Avoid the “Over-Promise, Under-Deliver” Trap with vCIO Services

Being clear with yourself and your customers on the scope and nature of your virtual CIO services is a critical first-step in making it an asset rather than a liability to your MSP business.

bundle vCIO

Ever since managed services have been a thing, MSPs have been told that they need to become their customers’ “trusted IT advisors.” Although that phrase has been repeated ad nauseam, it’s true—your customers can shop online for technology, but they need your expertise to advise them what to get, what to avoid and how to manage and protect their IT investments.

Over the years, many MSPs formalized their business advising skills and some even made it a separate line-item branded as a virtual CIO (vCIO) service offering. The role of vCIO is particularly appealing to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which are becoming more technology-dependent, but they don’t have a CIO on staff to guide them.

Offering vCIO services is an excellent way for an MSP to transition from an IT provider to a business advisor. However, there are some critical differences between what some MSPs call virtual CIO services and what SMBs actually need. And failing to make that distinction can be disastrous.

CIOs’ (and vCIOs’) Top Priorities for 2019

To distinguish between the roles of “consultative seller” and vCIO, let’s start with what actual CIOs are focused on this year. According to a CIO.com article, “Top priorities for CIOs in 2019,” the most important transformation initiatives they’re focused on are:

  • Customer experience
  • Employee experience
  • Digital business service
  • Ecosystem driver/platform/microservices.

Additionally, some of the top organizational priorities include:

  • Keep the organization safe (e.g., cybersecurity programs and solutions, GDPR compliance)
  • Tech debt reduction
  • Increasing their company’s digital footprint
  • Data analytics and data quality

While technology plays a role in some of the points listed above, it’s easy to see that the CIO’s role is much broader and requires a good balance of business acumen and IT expertise. MSPs that bill themselves as vCIOs in the hopes of “faking it before making it,” put themselves in the position of overpromising and underdelivering, which can compromise a customer relationship very quickly.

It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in all aspects of your customers’ businesses. It just means you need to first identify your strengths and weaknesses and set clear guidelines on which vCIO services you offer and which ones you don’t.

It’s also important to recognize that companies consume vCIO services differently than they consume other managed services like security, BDR, VoIP, and mobile technologies, which they need 24/7 with limited tolerance for downtime. Some companies’ vCIO needs, on the other hand, may only be weekly, monthly or even quarterly. This is one reason it’s not recommended that you try to bundle vCIO with other managed services (especially if you’re selling it at a flat rate). Many MSPs who bundle everything in one offering can easily price themselves out of the market, or they may undercharge a customer for their vCIO services which leads to cutting corners and focusing on short-term technical solutions over longer-term business strategies.

For additional tips and insights on developing a solid vCIO services offering, be sure to check out XaaS Journal’s Virtual CIO Services landing page along with the following articles: