What Is vCIO, and Is it Valuable to Your Company?

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If you’ve ever worked with a Managed Services Provider (MSP), you’ve probably heard the term “vCIO.” “What does that mean?” you might have wondered. You might have been told that the “v” stands for “virtual,” and CIO stands for “Chief Information Officer”—the position in a corporate environment responsible for aligning technology strategy with business strategy. The idea is that, with the MSP, your business will have a virtual CIO – someone to provide strategic technology consulting.

But not all vCIO services are created equal. Just because two MSPs both offer vCIO, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can expect the same thing from both of them. The right kind of vCIO service is truly valuable. But, in some cases, it doesn’t amount to much more than project sales pitches.

So, how can you tell if an MSP is offering you a vCIO service you can actually use? We recommend asking these three questions.

1. Do vCIO services occur at set, regular intervals?

If it doesn’t get planned, it’s not likely to get done. True vCIO services occur at set intervals (quarterly, biannually, etc.). That way, a rhythm gets established, and your company decision makers know when to expect recommendations for IT improvements. Too many MSPs offer vCIO services on an unscheduled, ad hoc basis—meaning that, at best, they’re unpredictable and thus not helpful for actual planning, or, at worst, they happen rarely, if ever.

2. Are vCIO recommendations based on actual data related to your company’s systems?

Affinity’s vCIOs base their recommendations on data from ongoing assessments of our clients’ systems against standards intended to maximize both productivity and security. Any IT professional can tell you when your server is old and should probably be replaced. Only a true vCIO can make that same recommendation based on the actual impact it would have on your business, and help you prioritize it based on your budget and other key needs you may have.

3. Do vCIO meetings involve valuable business strategy conversations, or are they just veiled sales calls?

This one is tricky, but no less important. True, any vCIO will recommend projects to improve your IT—just like a CIO would make recommendations to a CEO. However, a good vCIO will make such recommendations with your budget in mind, and will help you strategize by pointing out which recommendations will have the most impact on your business and your goals, and which ones can wait till a later date. If a vCIO shows up with a list of recommendations and does not even consider your budget, goals, or timing needs, that’s a good sign that they see the meeting primarily as a sales call, rather than a value-add service. One way to tell on the front end whether an MSP’s vCIO services will be valuable is to consider whether their agreement incentivizes them to think like your internal IT department.

Ready to Experience True vCIO Services?

Affinity’s clients have commented that our vCIOs feel like true members of their internal team. If you’d like to learn about what a true vCIO would look like for your business, contact us today.