Technology and Information continue to be crucial aspects of every organization. In order to manage this, many enterprises rely on a Chief Information Officer (CIO). A CIO is an executive level employee that leverages invaluable knowledge along with years of experience in business, information security, and technology to provide top level executive guidance to an organization about their technology and information strategies. This includes budgeting, technology planning, figuring out how to meet business needs or scale utilizing technology, and more. However, most organizations, and especially nonprofits, don’t have the resources to employ a full-time CIO. This is where the concept of a virtual CIO (vCIO) comes into play.
What is a vCIO?
A virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) is, in effect, a CIO in terms of their skills, knowledge, experience, and salary. They are highly skilled IT professionals who provide strategic technology guidance and management to organizations. The difference is that vCIOs generally provide these services on a part-time or project basis, often as an outsourced service from a reputable managed services provider. Utilizing a vCIO can provide organizations with the expertise and support of a CIO without the large overhead costs and commitment of hiring a full-time employee. A vCIO can help your organization with a wide range of IT-related tasks, such as:
- Developing and implementing a comprehensive technology strategy: A vCIO can work with your leadership team to identify areas where technology can be used to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve your overall effectiveness, and meet business goals or solve operational challenges. They can help you develop a plan and a budget to achieve those objectives. This may include new software, hardware, cloud platforms, or other technology solutions, as well as implementing best practices for data security, compliance, and data analytics.
- Overseeing IT infrastructure: A vCIO can help oversee your organization’s IT infrastructure, including servers, networks, and cloud-based services. While the vCIO may not be directly responsible for the day-to-day management of infrastructure or technical troubleshooting and task-handling, they maintain an eagle-eye view of the infrastructure. They will work closely with IT Directors and Systems Administrators to understand the infrastructure and use that to make informed decisions about road-mapping and budgeting for business needs.
- Technology Vendor Management: vCIOs are invaluable for ensuring that an organization is getting the best value for its technology investments with other technology partners, platforms, and vendors. This includes holding vendors and partnerships accountable for the services they are supposed to deliver with scrutiny, from both a technical and business perspective.
- Operational Guidance and Information Security: A vCIO understands business operations as it pertains to information governance, risk, and compliance. Beyond the technology piece itself, they can identify operational weaknesses at an organization as well as suggest and implement operational remediations. Things such as written policies that govern how technology can and should be leveraged, working with auditors to meet compliance needs, and staying tuned into industry trends surrounding security are all within a vCIO’s capabilities.
- Making sense of the data: A vCIO can convey complex technical topics using language that makes more sense to non-technical people. At an executive level, this is very important, as it can allow other executives and the organization as a whole to remain focused on business goals. By interpreting valuable analytics provided by technology tools, the vCIO can translate those metrics in a way that provides executive insight to how organizations need to pivot technologically in order to meet business needs.
- Providing Technical Leadership: Many nonprofit organizations have limited IT resources, and staff may not be familiar with all the technology they are using or the regulations they are governed by. A vCIO can provide guidance on any necessary training and support the organization and its employees require. Further, the vCIO can facilitate the implementation and oversight of these training programs.
While a CIO may be prohibitively expensive for most organizations, a vCIO can provide cost savings, while still offering the technology guidance and strategic direction necessary to meet your business needs. For nonprofits specifically, leveraging the services of a vCIO will allow you to take advantage of affordable, comprehensive solutions and ensure that your technology is aligned with your goals while focusing on your core mission of making a positive impact on your community.