What is a Virtual CIO (vCIO)?
As businesses grow and mature, technology becomes increasingly important to the operations of their organization. And virtual CIOs (vCIO) can be an important factor in keeping your business up and running.
If a system went down years ago, for example, it might not have been critical. But now most parts of most organizations are dependent on technology to do what they do. And many organizations turn to somebody like CopperTree to find out how they can better leverage technology in those situations.
A Reactive Approach
Many organizations start out with a fairly reactive approach to technology. Their focus tends to be largely on fixing problems and less on how to leverage technology as a strategic tool that can drive the organization forward.
In other words, there isn’t a big picture strategy or a big picture plan in place. It’s a relationship where you call somebody and they’ll come fix the problem when you have an issue. Then they go away again until there’s another problem. So CopperTree focuses on being proactive. Rather than dealing with problems after the fact, our focus is on preventing those issues from happening in the first place.
A vCIO Puts IT on the Front Burner
For many organizations, IT can be a bit of an afterthought. And they typically don’t have a good plan in place.
By leveraging a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO), we understand the business when we come in. We understand how the organization functions and we look for ways to drive the business forward with technology.
- Can we streamline processes?
- Can we improve communication?
- How can we use technology to move the business forward?
Many business owners don’t have clear visibility into their technology. They don’t have a good idea of what’s available and what’s possible within their infrastructure. Essentially, they’re left in the dark. If nobody is laying out the business challenges, opportunities, or risks, they tend to be ignored until, again, something breaks. And at that point, some cleanup needs to happen.
Ideally, when you’re looking at what a business needs, you want to be working proactively and preventing the need for reactive cleanup work. CopperTree’s vCIO takes charge of IT for our clients, particularly with smaller organizations where they have no internal IT.
The vCIO is responsible for execution. He’s responsible for understanding the business and making sure that the infrastructure is there to support the business. And if there’s a problem, or something needs to be improved on, or if there’s a new piece of technology that you’d like to leverage within your organization, the vCIO takes the lead and makes sure that your needs are being met.
The vCIO and Vendor Management
Some people like to use the term “one throat to choke.” And that’s really what we offer with our vCIO — somebody who is ultimately responsible for your IT.
When you don’t have somebody in that position, you might have a number of different vendors that you’re working with. Maybe you’re working with an ISP, a copier vendor, and a business software vendor. You might be in a situation where there’s some ambiguity as to who’s responsible for dealing with a problem.
The last thing you want is to have several vendors pointing fingers at each other. So the vCIO takes ownership of that. And whether it’s something directly related to the infrastructure that CopperTree can solve, or something that we need to take up with one of the outside vendors like an ISP, we still take full ownership of that issue and we’ll work with them to make sure that it gets resolved.
Understanding Business and Technology
One thing to look for in a virtual CIO is someone who can understand both the business and the technology. Another is someone who can come in and have a peer-to-peer conversation with you as the owner, or you as the IT manager, and really understand both how the bits and pieces work in the background and the business impact that each system has.
When you’re considering a vCIO, you want somebody that has executive business experience as well as hands-on technical experience and the knowledge to be able to bring the two together.
Also, in our quarterly vCIO meetings, we look at the IT budget. We ask questions like:
- What’s coming down the pipe?
What are we planning for as an organization?
Is there any hardware that needs to be upgraded?
Is there any software that needs to be relicensed?
Are there new security tools that should be implemented?
We want to give you, the business owner, visibility into what’s happening. The last thing you want as an organization is to be surprised by a major upgrade. You don’t want someone to show up one day and say, “Surprise, you need to upgrade your server system.”
As we’re planning that out, we can look three to five years ahead and get schedules in place. For example, your physical servers will need to be upgraded about every four years. That said, if you move to the cloud you get different life cycles. But the responsibility of the vCIO is to make sure that you have that visibility, and that you’re ready when the time comes to make the investments that need to be made.
At our quarterly vCIO meetings, one of the things we do is bring recommendations to your attention that we feel you should address. Maybe it’s something that our technology alignment manager found when they were on site doing maintenance. Maybe it’s a new tool that we feel would be beneficial in your organization. But we’re sitting on the same side of the table. We’re looking for ways to drive your business forward, and we’re looking for ways to use technology in your company to be more efficient or to communicate better.
We always ask ourselves what would we do if we were in your seat. If we owned your company, what kind of recommendations would we be making? Because we aren’t selling hardware or systems, we’re trying to help you to drive your business forward.
Nobody likes surprises. And it’s always important to know what’s coming from a technology perspective. And one of the things that the vCIO delivers is a regular budget every quarter. When we’re doing our vCIO meetings, we’re looking at those recommendations. We’re typically working with a three-to-five-year budget. If there is a major infrastructure upgrade coming, you’ll see it. We’ll have that in your budget, and you’ll be ready to make the investment when the time comes.
“We Just Want it to Work”
When we ask our clients what they want from technology, we almost always get the same answer. “We just want it to work. We just want to sleep at night knowing that our risks are managed. And we want to know that we have the right technology in place.”
What does that really mean? It means that you come in every day, you do what you do, and you don’t have to deal with technology problems. That’s the vCIO’s biggest responsibility in working with our clients — finding ways to drive down the noise in the infrastructure.
How can we identify what those recurring issues are? How can we make sure that those issues don’t come back? What can we do today to prevent issues from happening in the future?
There are a lot of different levers that we can pull, including different technology or reconfiguring existing technology. It might be training users. It’s important to look for those trends and find ways to put permanent solutions in place.
With CopperTree’s vCIO in place, we can manage your asset life cycle management plan. We’ll make sure that your systems are constantly up to date. You won’t fall behind and when you show up every morning, your systems are working and ready to facilitate the success of your organization.