If a business is embarking on digital transformation or is ready to update existing technology to address new standards, it can be a challenge if they don’t have a chief information officer (CIO) to lead those projects. The CIO role is responsible for working with and setting priorities for the IT department, managing the business’ IT systems, keeping the IT environment secure, and planning and budgeting for tech upgrades. CIOs also work with the rest of the C-suite to determine how technology can help reach business goals from greater productivity and higher product quality to improving customer experiences and employee satisfaction.
Your MSP business can give your clients the knowledge and expertise of a CIO — without the cost of a full-time executive’s salary — by providing virtual CIO services. Your virtual CIO services can include consulting that helps your clients set the right course for future tech projects and expertly manage their day-to-day IT needs.
Although you won’t be on-site with your clients every day, you need to develop a deep understanding of their businesses, the objectives they want to meet with technology implementations, and challenges that arise. Incorporate these best practices into your virtual CIO offering to deliver comprehensive services and build a strong relationship with your clients.
Begin by Fact-Finding
Before you can help your clients reach their goals, you need to understand their starting points. Conduct an assessment of the business’ IT environment, inventorying and evaluating infrastructure, endpoints, and business applications and how they are currently used. You also need to find out whether IT is supported by internal resources or a third-party provider.
Additionally, your initial assessment should include a meeting with all stakeholders to understand their current operations, their goals, and compliance requirements so you can determine if there are any gaps they need to address. It’s vital to build your client’s trust — sign an NDA if necessary — to learn all the details you need to make the right decisions.
Build a Technology Roadmap
Your assessment may reveal that your client needs to update their IT environment to operate more efficiently, cost-effectively, and competitively. Or, you may discover that the business is planning to add new capabilities or an expansion that will require scaling current systems. A technology roadmap will establish budget and IT workflow priorities to help your clients achieve those objectives. As a virtual CIO, you need to find ways to implement solutions with the least amount of disruption to productivity, comply with your client’s schedule, and stay on budget in addition to ensuring that the proper solutions are deployed.
Find Your Place in the Company’s Organization
As a virtual CIO, it may not be immediately apparent who you report to and who you direct. Clearly define where you fit into the company’s organizational structure and who your main points of contact will be. This will help minimize confusion and that chance that you’d start a project without getting input from all essential decision-makers.
A virtual CIO needs to keep the client’s best interest in mind with each decision — and that means proactively managing their IT systems. Keep systems up to date, patched, secure, and in perfect working order to save your clients’ the costs associated with system failures and downtime. It’s also vital to have a business continuity plan in place to keep data secure and accessible in the event of a disaster or outage.
Stay in Constant Communication
Since you are providing CIO services without setting up an office on site, it may be a challenge to communicate effectively with your client in a timely manner. Consider using a collaboration solution to stay in touch with your clients and share information. Also, track metrics and report on your progress to keep your clients informed of the status of their IT systems and projects you are overseeing.
Literally, be a “Virtual CIO”
A virtual CIO is only “virtual” in the respect that you aren’t one of your client’s full-time executives working on site. All other aspects of the job are the same. So, although the temptation may be there to sell your MSP’s business’ other services, your client’s interests come first. Only add other services to your virtual CIO offering if they make the most sense and are the option that provides the greatest value to your client.