The pandemic accelerated digital transformation and increased the risk of cyberthreats, leaving many organizations struggling to keep up. Enter the virtual chief information officer (vCIO). A vCIO is the ideal alternative for businesses that cannot afford to hire a full-time CIO but would benefit from their expertise to enhance IT strategies and keep pace with the competition.

However, not all vCIOs are created equal. A vCIO is not someone who tells customers when they need to replace outdated technology, that backup systems are not up to par, or even that licenses need to be renewed. Many IT professionals erroneously believe focusing on ticket reports, patches, and hardware renewals are vCIO functions.

There is a transition from vCIO as a role to a solution — an approach that can help managed services providers (MSPs) transform a relationship from the technical to the strategic and operational. An effective vCIO solution allows MSPs to analyze technical environments, establish standards, make business recommendations, track feedback, and — most importantly — develop custom, strategic road maps geared to a company.

The pandemic forced many organizations to rethink their business plans and the technologies they use. The hybrid and remote workforce has spawned technology challenges, including vulnerabilities and cross-team collaboration, that can be difficult to overcome without an experienced IT leader. Amidst new security threats and a changing economy, business leaders are looking to their MSPs for guidance on how to navigate the rapidly evolving landscape and ensure they can keep pace. Additionally, many organizations are now evaluating regulatory issues and boosting cybersecurity measures to accommodate a hybrid and remote workforce.

A mature vCIO process can help MSPs analyze business needs and make recommendations as trusted business partners rather than just someone giving advice on hardware upgrades and software updates. They can help their clients remain competitive, optimize their spend, and maintain compliance.

When considering a vCIO solution, there are factors for MSPs to keep in mind. First, a mature vCIO process has two main components: technology alignment and knowledge of the business. There needs to be established technical standards in one centralized platform that lines up with the customer environment. Alignment reviews are the building blocks of the vCIO process — every piece of technology needs to be evaluated to ensure nothing is misaligned.  

An understanding of a client’s business is also key so that knowledge can translate into meaningful recommendations that result in building a strategic road map that tracks projects, budgets, and timelines to help clients fully grasp their technology needs.

An effective vCIO platform will offer a broader perspective and guide the process through alignment, recommendations, and the strategic road map stages. As a result, MSPs will be able to provide clients with a comprehensive outlook on their businesses rather than just making recommendations on day-to-day IT matters.

Internal IT teams also benefit from partnering with an MSP for vCIO services. An internal IT team only has the perspective of its organization’s technical environment, but MSPs work with multiple clients, so they bring a broader view and have a proven vCIO process that yields predictable results. They also know the secure solutions and technologies that should be adopted because, chances are, they’ve had another client struggle with the same issues.

To ensure business continuity and accelerate digital transformation, companies should invest in vCIO technologies. MSPs are uniquely positioned to strategically partner with clients to not only manage IT infrastructure but also streamline operations and act as a trusted and valued partner to the customers they serve.