As companies grow, the technologies they use become more complex. At the beginning, it might be easy for you to handle your software, customer data, and cybersecurity needs on your own. However, once you pass a certain number of employees, this task becomes more challenging. At that point, you could consider hiring a virtual CIO, or Chief Information Officer. A good vCIO can perform all the tasks of an in-person employee, but at a much lower cost.
For example, they might assess and improve your technology, improve cyber security, implement complex IT solutions, and handle any issues related to compliance. Most of the firms we work with at Flying Buttress are SMBs that need to set up a tech department but don’t have the means to hire their own full-time CIO. With our help, they can receive the support they need while remaining flexible and allowing for future growth.
What Is a Virtual CIO?
A chief information officer is a person or entity that handles and coordinates the technology, suppliers, and teams of a company. The CIO isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations as much as the strategy and long-term implementation of new ideas. Because they are overseeing the entire business’s IT solutions, they have to be agile, flexible, and experienced.
Traditionally, the CIO is an employee of the company. However, it can be hard for many SMBs to hire a full-time information officer, who requires a high salary. Therefore, many businesses choose to employ a virtual officer. This allows the business to save money without sacrificing quality.
Assessing the Company’s Current Technology
When you first get in touch with your vCIO, they will analyze your company’s current technology strategy to find out where you’re doing well and what improvements might be necessary. Some of the aspects they might investigate include your productivity software, your methods for keeping track of inventory, your accounting system, your customer relationship management systems, and your business intelligence tools.
They will also check whether your company has implemented enough cyber security measures and how your customers’ sensitive data is stored. If there are any problems, your officer will let you know and help you come up with a better plan. Over the next weeks or months, they will implement advanced solutions and improve the way you integrate technology into your business.
Improving Cyber Security
Cyber security is one of the most important aspects of technology management because it can have such an impact on your operations. A breach in security or a data leak can not only cost you thousands, but it can also put your reputation at risk, since your customers might no longer trust you with their sensitive information. Your vCIO will check that you are doing all you can to protect your data.
Some of the strategies they might use include implementing authentication factors like two-factor authentication, improving your infrastructure so it can handle enhanced security options, conducting phishing simulations with your employees, and organizing training courses for everyone in your company. Your CIO will also focus on remaining agile, since the tactics used by cybercriminals change rapidly.
Implementing Complex Solutions
Sometimes, complex solutions are necessary to optimize the use of technology within a firm. For example, you might need bespoke software if you’re providing a unique service, or you might want to use a customized ERP system. Your CIO will coordinate large-scale projects and help you manage each stage, from the initial planning to the execution and maintenance.
At Flying Buttress, our managed It services business we have over 80 combined years of experience, and we have built up a lot of expertise during that time. What’s more, we have the necessary contacts to complete projects and we can recommend excellent designers. In the long run, letting an expert plan your complex technology solutions is cheaper and easier than attempting to do it yourself.
Handling Issues Related to Compliance
As technology has taken over many areas of our lives, it has become more difficult for governments and companies to handle. For this reason, more and more guidelines and specifications have been developed. A good example of this is data protection legislation. In the US, there isn’t a single law that governs data protection, but instead, there are hundreds of regulations, both at the state and at the federal level, that are meant to protect people’s data.
In other countries, the rules might be different. Managing customers’ data can quickly become overwhelming for businesses, especially those that operate in several states or multiple countries. By hiring a CIO, you can hand over the responsibility to someone who has been trained to handle it, and you can therefore reduce your risk of making a mistake.
Do You Need a VCIO?
Now you understand what a virtual CIO does, you might wonder whether your company could benefit from hiring one. While it depends on your individual situation, most SMBs with more than a handful of employees could increase their revenue and reduce their risk by planning their technology solutions more carefully.
A good virtual information officer is an invaluable asset that allows your business to get the help you need and save money at the same time. Additionally, hiring an IT service company allows you to take a flexible approach, so you can adapt to changes in your industry and the wider business environment.
You Need the Help
Most small businesses handle their own data at the start, and they don’t need any help. However, this changes once they hire several employees and increase the complexity of their technological solutions. If you have a small company with a few employees, you could benefit from the top-down approach a CIO provides. As your company becomes more well-known, the officer can make sure that you don’t run into compliance or cybersecurity issues.
You Want to Save Money
Unfortunately, hiring a full-time CIO can be extremely expensive. In the US, the average salary for this position is $170k, and the most experienced officers can earn over $250k per year. For many SMBs, spending that kind of money on a single employee is impossible. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a great CIO. There are virtual solutions available for almost every budget.
An online CIO doesn’t have to be a person. Instead, it can be a company offering top-down technology solutions. For SMBs, this can be a great solution because they can benefit from the same services offered by an information officer but at the fraction of the price. A managed IT service provider works with many companies at once, so the costs can be split.
You Want to Remain Flexible
At the moment, market conditions are changing rapidly, and there is no guarantee that your company will still be providing the same services in a few years’ time. If you want to survive in the long term, you have to be flexible and open to change. Hiring a virtual information officer can be a great first step because they will look at your company’s technology solutions from a long-term perspective.
The plan they come up with will span many months or even years, and it can be adapted to your company’s changing needs. What’s more, when you work with a virtual service company, you can change your plan whenever you need to. If your company grows, you can switch to a more comprehensive service, and if you change your specialty, you can request different solutions. This is a much more flexible approach than hiring an in-person CIO.
How to Find the Best Chief Information Officer for Your Company
Once you’ve decided that hiring a CIO is the right move for your company, you’ll have to find one that suits you. Because this position is remote, you don’t necessarily have to hire someone from your own geographical area. Instead, you can browse CIOs from all over the country and select the one that suits you the best. Start by looking at the website of candidates to figure out whether they could be a good fit.
Most CIOs specialize in a certain industry, and you want to make sure the person or entity you’re hiring has worked with clients in your field before. For instance, we at Flying Buttress mainly serve the Architecture, Engineering, and Design community.
Hiring a CIO
Before you hire a CIO, you should get in touch with the company, either by email or by phone to find out whether they are a good fit. During this initial contact phase, you can assess their communication style, and you can also ask them questions about their previous experience, their other clients, and their process. If necessary, you can ask for references.
For many successful or rapidly growing companies, a virtual CIO is an excellent solution because this professional can perform a range of advanced technological tasks. The Chief Information Officer might assess and improve the business’s current technology, improve cyber security, and handle compliance issues. Contact us to find out more about our vCIO services and to book a strategy call with us.