Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Jul 10 2012   3:46AM GMT

How to market ‘CIO as a service’

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

As discussed in my earlier notes, the concept of ‘CIO as a Service’ is catching up fast and I see more enterprises viewing this option. As information and communication technologies throw up newer tools, methods and solutions, some of the medium and smaller sized organizations find it difficult to cope up with these challenges with available resources at their command.  They need help but they do not know where to go looking for such a resource.

So we have a set of enterprises which are in the need for such a service and there are quite a few CIOs and other IT service organizations that are ready with this service offering. Since the market for this service has not developed yet, this match between the demand and the supply has not taken great shape. There are two ways of looking at this opportunity – one that the demand for this service is not developed and hence there is a need for stimulating demand; and the other, that the supply of this service has not matured enough for the market to grow. Let us look at both these factors.

Developing the market

While a few organizations do feel the need for such a facility, most others are not even aware of such a possibility. They are wary of engaging with consulting organizations and do not trust technology vendors to play a neutral role. It is therefore important for providers of this service to increase awareness among their target customers and make them believe that such an arrangement could really benefit them. This can be done through publicity (distributing pamphlets or direct mailers), advertisement (in specific magazines), arranging seminars or associating with industry associations (like CII, FICCI, SIAM, etc.). Cold calls by individuals do not really work as the contacted CEO is suspicious and takes it to be another case of aimless selling. There are quite a few CIOs who have been pursuing this market individually but it would make a lot of sense for them to get together and think of ways to market this concept collectively. I would not be surprised if we see the formation of something like a ‘virtual CIOs guild’ that serves the role like NASSCOM does for IT software and service companies.

Supply side constraints

One of the main factors for the development of any market is the availability of adequate resources to service that demand. For the services that we are talking about, this factor is still to take proper shape. I have seen individual professionals as CIOs vigorously pursuing this opportunity on their own and though a few have formed organizations, they do not have enough resources to service the need. There are also IT service providers who have been trying to sew together an offering by getting a few CIOs to be on their panel. However, there is still not a formal service delivery model and the scope of each engagement is drawn up on the basis of negotiation between the CIO and the client. There is perhaps a need for forming an organization which can have on their Board several CIOs with specializations in specific industry segments or technologies, and also have CIOs at various levels of seniority. For example we can have a senior level CIO operating at the strategic level for the client organization and have a less senior person filling up to supervise at the operational level. It would not be inappropriate to suggest that the ‘virtual CIOs guild’ helps develop models or standards of quality and delivery – that will really help credibility to this service.

We have to be aware that some services of this nature have hitherto been provided by consulting organizations that are more organized and mature. It is therefore necessary for the proponents of this idea to get together to develop and grow this market.

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