoring your goals.

    Steve’s article dives deeper into the benefits of a vCIO, but here is a quick glance:

    • Analysis of your IT environment
    • Plan and design for strategic use of technology
    • Increase shareholder value
    • Keep an eye on the future, with recommendations to adjust accordingly

    Request an assessment of your Business’ IT to discuss how to equip your business with the necessary technological expertise with a specialist.


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    Topics: Small Businesses, CIO, Future Technology, Strategic Planning, Business IT
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