Why you need a Chief Information Officer

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Why you need a CIOThere is no question that large companies need a Chief Information Officer or CIO to take care of the IT aspect of their businesses. But for small to medium businesses, employing a CIO is still not a priority.

It’s easy to understand why many are still not convinced about the critical role a CIO plays, even for a small business. A CIO is a C-level or an executive position, therefore, it automatically signals a high price tag. Furthermore, most SMEs believe that the technologies they use are not as complex as those used by large businesses and so can be managed by either the business owner, the IT manager or a even by a junior IT staff.

This is a somewhat lopsided view of the role of a CIO. To fully grasp the importance of a CIO to every type of business including an SME, let’s define its role and functions based on the current business challenges.

What is a CIO?

As mentioned earlier, a CIO is an executive level position which is common to large organisations. The main task of a CIO is to identify technologies (both hardware and software solutions) that will address the current and future requirements of the business, whilst effectively managing the IT budget. He, then, develops strategies on how to fully integrate these technologies into the workplace; ensuring the business will get the most value out of these investments.

This description may sound like anyone can do this job, but really it’s more complicated than you think. Gartner, one of the leading tech and research firms in the world, lists the following as the main tasks expected of present-day CIOs:

1. They oversee the development of corporate standards, technology architecture, technology evaluation and transfer; sponsor the business technology planning process; manage client relations; align IT with the business; and develop IT financial management systems.

2. They also oversee plans to reinvest in the IT infrastructure, as well as in business and technology professionals.

3. They are responsible for leading the development of an IT governance framework that will define the working relationships and sharing of IT components among various IT groups within the corporation.

Due to the latest innovations in business technologies and the growing reliance of every business on technology, the role of a CIO has evolved into something that’s more strategic and relevant. It’s now far more complicated than many appreciate. In the latest CIO survey published by Gartner, the majority of CIOs in Australia and New Zealand have agreed that they need to change their leadership style in the next 3 years to ensure their enterprises survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world. It’s now not just about reducing costs or improving clerical productivity. A successful CIO needs to have an intimate idea of how current technology can increase the company’s sales.

At what stage does a business usually need a CIO?

The best time to seek the help of a CIO is when you’re planning to ramp up your IT investments, when you can’t make IT decisions, or when you feel there’s a misalignment between your IT investments and business goals. With the growing use of cloud services and offerings from an an increasing amount of vendors, every business needs someone to keep an eye on the whole picture now more than ever. Someone who’s focused on what’s running where, what data is stored where – and be able to provide an audit trail. Whilst you, as a business owner, are busy running other important aspects of your business.

Should you hire a full time CIO?

Although it would be great to have a full time CIO at your disposal, the reality still remains that most SMEs have limited resources. What you need instead is the experience and expertise of a CIO without taking on the expense of a full time staff member. A virtual CIO is a good alternative to restaffing or expanding an internal IT department.

What’s a Virtual CIO?

A Virtual CIO is a CIO that provides the same services as a full-time staff member, but is not a member of your staff. They could be an independent freelancer or an additional consultant providing services and expertise as part of a Managed Service provided by an outsourced IT company. A Virtual CIO combines the tasks managed and maintained by key tech strategists, namely, the chief technology officers (CTOs), tech consultants, and CIOs. It’s having the resources previously enjoyed by big companies but on a far more manageable cost and without the risks and responsibilities associated with a senior, full-time executive employed on your payroll.

Benefits to business

Virtual CIOs help with your technology roadmap and take care of your IT infrastructure, the security and accessibility of your data, firewall and virus protection, WAN/LAN health monitoring, disaster recovery strategy, and more.

SMEs can take advantage of a Virtual CIO to help them access and manage the new business technologies available to them, and get remote and/or on-site support, consultation and troubleshooting. It’s having a team of specialised tech experts 24/7. They are your technology partner and trusted adviser.

If you think you lack the necessary expertise and staff to take care of your IT, inquire about virtual CIOs.