Information is among the most valuable assets your business has. That means it requires a deliberate and effective strategy to manage it. Unfortunately, most small businesses just don’t have the financial, physical or technical resources to devote a full-time employee to it. Your on-site IT staff may try their best, but it’s a safe bet that they will have a hard time finding the necessary time to devote to it fully, given their day-to-day responsibilities.
And IT strategy needs to be a bigger priority than that. According to consulting firm Protiviti, most businesses report a need for objective and expert guidance regarding risk management, best practices and new technology.
So consider this cost-effective option: a virtual chief information officer. A vCIO is an outsourced expert who will partner with you. They understand the ins and outs of your business, create and manage big-picture strategy, integrate and leverage technology and make decisions to help your business become a leading industry player.
Here’s a look at five ways a vCIO can help your business, and the potential outcomes you can expect from investing in one:
1. Strategic Direction
One of the vCIO’s most important functions is recognizing gaps in your company’s operations and knowing how to address them. Those areas may include:
- Information security
- Regulatory compliance
- Business process management (customer relationship management, financial data management, etc.)
- Preparation for government audits and legal action
So instead of asking “Ted from IT” to figure out how to handle the massive amounts of paperwork you’re required to keep (once he’s finished installing those new wireless printers and upgrading your software), the vCIO will have the experience, understanding and insight to find the right solutions and take decisive action for the benefit of your company’s future.
2. Policies and Processes
Virtual CIOs draw on their extensive expertise to choose the right solution for your unique needs. Here’s an example: an employee says, “Hey boss, I went to the Genius Bar down the street, and I think I would benefit from using a Mac. I’ll buy it myself if I can use it for work.”
Do you have the time and knowledge to make an informed decision about that? Sure, there is potential for cost savings. But it’s also a huge challenge for support and security to manage different device platforms. A neutral vCIO can be trusted to make the right call on this and other issues.
3. Disaster Recovery
Disaster recovery isn’t just about making sure your data survives an event. It’s about preparing for the worst—everything from a long-term power outage to a flood in your computer room. Your vCIO can custom-design a business continuity plan specific to your needs.
By devising a strategy that suits your business, you will get exactly the protection you need without the additional cost of unnecessary services.
4. Making Sense of Your Information
Make sure your business is getting as much value from your data as it can. Business intelligence and big data are popular buzzwords, but many companies really aren’t getting the insights they need. A vCIO can choose and properly implement affordable tools for data visualization and analytics, ensuring that managers understand the charts and reports they generate. That means you won’t be wasting money or losing opportunities.
5. Integration and Migration
Information grows fast and moves fast. If kept bottled up in a single business application, you are likely duplicating it in other parts of your business. A vCIO can help you move data, share information effectively, and also:
- Mitigate the risk of data loss
- Eliminate duplicated and/or unreliable data
- Establish plans for data storage and access
Almost all businesses contract an accountant, a lawyer and a number of other “as needed” resources. Make sure you prioritize IT just as much. For a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time, executive-level employee, your vCIO can be a great ally to your team, ensuring your information works for you—not the other way around.