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By: Dale A Bondanza

WHAT is a virtual or fractional CIO? A virtual or fractional Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a supplement or complement to your existing company’s leadership. Some organizations use words like Interim or Deputy or even Chief of Staff however they mean similar things. In essence, a vCIO is an individual who provides short-term, part-time, consultative services within your information technology, systems, or services organization.

Let’s address the various WHYs that you as a leader may have.

We already have a CIO/CTO; WHY do we need another one? Because, most likely, your company is in growth mode and your current CIO cannot bifurcate their time between the growth that the CEO demands and KTLO/BAU (Keep the Lights On/Business As Usual). Conversely, if you are in stability mode or declining (stability mode = declining because if you’re not growing then you’re losing market share to your competitors) you should be ensuring your talent gap is protected. In parallel, a vCIO may also typically serve in other senior IT roles (such as Infrastructure, Applications, or Project Management Organizations) because they’ve probably done them before. Is your current IT leader close to retirement or have they already moved on with no clear line of succession? This indicates another need for virtual or fractional assistance.

What’s the difference between virtual and fractional? Technically, very little. Time dedication is usually the differentiator. Also, as mentioned above some organizations refer to these positions as “Interim”. Yet other organizations whom already have a CIO may recruit a similar position under the auspices of “Deputy” or “Chief of Staff to the CIO”.

Is a vCIO really a CIO? In general, yes. These individuals have typically served as a CIO in previous positions however they may have also served as another executive or senior information technology leader in organizations vastly larger than your current organization so they will have the experience and knowledge to help layout the correct roadmap to achieve your next level of success.

My organization can’t afford a CIO! Correct! This is why you only need a few hours per month of this type of individual.

All of my technology is outsourced or in the cloud – why would I need this role? Your vendors are concerned about the future of their business, NOT YOUR business. You need an expert that is looking out for you.

Won’t this position frustrate/aggravate my current Information Technology employees? No, it’s inherent in the title of the position that this is temporary assistance. As a matter of fact, this individual should be welcomed because they are often identifying key internal leaders for succession planning.

Will a vCIO be an expert in my industry? Typically, yes. Many CIOs have served in a variety of industries and some are specialists in a particular vertical. Fortunately, technology is mostly industry agnostic and ubiquitous across all organizations.


Gut punch reasons I need a vCIO:

  1. We need assistance relative to the future direction (roadmap) of technology for our company.
  2. We have a current gap in leadership within our Information Technology organization. FYI… The “Great Resignation” is still very real within the technology industry. “Quiet Quitting” is also a stark reality within the technology field. Are you, as a business leader, able to recognize these issues? A vCIO can and will.
  3. We lack a strategic vision within our technology organization or need assistance building one that integrates our current business strategy.
  4. Budgetary constraints mean that we cannot have this as a full-time position.
  5. I don’t understand why everything is so expensive in technology – I wish someone could explain this to me in a language that I can understand.
  6. I don’t understand why my technology organization can’t move quickly and be more agile.
  7. Our industry is constantly bombarded by changing market conditions and government regulations and other external influences.
  8. I don’t know what I don’t know!

What services and skill sets should I expect to receive from a virtual CIO?

  • Strategy – align your technology strategy to your business strategy? A vCIO can help.
  • Organizational Development – is your internal technology team and associated vendors designed and set up for success? A vCIO can help.
  • Security/Risk – are my customers and their/my data safe? A vCIO can help.
  • People Management – do we have the right people in the right seats on the bus? Could some of the people in my organization (including the CIO) use a coach/mentor? A large portion of our current access to tech resources is where a partner can take this burden off your day-to-day calendar. A vCIO can help.
  • Business Applications – does your ERP, CRM, POS, MIS, HRIS support your business properly? Do you know what those acronyms mean? A vCIO can help.
  • Infrastructure/Architecture – are you building your technology on a solid foundation or a house of cards? A vCIO can help.
  • Effective and Efficient Processes – have you eliminated all sources of waste in each of your process areas? A vCIO can help.
  • Governance – do projects have the appropriate level of support and audit? A vCIO can help.
  • Supplier/Vendor Management – do we have the right number? Do we have good SLAs (Service Level Agreements)? Are we paying too much? Are we enforcing our required standards? A vCIO can help.
  • Budget Management – are we spending too much? A vCIO can help.