Due to limited budgets, there are a worryingly large number of companies with someone in charge of IT strategy, operations and the overall budget, who really knows very little about managing IT.
This predicament begs the question: how can you get the best out of your IT spend when the person in charge struggles with IT management? Mike Ouwerkerk, one of Expert360’s on-demand Chief Information Officers (CIOs) explains the potential impact of having under-qualified IT managers and shows you why an on-demand CIO can be a cost-effective solution.
The Impact Of Not Having A CIO Or CTO
In many businesses, IT is the engine room delivering core business services to generate revenue, or the product itself. If IT isn’t being done well, it can be disastrous. In the short term:
- Issues and opportunities are not properly identified
- Change is handled poorly
- Contracts, services and products are not selected according to detailed business requirements
- Risks are slowly introduced, but not identified, tracked and managed
- IT and the business don’t communicate to make good decisions
And in the longer term:
- Issues build, become harder to fix, and impact productivity
- Opportunities are not capitalised on
- External services become expensive and don’t meet business needs
- Unforeseen risks begin to eventuate, at significant cost to the business
- IT operates in ‘break-fix’ mode, implementing Band-Aid solutions to issues, with no future vision
This adds up to either cost or opportunity cost. Of course, if companies had access to the right expertise sooner it would undoubtedly avoid these problems, but the reality is that most companies need to feel some pain before they do anything about it. That is usually when an on-demand CIO gets involved.
The Helping Hand Of An On-Demand CIO
An on-demand CIO provides a cost-effective solution to these problems because they provide IT managerial expertise, but only for the hours you need. They are part of your team and have a vested interest in your success. They can call the hard shots with your IT budget and make it work better for you. Essentially an on-demand CIO is an experienced IT executive who works with companies on a part-time basis, helping them to identify and implement IT efficiencies while removing inefficiencies and risk. In a nutshell, an on-demand CIO helps your company save and make more money by looking at everything you do with IT and to provide the best business support possible. While most companies consider IT to be about just “Architecture” and “Service Delivery”, there are eight other categories in IT where issues, opportunities and risk exist. This allows a lot of scope for improvement.
10 IT Categories Where Issues, Opportunities And Risk Exist
- Planning Thinking about future requirements so that IT can meet the needs of the business
- Governance & ComplianceEnsuring that IT and the business align to communicate, make good decisions, and work towards the same goals
- RiskIdentifying, tracking and managing anything that can have an impact on IT operations
- Service Delivery Making sure the business gets the best possible customer service from your IT operations
- Knowledge & information capturing and structuring your corporate and IT knowledge and information for efficiency
- architecture hardware, software and outsourced IT software services
- PerformanceMotivating, measuring, analysing to keep getting better
- Change Providing structure and expertise to ensure change projects have the greatest chance of success
- Web StrategyEnsuring your corporate products and services are communicated effectively to customers
- TelecommunicationsAllowing staff to communicate easier and better between themselves and customers
If you’re working across all these areas with appropriate expertise and structure, what does it actually mean to the business?
- Clarity around the current and future state of the business
- Ensure that IT and the business work together towards the same goals
- Operational issues are minimised and handled appropriately when they do occur
- The business gets good service from your IT support, making it more productive with less downtime
- IT is well structured and runs efficiently
- The business has hardware, software, services, contracts and cloud services that are well selected and implemented to maximise staff productivity
- IT performance is monitored, and managed
- Change projects are assessed for feasibility, business requirements are well defined, and the change is handled appropriately to maximise success and staff uptake
- Web strategy supports the achievement of business goals
- Staff communications are cost-effective and maximise collaboration and information sharing.
4 Ways An On-Demand CIO Can Be Used
- Part-time e.g. For 4 hours every week. Working through auditing and planning processes to build a strategic roadmap, and then follow appropriate structure to implement the initiatives
- Ad-hoc Helping with specific problems or opportunities as they arise or are identified
- On Tap Advisor Help or advice around a specific challenge. Usually, guidance around a process to ensure the best result is achieved
- Meetings Sitting in on regular executive or board level meetings to contribute to corporate strategy and discussions from an IT perspective
How Does An On-Demand CIO Work With Companies?
The starting point is understanding the business and where it’s going. Once this is clear, steps are usually based around the following:
Working through a structured process to see how things are currently done and identifying the issues and opportunities.
What needs to happen and when for the company to get where it wants to go. If planning is conducted as a stand-alone formal process, it should be able to identify, prioritise and schedule every strategic IT initiative for the business over a suitable timeframe.
Follow a structured process that minimises risk and maximises project success. The core of any IT change is that it must be feasible and driven by detailed business requirements so that the solution does exactly what the business needs it to do, at an expected cost and within an expected time-frame. “Change” is essentially the core deliverable for an on-demand CIO- they find what’s broken or can be made better and make improvements. Expect a raft of change projects to be identified which should initially be assessed for feasibility, and always support the long-term strategy of the organisation.
Things To Look For In An On-Demand CIO
On-demand, CIOs tend to have different areas of expertise, so it’s important to recognise what kind of CIO best suits your business. Here are a few things you might want to consider before engaging an on-demand CIO:
Some sole operators will have the lowest overheads and are therefore often the most affordable pricing structure.
As above, if you’re going to a large consultancy, make sure you’re not getting a junior loaded with templates and processes without significant experience in IT management and consulting.
All solutions should be driven from business requirements and must be independent of any vendor or service provider.
If an on-demand CIO has part-time regular work (e.g. every Monday for 4 hours), you can expect that they will be pretty much unavailable during those times. A lot of effort will be ad-hoc, so look for effective time management as they’ll need to be able to shuffle things around based on priority.
Look for “team fit” and a positive “can do” attitude.
An on-demand CIO primarily deals with change, so at a minimum, they need to have a project management qualification like PRINCE2 or PMBOK. Beyond that, the experience is king, so look for capabilities in areas like process improvement, business analysis, governance, and risk management.
Nothing is better than real-world examples of performance, and easily contactable referees. If you would like to speak with Mike or find out more about our on-demand CIOs and the service they provide, contact us at [email protected].