Posted by: S R Balasubramanian
CIO as a service, Outsourced CIO, Shared CIO, Virtual CIO
This is a new concept that has been doing rounds for the last couple of years. The idea looks good and sounds logical too. There are several other phrases by which this concept is referred to, such as ‘CIO as a service’, ‘Shared CIO’, ‘Virtual CIO’, ‘Outsourced CIO’, etc.
‘CIO on Demand’ refers specifically to the services that can be made available to a host of small and medium organizations who struggle with their IT program. These organizations have difficulty in getting good IT managers and even if they manage to grab a worthy professional, he leaves them soon as he spots greener pastures. They cannot afford to appoint consulting houses to run their IT programs as it gets a little too expensive. In such circumstances they make do with a low level IT officer who just operates and manages the IT set up.
Many of these companies have ambitious plans of growth and also have the next generation of owners/ directors at the helm who are not shy of technology. The managements here want more out of IT and feel terribly constrained in the absence of right people required to run and manage the show. These organizations may be at different levels of IT maturity but most of them wish that their IT had better direction and wonder if the money spent on IT is right.
How can this be addressed?
These companies cannot afford consulting houses neither are they sure about the complete outsourcing of the IT function as advocated by some IT service organizations. They cannot also recruit and retain senior IT managers. They can however look for senior IT professionals (ex-CIOs), those who have either retired and are available for consulting or CIOs who have left their regular job to become freelance consultants. Instead of a full time engagement, they can devote time as much as is necessary to guide the IT program to fulfill management needs & expectations. Such a service has not yet gained ground yet and many of the users organizations are not aware nor have not examined this option. Such services are however affordable.
Who is talking about this concept?
I have seen some hardware and software vendors exploring this option in an effort to place one of their chosen persons there, a few experienced CIOs who have a contract or two, a few CIOs who want to kick their jobs and want to start off on their own, or IT service firms who suddenly have sensed this as an opportunity and are building their portfolio by trying to string in a few CIOs available.
Is the going easy?
It is perhaps not that easy. Many have spoken to me wondering how to tap such opportunities. This kind of service is new and no one seems to have clear answers. Some say they want to create a portal offering free counseling to attract customers, some speak about building a team or a panel of CIOs and then publicize through mailers or through a special site, some plan to add this as a strength on offer to the firm’s profile and I have also heard of a few CIOs coming together to form a loose association thus offering varied expertise related to specific industry segments or technology areas.
If we are confident that this service has potential, then, in my opinion, companies that fall into this segment should be educated and made aware of such a service being available. One way could be to tie-up with industry associations and spread awareness through them, or one can arranging seminars where business heads from these participate. Advantages could be two-fold; these companies can derive benefit from such as a service and at the same time useful resource available in the community can be utilized.