A Guiding Hand When Needed: CIO / CTO as a Service
By David Mustin, Vice President of Strategic Consulting, Marcum Technology
The last 18 months have been a roller coaster for most businesses. There have been forced closures, business dropping through the floor, supply chain disruptions, workforce challenges, work-from-home issues, cybersecurity threats, and technology outages. Yet many businesses have had their best year in a while — or possibly ever. Government support programs, easy access to credit and loans, and booming demand over the last six months have positioned many companies for growth. Business leaders are seeking to capitalize on these opportunities by expanding services, entering new markets, and pursuing more customers.
But, has their technology kept up? Many leaders are finding out-of-date technology impacts their ability to service orders and customers. Efficiencies are down and costs are rising. At Marcum Technology, we frequently receive calls from executives who want to modernize their IT operations but aren’t sure where to start because the technology has changed radically over the last three to five years. Even if an IT department is outstanding at running existing operations, it may not be well prepared to drive the required changes.
These leaders are seeking an experienced executive who sees technology as a tool to drive business improvement, add value, and increase competitive differentiation — not as a cost that should be reduced to the lowest possible level. They may not need a full-time CIO or CTO, but they do need that experienced insight on a fractional, part-time or project-based arrangement. They need someone to seek answers from who has been through many changes and knows how to steer them around the potholes in the road.
One client called us recently seeking some guidance. They had lost their IT director and needed to hire another one. In discussing their situation, we discovered a number of issues:
- Key software applications had not been updated in years.
- Servers and PCs were not current, and there were cyber risks from lack of patching.
- No cyber assessment had been completed in years.
- No cyber training was in place to inform employees about risks.
- Key departments were struggling to keep up due to old and outdated systems.
- Many processes were manually intensive due to lack of automation.
The client was also wondering whether they were getting full value from their IT operations. While it seemed like they were spending a lot, the businesses spend on IT had not really risen in relation to revenue in years. Toward the end of the discussion, the executive started to sound overwhelmed and expressed concern over where to start and how to organize the work.
We suggested assistance through a CIO advisory project. They didn’t need a full-time CIO and their staff was more than capable of making the technical changes, but there was no one to structure and order the change effort. The technical IT staff was not in a position to develop the business justification for the work and assess the appropriateness of the investment and return.
The first step was to conduct a rapid assessment of their IT operations to understand their operation’s strengths and opportunities and to construct a strategic roadmap to prioritize, sequence, and justify the work. Once the plan was approved and finalized, the real work of implementing the changes could begin. Not only could we advise on the technical aspects of the projects, but we could also provide guidance on the business impact of the work.
In these projects, it is critical that the organization’s staff are brought along carefully. It is possible to have a technical success (project implemented on time, on budget) but a business failure because users fail to adopt the system. A fractional or part-time CIO should bring an understanding of the business needs of IT, not just the technical needs. Technology should be adopted to enable greater business efficiencies and effectiveness, increased connectivity to clients and vendors, and increased business insight for the management and executive teams. The role of a business-centered CIO should be filled by someone who understands the needs of the business and seeks to align IT to support those objectives.
A fractional CIO is a critical role that serves to connect and align IT to the needs of the business. Solid understanding of the business’s unique needs and challenges is critical. The most successful advisor-as-CIO must straddle both the business and technical needs of the organization and find a way to bridge both sides. Many small- and mid-sized businesses don’t need a full-time CIO and can leverage the technical strengths of their existing IT team. But there are many situations where a CIO as a service or part-time CIO can yield significant benefits to an organization.
Marcum Technology’s industry-focused fractional CIOs and CTOs help you run your business safely and securely today and long into the future. Think you may need but can’t afford an experienced CIO or CTO? For more information, contact [email protected].