Why Your Small Business Needs a CIO

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Image: CIO

If you are still asking whether your small business needs a CIO, your business may be losing a competitive edge. In the digital age no organisation can exist without technology. Technology can make or break companies and successful organisations consciously invest in having a CIO on their leadership teams to guide them through the maze of interconnected, modern technologies.

These organisations have realised that technology, when well managed and leveraged, can do much more for them than to reduce operational costs and increase their bottom line.

Why do I need a CIO?

Everyone these days knows what a Chief Information Officer (CIO) is. The role and benefits of having a CIO on the leadership team has been well documented. What may be less known is that the role has considerably evolved and became even more critical since the emergence of cloud computing in the 2010s.

According to Investopedia,

“…thanks to cloud computing, wireless communications, big-data analytics, and mobile devices, CIOs now develop strategies and computer systems that keep businesses competitive in a fast-changing global marketplace. One major responsibility of a contemporary CIO is to predict the future of computer technology trends that give a business an advantage over others.”

Will Kenton

All large organisations, without exception, have CIOs for good reasons. The title may vary from business to business, but the role of a CIO in helping organisations navigate through the intertwined technology and business landscape of the modern world, is a vital.

Successful organisations of all sizes have realised that, if well leveraged, technology can give the business a massive competitive advantage through the capacity to innovate and to build Brand equity, and ultimately to out-compete their rivals.

Not surprisingly, this role is best performed by someone with the correct skill set. It is delicate balance of business knowledge and experience, an intimate understanding of currently available technology, and exceptional communication and collaboration skills.

Is it expensive to hire a full time CIO? You bet.

And here lies the commonly given reason why small and medium businesses (SMBs) with less than, say 100 staff, don’t have a CIO and are missing out on the benefits this role can deliver: They can’t afford it. Right?

Wrong.

There is no denying that good CIOs are hard to come by and deservedly draw significant salaries. Hiring a full time CIO may not be commercially viable for a small or medium-sized company, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a dedicated, top CIO.

The thing to keep in mind is that smaller organisations do not necessarily need a full time CIO. Yet, they will gain significant benefit from having access to such a role in managing the all-important technology infrastructure and making technology decisions and investment.

When do I need a CIO?

Determining when you need a CIO is a quite a simple process. If your organisation falls into one of the below categories, you need a CIO:

  • When your processes and technology are not accomplishing what you need.
  • You have incongruent systems that do not work well together.
  • Security and availability (down-time) are issues your organisation currently faces.
  • When responsibilities that should be owned by an IT Department are being moved away from the IT Department, taking valuable time of people hired to do another job. As a result, they don’t do either job well and may be unhappy.
  • If you have business ideas and concepts on paper and need to move them forward. You need technology to support your innovation and growth.

How to secure the best CIO without losing your shirt

So, if you don’t want to hire a full time CIO, but you want to have an ongoing and reliable support of a dedicated CIO, then where do you start?

Outsourcing of major business functions is not a new concept. Just as you can call in a finance executive (CFO), a marketing executive (CMO) or a HR/People executive (CHRO/CPO), calling in an IT executive is a highly viable option.

Keep in mind that the business technology landscape today is quite complex and constantly evolving. It also requires constant monitoring and behind-the-scenes maintenance, preventative actions, and ongoing learning to effectively support your business performance.

Hence, there are effectively two models you can adopt in securing the services of a qualified IT executive to support your team.

  1. Individual IT Consultant. There are very capable and experienced individuals who provide part time CIO services. For several reasons, these individuals are hard to come by in Australia. One of the biggest issues with this choice is that relying on one person to support your technology infrastructure 24/7, any time, is an unreasonable ask. And that’s even if their knowledge of the latest systems and technologies is up to date.
  2. Specialist Managed IT Company. Hiring a specialist company to provide your organisation with managed services and technical advice and support, will provide both depth of skills and cost efficiencies over hiring an individual for the role. A good managed IT services provider will have multiple, highly skilled personnel upon whose knowledge and expertise you can rely. The right provider will complement your existing IT Department or can become your IT Department and CIO.

Here are some great insights that will help you consider new possibilities as a leader:

Conclusion:

A good CIO is first and foremost a business leader who works closely with the executive team, developing and implementing your company’s IT strategy. When your new IT support provider takes on this role for you, they also assume the financial risk of your IT infrastructure and operations.

They make a commitment to keeping your system safe, and up and running at all times, regardless of the cost to themselves. In fact, the more trouble-free they keep your entire IT infrastructure and operations, the more profitable they are. This is our approach to business.

It’s a win-win relationship.