Technology Advisor Blog

Virtual CIO Services: Hiring a Competent Boston Area VCIO

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/3/24 1:40 PM

VCIO Boston - Ann Westerheim - Ekaru Hiring an experienced full-time Chief Information Officer can be expensive, especially for small businesses. Fortunately, using virtual CIO services, or hiring a VCIO, can be just as effective. Besides saving businesses money, a virtual CIO can still help companies achieve the benefits of an efficient, high-functioning IT network while also helping establish safeguards to prevent cybersecurity threats.

This guide will take you through everything you need to know about working with a Virtual Chief Information Officer in Boston. You’ll learn ways a virtual CIO can enhance your business and how to hire the best services that align with your business requirements.

What is a Virtual CIO?

The CIO is a member of the C-level team that oversees all IT functions, data, and the overall technology strategy of the company. Simply put, the CIO focuses on keeping your IT network working, up-to-date, secure, and functioning in order for your business to be productive and excel in your goals. If you rely on multiple IT platforms, virtual staff, or conduct much of your business digitally, CIOs are great assets to rely on. This is because their job is to make sure your technology doesn't hold you back with significant delays or leave your business vulnerable. Instead, the role of a VCIO helps companies grow and adapt through technology.

Because smaller businesses usually don't have the resources to hire such a high-profile person full-time, hiring a virtual CIO, typically a fractional CIO, presents a more viable option. As the name implies, this type of CIO works virtually and isn't a full-time member of your staff. Instead, you are the client of the VCIO, who provides all the knowledge, advice, and resources of a standard CIO.

VCIO Services Around Boston

Even if you’re not a large company, today's business is so technology-driven that not having the best IT resources and strategies possible can be truly detrimental. You need the right technology and processes in place to function and compete in today’s market, especially in the Boston area. When you consider that 47% of CIOs focus on modernizing and enhancing data platforms to drive business growth, the expertise of a VCIO becomes a major asset.

Even if you're a 5, 10, or 20-person local business, technology strategy is vital. Therefore, relying on a trusted VCIO gives you a great advantage in that you save on staffing costs while also gaining valuable professional insight that your team potentially lacks. Very often, a startup or small company will have a tech-savvy teammate who can provide some technical support and opinions, but this isn’t a substitute for a skilled virtual CIO.

Remember, besides offering a range of specialized services, the VCIO helps you create a proper IT strategy for your unique business. Because they are in the field all the time, reading about IT and learning about the latest tech resources and threats, you become more nimble as an organization.

Virtual Chief Information OfficerAdditional services and benefits virtual CIO services can provide include:

  • IT Infrastructure Management
  • Digital Transformation
  • Cybersecurity Oversight
  • IT Budget Management and Counseling
  • Vendor and Partnership Management
  • Data Analytics and Management
  • Technology Integration and Migration

As a business, you get access to all of this critical support - but on a fractional basis, so it is affordable while you scale. And of course, there are individual technology projects that you can implement much more easily and effectively with the use of VCIO services. Let’s break down some priority virtual CIO responsibilities that can most benefit you.

Strategy and Operational Management

The only limit to what a reliable, trusted VCIO can provide is your level of engagement. Two of the most prominent roles people hire VCIOs for include strategic planning and the implementation of everyday small business company operations.

Let’s be honest, business leaders are so focused on their customers and their goals of saving money and increasing productivity that it’s hard to address the IT resources needed to achieve such goals. This is where the VCIO comes in, by helping businesses plan and answer critical questions for the trajectory of their organization:

  • What technology should we have in place for our firm to grow?
  • How do we go paperless?
  • What scanning software should we be using to help prevent ransomware?
  • As well as other tech-focused priorities

On top of high-level strategy consulting, VCIOs help manage critical IT functions and even assist in selecting everyday technology like computers, monitors, and printers. They also provide general IT support that keeps everything running smoothly.

IT Projects and Migration

Another reason to invest in virtual CIO services is when your company is undergoing a major technology shift or adoption, like migrating from the Gmail platform to the Microsoft 365 platform. There’s actually an entire process around such a complicated technology migration that you’ll want to make sure that your data and network transition effectively. A virtual part-time CIO can spearhead the initiative, guiding the project to on-time completion while maintaining your key data and operations.

Additionally, having a VCIO involved in the project will ensure that your technology shift is actually on track for your business goals. Remember, it’s the CIO’s job to make sure you have the right technology for your needs and organization. Even a part-time CIO will work with you to identify the right software that aligns with your desired functionality and results. A CIO as a service firm like Ekaru will work with you to find the best solutions that tie most effectively into your overall IT framework for best results and then work to implement them properly. This ultimately gives your company a major competitive advantage because your heightened efficiency will be more attractive to customers.

Risk Management and Cybersecurity

VCIO BostonVCIO services like Ekaru also offer specialized IT services like risk management and small business cybersecurity - both extremely important in today’s high-risk digital environment. From natural disasters to cyber-attacks, your network needs to be secure and resilient in order to maintain operations and prevent data breaches. Leveraging a team of proven cybersecurity-focused VCIO service providers like Ekaru puts years of network protection at your fingertips at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time professional. We work with you to identify the main risks to your business and implement the proper security software technology stack, procedures, and training to protect your business.

Finding the Right VCIO: 4 Key Criteria

So what should a company look for in a virtual Chief Information Officer in Boston? In the end, selecting either a VCIO or a virtual CIO consulting service will depend on your individual organization’s requirements and budget. That said, here are the central criteria to look for.

1. Experience/Technical Depth

You’ll want to select a virtual Chief Information Officer with lots of technical depth because this person needs to be able to connect various technologies that help you run and evolve a high-functioning tech ecosystem. Remember, you need to plan for current and future technology needs as your business grows and scales. Therefore, the VCIO must be able to anticipate these requirements and help you accordingly.

You also need to look for a VCIO with a high level of business knowledge, understanding that the goal of implementing technology is to achieve a business outcome. Technology itself is not an end but a tool to help you achieve goals. Because of this, your chosen virtual CIO consulting firm or individual needs to be able to think like this and recommend solutions. In summation, you’ll want someone who's really tapped into the industry as a whole. Look for a VCIO who is up-to-date on the IT industry, knows new solutions and their reviews, and can maintain vendor relationships to provide the best service and recommendations.

2. Locality

While you can source a wide range of VCIOs, we recommend using a virtual Chief Information Officer in Boston or the nearby area. This is because you want a professional who knows your local market and can meet with your team easily. This also ensures that they can provide immediate assistance and responsiveness should you face an emergency or are undergoing a time-sensitive project.

3. Communication and Management Abilities

Communication skills, project management, and budget maintenance are also very important for any type of CIO. All of these skills are necessary for leading and influencing your team effectively when it comes to technology changes and upgrades. Naturally, you’ll want someone who can articulate why their recommendations are vital for your IT infrastructure and be able to guide and assure your team through significant changes.

The VCIO needs to understand your requirements, propose solutions, and explain them effectively. Naturally, your requirements may include budgetary considerations, so you are not just trusting a VCIO with your IT solutions, but also with your finances. You need to be sure that they can adequately maintain your budget and achieve your technology initiatives.

4. Track-Record and Proactivity

Ultimately, you get what you pay for, and this is the same for VCIO services. It’s important that you do your research and look at the reviews, testimonials, and customer feedback for any VCIO you consider. Their reputation and effectiveness will speak immensely as to how the individual VCIO will help you achieve your goals while also aligning your organization with any state or federal requirements (important as well).

This requires due diligence on your part as a business leader. You’ll want to carefully examine customer stories of virtual CIO consulting services, not just to see if they succeeded in accomplishing business goals, but also how well their execution went and how valid their advice was. More often than not, the VCIO will be proactive and recommend addressing problems that are not even on your company's radar yet - which is very important. Let’s look at an example.

One case that Ekaru took on as a VCIO was with a small law firm. In many conversations, we highly recommended backup and disaster recovery solutions. However, the law firm was hesitant to take these measures. One day, they had a cyber incident, after which they couldn't get the recommended measures in place fast enough. The owner of that business went on to acknowledge that they never really understood what the disaster was until it happened and that they regretted not heading our insight.

From here, Ekaru helped them through the cyber breach and fortified their IT protections through a custom IT cybersecurity framework for their specific law firm. We also implemented a lot of education to prevent ransomware and cyber attacks.

The lesson here is that you need a VCIO that comes with a strong portfolio of client projects demonstrating being proactive in their customers’ interests.

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Measuring the Impact of a VCIO

When it comes to measuring the impact and ROI of using a part-time CIO, it comes down to how aligned your IT infrastructure is with your business goals. Things you need to look at include:

  • Effectiveness/reliability of the IT systems
  • Reduced downtime or technical errors
  • Increased functionality and faster IT processes
  • Rapid growth thanks to IT efficiency
  • Successful IT migrations, upgrades, and integrations
  • Technical costs reducing or remaining on-budget
  • Heightened IT security and effective cyber protection

All of these are key performance indicators (KPIs) that your IT is serving your company as a resource and not holding you back. If your VCIO is engaging you regularly and achieving these KPIs, then it’s clear that you have a great IT professional in your corner.

One thing that you also need to consider is transparency. Changes in technology take time, so your VCIO must be honest and forthcoming with expectations and time considerations. That being said, they should also be accountable and demonstrate that they are meeting reasonable deadlines and that their efforts are achieving the desired results.

If you find that your budget is being overstretched, you continue to have technical problems, or you are not achieving the functionality you require, it’s time to re-examine the relationship.

Grow with Technology, Consider VCIO Consulting

Using virtual CIO services is a popular tech trend for small business growth in and around Boston. I creates a distinctive competitive advantage while keeping IT costs under control. For many local companies, relying periodically on a VCIO in Boston can fuel their success by ensuring their IT solutions are aligned to provide the most value possible.

Considering that technology is already a central business investment, it is a clear risk if you do not manage and expand your IT network effectively. Besides not achieving the proficiency you desire from your technology, you could jeopardize your budget and even be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Why not strengthen your technology investment with a proven Boston VCIO like Ekaru?

With over 20 years in the cybersecurity IT solutions space, our team is ready to provide custom IT services for your company today to carry you into the future - and all without the costs of hiring a full-time CIO. Call Ekaru at ​​(978) 692-4200 to discuss your IT goals today.


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