What Is a Virtual CIO?

A Chief Information Officer, or CIO, is a crucial role for a mid-market business. It is a C-suite position with ultimate responsibility for technology, teams, and suppliers. Reporting to the CEO, they provide clear oversight of systems, processes, data reporting, and staff.

A “Virtual CIO” or “vCIO” is a hired gun who often takes a narrower role, rather than deal with the day-to-day technical needs of the company. A vCIO may be brought on for a specific task, such as creating custom software or beefing up cybersecurity.

A vCIO brings certain limitations. The post-pandemic technical needs of businesses are expanding. It’s unclear how many workers will return to offices or continue to work remotely, for example, and a vCIO may see these complications as beyond the scope of their work.

A fractional CIO, in contrast, will take responsibility for the day-to-day as well as larger projects. While a vCIO will, by definition, have a certain distance from the business, a fractional CIO can deal with the people, process, and technology issues of a mid-market company.

“Fractional” simply means “part-time.” It’s still an executive-level position, with the full responsibilities of a CIO. It just provides more flexibility and affordability for a mid-market company.

(Click here for more details on the role of the CIO.)

Why do you need a Virtual CIO?

Every business runs on technology. It is simply impossible to have a thriving business in the twenty-first century without it. A high-quality CIO is a must-have for any ambitious company. But CIOs, with their decades of experience in all aspects of technology and IT, tend to command high wages.

Mid-market businesses tend to use Virtual CIOs as a way of getting strategic value without paying a full salary. Fractional CIOs, however, provide better strategic benefits and continuity while remaining an affordable option.

What are CIO services?

So what does a vCIO do? While a regular CIO will have full responsibility for all things technical in a business, a vCIO will have narrower responsibilities depending upon the needs of the company. They may include:

  • Strategic assessment of the company’s current technology
  • Assessing and improving cyber security
  • Implementing a complicated project, such custom software or an ERP system
  • Assess and improve regulatory issues and compliance

How much does a virtual CIO cost?

A CIO salary can range from $175,000 to $300,00 per year, depending upon the demands of the position and the location of the company. The experience of the candidate also affects salary. A virtual CIO will cost less, since they work on an as-needed basis.

This may not always be the best decision though, since “as-needed” doesn’t create continuity for a business. A fractional CIO, however, can ramp or down as needed.

How do you hire a CIO?

Employment or personnel firms will help a business find a vCIO, usually for a fee. A better alternative may then be a fractional CIO, who will provide a mid-market business with the right combination of affordability and continuity of service, without a markup. At Freeman Clarke, we specialize in fractional CIOs. Click here to get in touch.

 “Freeman Clarke provided us with the perfect individual to be our CIO. He quickly connected with our high-energy culture and international footprint, and he helped to get colleagues excited about the possibilities of change.”

Why Freeman Clarke?

Quality. Our unique model provides a cost-effective way to get the best talent in the business on your team. We hand-pick IT leaders on the basis of their skills and experience and their ability to fit in to the culture of a mid-market business like yours.

Business-minded. We are business people, and we speak your language. Our IT strategies are always tuned to the needs of the business and financial realities.

Independence. Our CIOs are completely independent. We make no arrangements with suppliers, so you can know that our recommendations are completely objective.

Flexibility. We don’t insist on an upfront payment or commitment to a six-figure sum. We demonstrate value every day, or else just tell us to stop immediately. It’s as simple as that.

Affordability. Our people are the best in the business, but as you take a fraction of their time the price point is affordable. We set our prices appropriate to the mid-market and we don’t cross-sell or upsell.


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