While enterprises have had CIOs for some three decades, it is only recently that Virtual CIOs (vCIOs) have emerged. Invented by MSPs, vCIO offer SMBs top-level IT strategy.
As an MSP, you provide much of this insight and guidance already to your clients.. Who knows your clients’ IT operations better than you and your staff? You can kick this informal advising up a few notches by offering higher level, truly strategic CIO advice and guidance. Of course, you can’t be on site every day – so as a vCIO you’ll do this virtually.
Sagiss is one forward-thinking MSP already offering vCIO services. For Sagiss, their vCIO services help their SMB clients plan for the future, looking several years out. Their clients don’t just keep pace with technology ─but achieve greater internal efficiencies and competitive advantage.
According to Sagiss’ vCIO services help SMBs:
- “Define the useful life of your existing IT infrastructure
- Formulate an IT budget to ensure that your network infrastructure meets all your company’s needs, even as your company evolves
- Ensure operational efficiencies
- Align your business with the rapid technology changes occurring around it”
Core Duties of a vCIO
Working as the consulting arm of an MSP, vCIOs manage multiple clients at once, which gives them a broad view of the technology landscape and insight into the business needs of many organizations. This exposure both increases their level of objectivity as well their experience base to draw on when consulting with any one client.
This person, just like an enterprise CIO, is not so much a pure technophile as a business expert who understands how to apply technology to best advantage to support the business.
Here’s how Sagiss describes a vCIO’s core duties. “These include aligning business objectives with IT systems, formulating a strategic IT plan, and analyzing business processes to facilitate changes in technology. Just as you’d rely on a financial advisor for strategic fiscal advice, a virtual CIO should be your go-to technical contact as well as a trusted business partner who understands how technology fulfills a company’s unique needs.”
By working in new areas of technology all the time, your vCIO staff can also help inform buying decision and crystal ball new services to improve your own MSP.
The Benefits of vCIO Services
vCIO services is a radical departure from traditional MSP services, yet at the same time highly complementary. In fact, your MSP services already play a strategic role in improving your clients’ IT efficiency, saving them money and increasing their revenues.
However, there are huge client benefits from a more consistently innovative approach to IT that a vCIO can deliver. With a vCIO service, clients only pay for what the services they need — which can be very attractive to SMBs who can’t afford to bring on an expensive CIO full time.
Larger MSPs can have multiple vCIOs on staff, each with their own specialized expertise. This is great for clients who need to engage with a cloud vCIO, network vCIO, application vCIO , etc., as their needs evolve.
Even when your vCIO doesn’t have the answer to a particular question, you can connect your clients to peers in your network that do.
Becoming a vCIO
Moving to vCIO can seem like a major step. After all, CIOs are big shoes to fill. Do it right, and your relationships with clients get closer and your value rises.
There are two ways to staff up vCIO services. The safest route, especially when launching a new service, is to hire experienced CIO professionals who can hit the ground running. You can also promote from within by looking at your existing staff and see who can be trained to step into a vCIO role. This strategy can really work if you have staffers that already have deep expertise in issues such as compliance or budgeting.
A vCIO has to be technical, business-savvy, and a bit of a cartographer – all at the same time. The latter skill comes in handy in building and updating technology roadmaps for clients.
A vCIO engagement will typically begin with a close examination of the client’s computer assets, though this step can be skipped if they are already a client and you are up selling a vCIO engagement. Next comes a deep discussion of the client’ business goals, and research into the competitive environment.
And there has to be some discussion of budget that can be applied to the vCIO services, and cover new investments in technology. Of course, as with any client engagement, these conversations have to be framed within the context of your client’s overall business goals and objectives.
Armed with all these pieces, the vCIO can craft a roadmap where technology is harnessed to meet these business objectives.
This roadmap should be as detailed as possible. By signing off, the client is giving you permission, though not carte blanche, to pursue the strategy. This way the needs are addressed, expectations set and there is a set of criteria by which you prove the success of your contribution.
This roadmap is a living document and should be updated based on consultations between the vCIO and client. It is also a way to measure progress, and should contain processes and metrics to understand the lifecycle of internal infrastructure, how projects are progressing and what is on the horizon and when, and how the systems are performing. All this helps you understand the impact of spending, and sets the course for future budgets.
IT Complete can Lead the vCIO Way
This spring Kaseya released the Playbook “IT Complete: Your Roadmap in an MSP 2.0 World”. Here we outline technical solutions that help MSPs achieve success in a fast-changing environment, and gain the rewards of building deeper, more strategic trusted relationships with clients. These relationships can be strengthened by offering strong vCIO services.
Vendor choice is also critical. If you want your vCIO services to succeed, you need a vendor who is always thinking ahead, and building new solutions to drive your business.
Visit Kaseya.com and discover the ways we can move your MSP business forward.