Like the role of chief information officer (CIO), the role of virtual CIO (vCIO) is steadily growing – so much so that the term “vCIO” has become a buzzword in some industries, with “real” vCIOs going out of their way to distinguish themselves from pretenders. But the position is not a fad, and demand for vCIOs won’t disappear any time soon, especially among small businesses.
vCIOs: a unique partner
Combining the twin hats of business and technology expertise, a vCIO is one of the most valuable outsourced IT partners an organization can hire. Through guidance based on tactical and strategic decision-making, they save businesses time and money, helping to build resilience, increase security and raise revenue over the long term.
But above all – thanks to their unique combination of experience – vCIOs are uniquely situated to help businesses navigate the rising tide of economic and technological challenges facing them today. What are those challenges, and how can vCIOs help to address them? In this article, we’ll answer both questions.
Challenges for today
With Gartner predicting a worldwide IT spend of $4.4 trillion dollars in 2022, today’s businesses are more dependent on technology than ever before. But while tech drives numerous benefits – from better processes to collaboration and customer support – those benefits come at a cost: not only does IT infrastructure require maintenance, it also requires innovation and strategy to generate value in the midst of disruption.
- A deluge of tools
Organizations are drowning in tools: according to one study, the average organization is using more than 250 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications on a regular basis. That’s a lot to keep track of, and many of those apps end up being used by only a fraction of users. A vCIO can help to select the most important tools for your business while leveraging your existing tools more effectively, optimizing for your mission-specific needs while delivering exceptional user experience.
- Mountains of data
Today’s organizations are storing hundreds of terabytes of data. However – while 93% of organizations are continuing to spend on data and analytics – much of that data is unstructured, and poorly organized. Most businesses have a hard time finding all their data, let alone using it effectively. vCIOs can help organizations to create a viable data management strategy, unlocking benefits like improved decision making, streamlined processes and KPI tracking.
- A storm of cyber threats
According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.37 million, a number which has been steadily climbing every year – and that’s not counting the cost to brand equity and consumer trust that comes with a serious breach. Today, trust plays a major role in business resilience and longevity – without cyber preparedness, maintaining that trust is impossible. vCIOs help with cyber risk by enforcing security standards across vendors and business departments, keeping data safely backed up, and maintaining a disaster response plan.
- An avalanche of connected devices
With the Internet of Things (IoT) swiftly climbing to 15 billion devices, organizations have more programmable surfaces connected to their network than ever before. While many IoT devices suffer from risks, they also offer untapped, transformative potential through the data they generate and the control they offer over processes throughout your business. vCIOs can lead the way in extracting value from IoT, while minimizing the number of connected devices in your organization for better security and lower costs.
- A freeze on technological transformation
According to McKinsey, 79% of organizations are still in the early stages of technological transformation, leaving them in the dust when competitors embrace cutting edge IT. In many cases, delayed transformation is simply due to lack of expertise: upgrading legacy IT systems can be extremely difficult without the help of a specialized expert who not only understands how those systems work, but also how to replace them with something better.
Meanwhile, changes in the tech landscape can force organizations to transform quickly in a process that may throw the workplace into turmoil. Since the COVID pandemic, for instance, the rise of remote employment has required organizations to depend more on remote collaboration software and adopt hybrid cloud strategies. vCIOs are able to implement new technology and keep it up to date, while ensuring that change does not disrupt business processes.
Leadership for the future
The process which has led to IT disruption in the present isn’t slowing down, and trends on the bleeding edge of technology – such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and the blockchain – can be expected to change business dramatically in the future. But without the help of an IT expert, knowing the difference between legitimate disruption and hype can be difficult.
For instance, opinions on AI from business leaders are mixed, and contradictory – 44% believe that their industry is adopting AI too quickly, and 73% believe the technology is overhyped. At the same time, a nearly equal percentage believes that AI will help deliver more efficient business processes. Ultimately there is probably some truth in all of these assessments – but knowing how that should guide your IT strategy in the long term can be difficult.
As strategists and long-term decision makers, vCIOs can find the intersection between your organization’s mission and technological trends – they provide the vision and leadership to guide investment in cutting-edge technology, align your IT strategy with long-term business goals, and promote resilience against disruption.
IT expertise for all seasons
In the midst of a rapidly changing business and technology landscape, businesses need a source of guidance that can withstand and leverage IT disruption, no matter what form it takes. At MainSpring, our vCIOs draw on years of experience and assist with planning, budgeting, and risk management outcomes, all while aligning IT with your business objectives.
Whether you are trying to prepare for tomorrow or ten years down the road, the vCIO is truly an IT partner for all seasons – one that will become a fixture in small businesses for years to come.
MainSpring is your go-to for IT strategy and support. Our award-winning managed services are handled by a diverse team of experts on the cutting edge of business technology, with decades of combined experience serving small-to-medium sized businesses. We adopt a proactive mindset to every customer, taking ownership of your results and working diligently to exceed your business needs. To learn more, contact us today.