What Is A vCIO?

A current popular term is vCIO or Virtual CIO. As even some large companies do not have CIO’s its easy to understand why businesses might not know what a vCIO is or why they might need one. A CIO is a “C-level” executive titled as Chief Information Officer. The CIO develops the overall strategy for a company’s Information Technology (IT) decisions within a company and is then responsible for approving and controlling purchases along with the deployment of that strategy.

Many businesses, especially small business, don’t have management layers like a C-level. The “executives” within a small business, are often ONE person, the founder/owner who wears all the hats (President, Chairman, Human Resources Director, Operations Manager, Procurement Officer, Sales Manager, Marketing Director or Chief Cook and Bottle Washer). Unfortunately, since so much of today’s business relies on computer systems, their networks and access to the Internet, the small business owner ends up adding “Computer Expert” to their list of duties. Despite the fact that almost everyone now carries a combination computer and telephone in their pocket, this does not mean that the business owner is a telecommunications and computer systems engineer. Every business owner wants to do one thing: make their business succeed, which means making money. This is where the vCIO comes in.

The vCIO is a Virtual Chief Information Officer for the company. Most businesses end up having a vCIO whether they realize it or not. Since the business owner is usually too busy getting their actual business off the ground and then keeping it running, they often will delegate the “computer stuff” to a teenager, family friend or relative that “knows computers”. That person will end up functioning as a Virtual CIO because they make the decisions about what computers to buy, what Internet Provider (ISP) to use, what software is needed and so forth. The business owner trusts their vCIO to set them up and to make sure what computers they have will work to get them by. Unfortunately, while that friend, daughter or brother-in-law is a whiz with their home computer and can help people personally with how to use a tablet or set up home Internet, they usually don’t have the expertise or availability to serve the business or its long-term goals. Therefore, a true vCIO is a professional consultant or contractor that can supply the functions of an educated and experienced CIO. They will address the business owner’s strategic goals, understand the company itself and knows what technologies will help the owner achieve these goals. Then, they will be available to implement those computer systems and continue to be available as new challenges arise and the business grows and changes.

So, does your business need a vCIO? To help you decide, ask yourself questions such as these:

  • Are computers needed to help my business operate?
  • Do I have the necessary expertise to run my own business computer systems?
  • Have I entrusted decisions about my business network, Internet and computers to someone already? If so, did I select them out of convenience or because they understand business computing?
  • Can I trust the person helping my business with our computers to be here when things go wrong with our systems? Will they know what to do?
  • Am I confident that our computer system and more importantly, my customer and business data is managed and secure? What would the impact be to my business if it wasn’t?