What is a vCIO? | 4 main roles and how they help your business

The IT services industry is famous for its love of acronyms and nicknames. So, you will likely see the phrase “vCIO” when reading about IT services. But what does vCIO mean, and is it something that can help your business?

WEBIT Services has been helping clients reach their IT goals for over 25 years. In that time, our vCIOs have helped hundreds of clients develop and execute IT strategies and growth.

We created this article to help explain what vCIOs are, the services they offer, and how they can help your business. Of course, as an IT provider, WEBIT believes vCIOs are an asset to our clients, but we want this article to help you decide whether a vCIO would be a good fit for your business.

What is a vCIO?

The acronym “vCIO” stands for “Virtual Chief Information Officer.” A vCIO is there to guide the client through the world of information technology.

The virtual moniker has taken on more meaning post-pandemic, as many now meet with clients over video calls. You may also have heard them called “fractional CIOs,” “technical account managers,” or “Strategic Advisors.”

Large corporations with internal IT departments may have a CIO already on staff. For small to medium-sized businesses, vCIOs can be contracted through a third-party, usually an IT provider.

As an “information officer,” a vCIO focuses on information technology (IT) and its functionality, strategy, and effectiveness within an organization. They are IT strategy experts and help their clients reach their individual IT goals.

Is a vCIO the same thing as an account manager?

No, a vCIO is not an account manager, even though some companies call them “technical account managers.”

An account manager’s primary focus will be client and provider transactions. In addition, account managers will focus on clients' relationships with their company, the services offered, and their transactional history.

On the other hand, a vCIO’s focus is entirely on the IT side of the business and IT-related strategy. While this includes purchasing hardware when needed, this is only one aspect of their client relationship.

4 main roles of a vCIO

A vCIO is an IT strategist. While the specifics may vary for each client, a vCIO will bring expertise to the following pieces of IT service.

  1. Develops and executes a client’s IT Roadmap.

    When clients sign on with an IT provider, they will meet with a vCIO to discuss their IT Roadmap.

    A vCIO will look at a company’s current IT situation (hardware, functionality, security, etc.) and compare it to the client’s future desired goals. They then help map out how to reach those IT goals within the budget that has been set.

    Armed with this information, the vCIO will help construct an IT Roadmap to determine what new technology is needed and when it should be purchased to help meet growth and improve functionality.

    This endeavor includes assisting clients in choosing the best hardware and software.

    When it’s time to change or update technology, the vCIO will oversee the requirements planning and proposal of new technology.

  2. Develops IT budgets

    A vCIO will help clients develop budgets for future IT purchases and investments as part of the IT Roadmap.

    As a member of the IT industry, vCIOs have an insider’s view of costs for IT goods and services. This allows them to give clients accurate estimates and help clients choose the best purchases based on their goals and budgets.

  3. Presents cybersecurity risk assessments

    With cybercrime on the rise, cybersecurity is becoming even more critical for businesses. A vCIO will work with the technical team to have risk assessments performed and then use the reports to help clients identify and prioritize their cyber risks.

    Once risks are identified, a vCIO can advise organizations on how to address them. A vCIO will also recommend best cybersecurity practices, work with the technical team to ensure cybersecurity tools are properly deployed (i.e., two-factor authentication), and suggest products or services to help reduce cyber risk.

  4. Analyzes helpdesk ticket history to improve IT functionality

    When a client contacts the IT provider helpdesk, a ticket is typically created. While not a helpdesk agent, a vCIO will review reports to examine the data to find patterns or themes that may be causing a decrease in productivity and efficiency.

    For instance, if a client has several tickets about email spam and phishing issues, a vCIO will offer potential solutions for this concern. A solution could be as simple as a system update or as complex as adding email security services. Either way, a vCIO will present the options to the client and help them make these decisions by providing unbiased, educational, and factual data.

How does a vCIO benefit businesses?

In all fairness, information technology can be a confusing and overwhelming topic. Creating IT strategy even more so. A vCIO helps bring vision and clarity to the table.

If you’re comfortable creating and enacting an IT strategy on your own or if your business has its own CIO and IT department, then you may not need outside assistance. However, if this isn’t the case, your organization may benefit from a vCIOs expertise.

A vCIO will regularly meet with a client (typically quarterly) to discuss their IT Roadmap, IT budget, risk assessments, and ticket history.

These meetings are usually called Technical Business Reviews (TBRs).

A TBR helps clients to assess how well their current IT strategies are working. Issues that a vCIO may address include:

  • How are the hardware and software systems working? Are they helping productivity or impeding it? If the latter, what can be done to help improve efficiency and productivity from an IT standpoint?
  • How is the IT budget doing? Is the organization over or under budget? What can we do to stay within the IT budget while hitting IT goals?
  • Where are they on the IT Roadmap? Is the client and IT provider partnership on track to meet the client’s IT goals? Does the roadmap need to be revisited and updated?
  • What cybersecurity risks are present, what are their likelihood and impact, and how should they be addressed?
  • Has the vCIO and IT provider met their action items for the client from the previous TBR?

Answering these questions helps organizations make educated decisions about technology and IT practices.

If a client is uncomfortable or unfamiliar with IT, the vCIO is there to educate and advise.

They bring a strategic edge to the technology side of an organization, guiding clients to the best tools and practices for efficiency.

4 reasons a vCIO can be beneficial:

A vCIO will be beneficial specifically to your business if you fall into one of these 4 categories:

  1. Looking for greater insight into technology, cybersecurity, hardware, and software
  2. Feel you need an update or upgrade to your technology and want guidance
  3. Want guidance in cybersecurity risk management and best practices
  4. Looking to develop or improve your IT strategy and budgeting processes

A vCIO might not be a fit for your organization if you already have someone that handles all the situations above or if these concerns aren’t present in your organization.

Next steps to collaborating with a vCIO

We’ve defined what a Virtual Chief Information Officer is, their role in developing and executing IT strategy, and what kind of businesses could benefit from a vCIO’s involvement.

WEBIT Services’ vCIOs meet quarterly with clients to discuss their IT strategy, cybersecurity goals, IT growth, and any other concerns they may have. If you are looking for a Chicago-area IT provider or would like to learn more, schedule a free consultation.

If you currently have an IT provider, you will likely have a vCIO included in your IT service package. Reach out to your provider to learn more.

If you’re not sure what to ask your vCIO with your current IT provider or are looking for a vCIO with a new IT provider, here’s an article on the top 9 questions to ask potential IT vendors.

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