8 Operational Benefits of a Quality vCIO
My wife and I bought a very old farmhouse about 10 years ago. When we first moved in, we self-performed most of the work to get it in shape to live in. It had been sitting empty for 2 years. Before that an older couple had been living there, and they were unable to do the necessary upkeep. We were busy with all sorts of projects from uncovering and refinishing old wood floors to gutting rooms and extending the radiant heat in others. We had a lot of help from friends and hired a few vendors who did things like run new water lines and finish drywall. The amount of physical labor that went into the project was significant, and the effort it took to get quotes, manage just a few vendors, and keep things on track was huge.
Fast forward to this year. We have dreamed about an addition and kitchen expansion for a very long time. We are pretty handy people and do-it-yourself has been our way, but we decided this was just too much to plan and manage on our own. As a result, we went through a bit of a process to find the right home builder, who helped us design the upgrade, manage the vendors, and execute the project. Through this process, the value of a good and trustworthy general contractor has been underlined over and over again. His design, construction, and ability to manage subcontractors is invaluable to the point that I believe his fee is worth every penny.
There is a very appropriate parallel here between home construction and IT managed services. A key component of any good IT management solution is what I call vCIO or virtual Chief Information Officer. This is simply having a technology manager, who has deep experience in the field to plan and guide your technology. Interestingly, when we do technology risk assessments, this is one of the things that is very often missing, and it always shows.
Here are 8 Operational Benefits of a Quality vCIO:
1. Alignment with Business Goals – Lets face it, IT people often do not have good business perspective, and even those who do, often get caught up in the weeds of the day-to-day. A vCIO or executive level IT manager not only understands IT, but also has vision for your company goals. They will mesh the two together and execute a plan that helps drive you in the right direction. Without this kind of leadership, IT devolves into plugging the gaps rather than partnering in your company’s growth.
2. Following IT Best Practices – IT best practices are meant to keep you out of trouble. A practitioner or more hands-on IT person may choose the easy way out due to budget concerns or due to what makes their life easy at the time. For instance, in this work-from-home climate we live in, they may opt for enabling ease of connectivity from home to the sacrifice of security. They get less support calls because it is easy, but the risk of intrusion from the outside is sacrificed. A vCIO will provide oversite and wisdom to ensure that a balance is maintained between ease of use and secure best practices.
3. Perspective – Perspective can be huge in IT. I cannot tell you how many times during a risk assessment we scratch our heads and wonder, “What were they thinking?”. Often perspective equates to experience. Much like my contractor example where his ability to manage a construction subcontractor is far better than mine just due to his exposure and experience. It is the same with a good vCIO. He knows what is normally done and has worked with multiple other companies to do the same thing. He has been exposed to multiple products and ways of doing things. He has the wisdom to know what the right path is and what other businesses are doing in similar circumstances.
4. Project Management – Managing a project and doing a project are two different things. We have all experienced this. The people doing the project may be brilliant at doing it, but we would never know, because nobody communicated anything to us. A good vCIO will keep track of timelines and schedules, communicate expectations, and know how to adjust when things do not go as planned. They also will not lose track of how the project impacts daily operations.
5. Coordinating Vendors – Vendor management is an often-overlooked part of managing IT well. There are copier vendors, Internet vendors, cloud hosting vendors, backup & disaster recovery vendors, cybersecurity/compliance vendors, line-of-business software vendors and so much more. Without good oversight things get lopsided. A vCIO will have vision for these costs and emerging benefits of new technology. Maybe it is time to switch Internet solutions. Maybe a cloud solution would be beneficial. Perhaps you need a penetration test, or perhaps you only need an external vulnerability scan. These vendor issues are only growing and a vCIO will manage them.
6. Evaluating Costs – Outside perspective is always good when looking at costs and a vCIO’s exposure to multiple organizations and multiple solutions is deeply important when reviewing them. I still remember an IT review from a year or two ago where the hosting costs for the company’s main line of business software were double or triple what we have seen in the past. It is common to find people paying far too much for far too little just because they don’t have any point of comparison.
7. Watching over Security – Security has only gotten more important in the last years, or even months. As you may have learned, cybersecurity is a deep bucket. Just how deep do we need to go to protect ourselves? A vCIO will have perspective on this and ensure the basics are covered before spending on enhanced security. There is no sense putting a high-end security system in, if you regularly leave the back door open. When needed a vCIO will wisely implement enhanced security features to keep your company safe.
8. Innovating – Many IT people are just too busy to innovate, so they do not. Or their innovation is just plain off target. They innovate with the wrong things, and then the money for the valuable innovation that will change how your organization works is gone. A quality vCIO has an uncanny ability to apply innovative technology to change operations. Leading edge changes can have a dramatic impact on efficiency, profitability, and staying ahead of the competition.
You may have an internal IT department or work with an IT managed service provider, or work with a vendor who you call in for special projects and difficult issues. Whatever your situation, if you don’t have an IT executive who provides these benefits, consider a virtual CIO, and the valuable perspective they will bring to your organization.
If you need some help, please reach out. Our team can help in multiple ways from full IT management to supplemental help getting things on track.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.