The past few years’ challenges prove that businesses must transform digitally to remain competitive. Without upgrading legacy processes, companies can’t ensure continued operations when disaster strikes—and they certainly can’t continue to operate long-term throughout a pandemic. However, with the transition to cloud applications and services, operational technology (OT) and informational technology (IT) convergence, new automation and an expanded cyberthreat attack surface, a business’ chief information officer (CIO) can quickly become overwhelmed—if the company even has a full-time CIO. As a result, virtual CIO services are in greater demand.
Virtual CIO services give businesses a solution to the challenge of managing a growing IT environment so that it supports business goals and delivers maximum value and ROI. In-house IT staff often tends to focus on day-to-day IT operations and troubleshooting problems when they occur. As a virtual CIO, however, you can stay focused on the big picture. You can evaluate how well current solutions meet the business’ needs and stay up to date on new solutions that may address the business’ pain points. You can also plan upgrades that align with your client’s IT budget, minimize disruptions to operations, and work with the C-suite to factor IT into its overall plans.
The IT skills shortage is also driving virtual CIO services. A Manpower Group survey found that 56 percent of companies have difficulty filling jobs due to a lack of skilled talent, and 21 percent of large companies report many challenges filling these roles. Finding and retaining a CIO when their services are in high demand may not be an option for every business, especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
How the Virtual CIO Role Has Changed
While you may see an uptick in demand for your virtual CIO services, you should also be prepared for your clients to request a higher level of support and have different priorities than ever before. First, they may need you more. A monthly touch-base call and setting priorities over several weeks may not be adequate for a business that’s quickly moving forward with its IT roadmap. Make sure you update your agreement with your clients to ensure you are compensated for all of your time and that you can plan adequately to provide solutions and services to your other customers.
Additional ways in which the virtual CIO role has changed since 2019 include:
- A greater emphasis on security: The pandemic hasn’t been the only source of challenges over the past few years. Businesses have also dealt with numerous cybersecurity threats. For example, your clients have seen the business disruptions—and to life in general—that the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack created and the far-reaching impact of the SolarWinds and Kaseya supply chain attacks. In 2021, businesses experienced 50 percent more cyberattacks per week than in 2020. They’ll count on your expertise to help them develop practical solutions to detect attacks and recover data when necessary.
- Revised business continuity strategy: Whether your clients felt prepared to handle pandemic shutdowns, supply chain disruptions, or the labor shortage, they are probably planning to modify their business continuity strategies in light of those events. Participating in C-suite meetings can keep your clients on the right track as they put new solutions in place to address future crises.
- Expanded scope of work to optimize customer experiences: Businesses have connected the dots between effective IT deployments and capabilities that make them more competitive. Look for your clients to lean on you more for helping to craft experiences designed to increase customer retention and future revenues.
Virtual CIOs, Unleashed
A few years ago, you probably struggled to convince your clients that upgrading technology, investing in automation, and migrating to the cloud were in their best interest. However, after the events of the past few years, you shouldn’t have to spend much effort defending that position. Of course, you will still need to show that projects can stay on budget and deliver ROI, but you’ll find your clients are open to discussing ways to make progress in their digital transformation rather than table it.
Prepare for your clients’ new perspective on IT and the solutions, services and commitment they need from a virtual CIO—and then deliver.