Why Every Company Needs a CIO
There was a time not so long ago when only big companies had a CIO. As technology has become an essential part of every company’s business framework, experienced technology leadership is a must on every leadership team. Size doesn’t matter.
Several significant business and technology changes came together to reshape the way companies, employees, clients, and customers work.
Imagine not so long ago when everyone worked inside the company’s physical space. These walls created a tightly controlled barrier between internal activities and the outside world. Network access was relatively easy to manage, limiting who was allowed inside.
As bandwidth expanded to become more accessible and affordable, the internet brought those secure network boundaries down. People were no longer physically tethered to a desk in an office or cubicle within four secure walls. Networks expanded beyond the physical walls, relying on sophisticated access rules to replace walls.
Suddenly "we're in the cloud" granted easy access to anything anytime from anywhere. With this seemingly endless access came the inevitable security risks and data breaches.
All of these changes have placed a burden on companies to understand and quickly adopt very different technology frameworks. To continually anticipate and strategically plan for ongoing changes requires technology expertise companies do not have on staff. Even experienced technology folks without new cybersecurity expertise will find themselves unable to respond.
The good news is there are CIO leaders available for even the smallest companies
. These business technology leaders deliver the right services, expertise, and dedication to meet your company’s unique needs.
Savvy company leaders make strategic decisions only after careful consideration and objective analysis . When they reach that pivotal decision to add a technology leader to their team, they often feel as if they’re staring down a bottomless black hole.
The questions many company leaders face are the same regardless of company size, time in business, and industry. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
"How do I find the right technology team member for us?"
"Do we really need someone to guide our technology future?"
"We've come this far without a technology leader. Why now?"
"Are we sure we can't keep doing what we've always done?"
"Isn't this going to be more expensive than we can justify?"
"How will I know if this is the right person for us?"
The list goes on. Every one of these questions is what any strategic-minded company leader should ask.
What Is a CIO?
The company's chief information officer is the connector between business strategy and the technology that brings vision to reality.
The CIO is a member of your company's executive leadership team, reporting directly to you, the CEO or business owner.
The CIO is the practical strategist who ensures you have the right technology to deliver the right products and services to the right clients at the right time.
What Does a CIO Do?
Speaks business and technology in plain English
Manages the IT infrastructure for the entire organization
Builds consensus across the organization
Understands and effectively communicates with external vendors and solution providers
Listens to and builds trusted customer and client relationships
Brings the new cybersecurity perspective every company must have
Helps everyone in the company understand and adopt a positive security awareness mindset
CIOs are curious learners
Prioritizes the stream of great ideas
Observes, listens, and asks questions
What is the Difference Between a CIO and a CTO?
These roles are often used interchangeably, but they are different.
The CIO is internally-focused. While they have deep technical experience like a CTO, they are responsible for the value the technology infrastructure delivers to the company and its customers.
The CTO is externally-focus. They are concerned with how technology works, and the products and services delivered.
In a structured organization, the CTO reports to the CIO.
Depending on the size and needs of the company, it is perfectly acceptable to combine these roles.
What to Look for When Hiring Your CIO
We talked about many key leadership qualities your CIO will bring to the company in What Does a CIO Do. As you read through these, it quickly became clear that technology skills are only one component of an experienced CIO's toolkit. In fact, the technology aspect of the role is often the easiest for them to deliver.
If you're asking yourself, "What should I look for in my CIO?", these skills and experience are a reliable benchmark.
At least 10 years of hands on business and technology experience with proven results at the executive leadership level
A bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or business-related field
Companies sometimes rely on the CFO to fill the CIO role. CFOs do not have the technical knowledge or broad business technology expertise to make appropriate strategic decisions. Their decisions are financially-driven and as a result, are more strategically limited than a CIO.
Hands-on experience with proven results in a technology role such as software development, database design, data management, data analysis, network architecture, network management, or cybersecurity
Continuously following cybersecurity trends and news. This area is changing at such a rapid pace that continued learning is a non-negotiable skill.
Committed to ongoing technology and business-related learning with recent examples
Ability to write clearly in non-technical words to explain and share knowledge across the organization
Ability to present technical concepts in business language to C-team, board members, strategic partners, and employees
Commitment to teaching and explaining in understandable words the relationship between business and technology
Ability to listen and ask questions with empathy
Ability to prioritize initiatives based on company priorities and long-term goals
Ability to integrate technology and strategies
Ability to efficiently identify, evaluate, recommend, and implement appropriate technologies
Eagerness to contribute to the overall company strategic vision and growth plans without technical bias
What is a Fractional CIO?
A fractional CIO is sometimes referred to as a part-time CIO. They provide all of the same skills, experience, and strategic leadership that a full-time CIO does in fewer regular hours.
The fractional approach is an attractive solution for companies that want technology leadership but either cannot afford or do not need a full-time C-level member. This is an ideal solution for small and mid-sized (SMB) companies.
Consider just a few of the many immediate benefits.
Gain valuable expertise within your budget
Add knowledge, skills, and experience your company is currently lacking
Build a trusted relationship with an objective business technology partner
Increase credibility with customers, clients, partners, and employees because of greater executive depth
Increase competitive advantage by uncovering untapped opportunities
Invest in technology that is closely aligned with your current and future business goals
Eliminate redundancies and waste in technology purchases with experienced guidance
Adopt an appropriate company-wide cybersecurity mindset
Implement data and privacy safeguards
Develop a company culture of learning and collaboration that encourages employee retention
How is a CIO Different Than Your MSP?
Many SMBs rely on an outsourced managed services provider (MSP) for their day-to-day IT support. This vendor can be a valuable resource for your company, but it is important to understand exactly what they provide to your company.
MSPs might offer CIO services as a way to earn your business. In our experience, the majority of MSPs do not have the broad executive CIO skills and experience outlined in this eBook
. If your MSP has offered CIO services to you, use this eBook as a benchmark to measure the actual skills and services provided.
When Should You Hire a CIO?
Building a company supported by a reliable, scalable technology framework is the mark of responsible leadership. That means forming an experienced business technology team member relationship as soon as you begin planning your company.
The right CIO will provide the guidance and specific skills your company needs at each phase of your growth.
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