Who Needs a CIO Anyway!?

So this is a pretty interesting, and somewhat controversial topic, in my opinion. It’s not going to make CNN anytime soon, but in the land of IT, it is the subject of much debate. The question, as I see it, is Do I or Do I NOT need a CIO for my organization?

To be clear, if you are an enterprise-type organization (publically traded or otherwise “large”) then I think the answer is a resounding “YES” – followed by a resounding “DUH”. So with that in mind, the target of this discussion is the small and medium-sized organizations. In my opinion, that’s where the answer is a bit more gray.

No, You Really Do Need a CIO…and NOW!

If you read the above article, it argues that ALL organizations need a CIO. While this makes sense in theory, I don’t quite agree with it in practice. How can I walk into a 20 person manufacturing shop and make the argument that they need to hire a CIO? They would either tie me up to some large, heavy piece of manufacturing equipment for the night, or just toss me out on my ear.

So I understand the point of his CIO argument, I just think it needs to be qualified a bit – and maybe add a heavy dose of reality to the equation.

Isn’t everything outsourced now? We don’t host our own email anymore – do we? Do we even need server rooms anymore with all their special cooling/venting needs (that is fun if you have ever built out office space)? If I am the “IT Guy” (or Gal) in the shop, don’t I just buy from vendors and they worry about integration?

ENTER the “Virtual CIO”

There is a new role that is becoming more popular in IT, which is especially valuable in the small-to-midsized businesses – the Virtual CIO. What is that? Good question. Basically this is an outside person – likely with a strong IT and business background, that can help your organization on a part-time basis. That means you get the best of both worlds – experienced IT strategic advice without the need to hire someone full-time, pay benefits, create a big office, etc. You essentially use this person as much as you need them.

More and more smaller companies I am seeing are going this route. They will outsource where they can, which is great, but they also need to make sure they are making the right selections there and providing the business what they need to be successful. The Virtual CIO is able to have a non-biased view of that and provide strategic, non-political input where necessary.

I don’t want to turn this blog entry into all about the Virtual CIO, but the reason I bring it up is that I think is answers my original question about needing a CIO. I would argue that the answer is likely “NO” for many smaller companies – at least on a full-time basis. They can, and likely should, outsource the CIO role just like they are currently outsourcing their email and storage needs.

I hope my CIO friends don’t yell at me here, but it’s a trend that I am seeing more and more in the small business world, so I wanted to share.

BTW – Go Seahawks – I’m not a Patriots fan.  🙂


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