The Role of the vCIO in Organizational Leadership

Posted by Mark Rickner  /  November 28, 2016  /  MSP   —   No Comments ↓

photo depicting IT leadershipLike many other MSPs, your vCIO service has been maturing over the last couple of years. And like many other MSPs, you probably had a number of missteps and wins during its development.

What lessons could you learn from the efforts of others for your own service offering? More importantly, how could those insights assist with locking in customer loyalty while increasing their lifetime revenue? The answers may be hiding in plain sight.

One MSP's failure is another's opportunity

A vCIO offering is nothing new. As such, your fellow MSPs have already made most of the serious mistakes for you. Learning from their errors can strengthen your service offering. Denes Purnhauser addresses 12 missed opportunities —from strategy to delivery—to avoid in your pursuit of a successful vCIO service to which customers will gravitate. Here are a few highlights.

Not using a framework to develop the system

Some MSPs failed to implement a sturdy framework and/or system for the delivery of their virtual CIO service. Instead, they’re operating merely as consultants or nearby managerial resources.

Purnhauser adds, "This means they are not able to implement a standardized IT management structure with proper plans, documents or databases that align services across the IT ecosystem. Nor are they able to streamline communication of the duties, tasks, deliverables and responsibilities of the virtual CIO correctly. This makes it hard to achieve the expectations of the client for the role.

Not attracting the right audience

Others MSPs have shown difficulty attracting organizations for which vCIO is an appropriate solution.

"The virtual CIO job is best suited for companies with 50-150 office workers," says Purnhauser. "If the MSP wants to target a 20-30 or even a ten-seat client, there will likely come a painful realization of the lack of interest and of financial background. Those in higher tiers are left to figure out some system for managing IT. We can go there, but with coaching and support, as a complement to the CIO or the IT manager."

Not selling the vision with stories

At its core, a vCIO should assist organizations become more competitive through technology to drive up revenue, cut costs, and increase business continuity. Purnhauser explains how the failure to properly contextualize these ideas for customers could lead to lost sales.

"These general terms have to be in the context of the client and industry; we cannot really engage the client without selling the vision of competitiveness: being a better company, producing more revenue, and surpassing their competitors. To sell the vision we have to craft compelling stories that grab the imagination of the CEOs."

Selling an IT-related service instead of business-related service

"In a quarterly session, discussion should include questions about the client's cash flow, marketing initiatives, sales performance, internal projects, and competitor's moves first. Then it can become a session with reports on the execution of the IT strategy, the quarterly plan, and the plans for the next quarter."

Purnhauser maintains that focused discussions about the business, its processes, numbers and terms are mandatory. The temptation of some MSPs is to concentrate on the nifty IT projects they can deliver. Doing so loses sight of the business-related accompaniments you can deliver.

There’s a wealth of guidance found in Purnhauser's article. Take some time to see how your current service offering measures up, and how it could be developed further for your customers’ benefit.

"Tell me what you really need"

Having a complete understanding of your customers’ needs is critical to your ability to help them succeed. However, you and your customers generally exist in two very different worlds. You’re a techie. They probably aren’t. This chasm between you can hinder communication and a true understanding of needs if you aren't careful.

ReFrameYourClients shares an inspired tool for organizing a needs analysis. It serves as an intake form; drawing its structure from popular business canvas models. Their vCIO Canvas covers a customer’s:


What does their roadmap look like? What strategies are already in place?


What does the vCIO on-boarding process and development look like?

Project Management

How are the customer’s past and current IT projects managed?


How mature is the company's current leadership and their management of the IT?


How measurable and governable is the IT ecosystem?


How focused on execution is the IT team?


How mature are the IT related plans?

Additionally, the canvas includes space to discuss other key business and IT functions or priorities.

The vCIO Canvas is a terrific starting point for developing and personalizing an intake tool of your own. When complete, you'll have a comprehensive needs snapshot—from total management to specific needs like user adoption training—and an idea of how best to service them. You’re also likely to sniff out new or additional methods to perpetuate loyalty and generate more revenue.

Remember why they want a virtual CIO

Your virtual CIO service provides a dependable relationship capable of delivering technological foresight, data reporting, and strategic planning to become winners in their individual market. As you seek out opportunities to lock in loyalty, don’t lose sight of why organizations seek out this service to begin with.

Tout its cost savings. Tout the benefits of a close working relationship. Tout your specific expertise and talents.

Occasionally reminding yourself (as well as your customers) of a vCIO’s primary attractants can clarify your marketing message and widen its appeal. That’s a win you and your customers can bank on.

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