If you’ve worked with us (or another MSP (Managed Service Provider) as a managed client, you’ve probably heard the term Client Strategist or vCIO. “What does that mean?” you may have 

wondered. 

You might’ve been told the “v” stands for “virtual,” and CIO stands for “Chief Information Officer” — the position in a corporate environment responsible for aligning technology strategy with 

business strategy. The idea is, with the MSP, your business will have a virtual CIO – someone to provide strategic technology consulting. 

But not all vCIO services are created equal. Just because two MSPs offer vCIO doesn’t mean you can expect the same level of service from both of them. The right kind of vCIO service is truly valuable. But, in some basic cases, it doesn’t amount to much more than project sales pitches. 

So, how can you tell if an MSP is offering you a vCIO service you can actually use? We recommend asking these three questions: 

1. Do vCIO services occur at set, regular intervals? 

If it doesn’t get planned, it’s not likely to get done. True vCIO services occur at set intervals (quarterly, biannually, etc.). That way, a rhythm is established, and your company decision-makers know when to expect recommendations for IT improvements. 

Too many MSPs offer vCIO services on an unscheduled, ad hoc basis — at best, they’re unpredictable and thus not helpful for actual planning, or, at worst, they happen rarely, if ever. 

 2. Are vCIO recommendations based on actual data related to your company’s systems? 

ISM’s vCIOs base their recommendations on data from ongoing assessments of our clients’ systems against technology standards and best practices intended to maximize both productivity and security. Any IT professional can tell you when your server is old and should probably be replaced. Only a true vCIO can make that same recommendation based on the actual impact it would have on your business, and help you prioritize it based on your budget and other key needs you may have. 

3. Do vCIO meetings involve valuable business strategy conversations, or are they just veiled sales calls? 

This one is tricky, but no less important. True, any vCIO will recommend projects to improve your IT — just like a CIO would make recommendations to a CEO. 

However, a good vCIO will make such recommendations with your budget in mind, and will help you strategize by pointing out which recommendations will have the most impact on your business and your goals, and which ones can wait till a later date. If a vCIO shows up with a list of recommendations and does not even consider your budget, goals, or timing needs, that’s a good sign that they see the meeting primarily as a sales call, rather than a value-add service. One way to tell on the front end whether an MSP’s vCIO services will be valuable is to consider whether their agreement incentivizes them to think like your internal IT department. 

What process does the vCIO follow? 

Our vCIOs follow the following framework for your organization: 

Strategy 

We work with you to think strategically. This will serve as the foundation of everything we do; from deploying new equipment to deciding which software best supports employees. We meet with yourt leadership team regularly throughout the annual cycle to confirm you are on track to meet your goals, then make adjustments to keep everything moving in the right direction. 

 Architecture 

Countless aspects fall under the architecture pillar, and we use tools to audit your environment’s architecture based on the technology stack in use. Then, using the strategy we established, we make recommendations for architecture that best fits your individual needs rather than suggesting canned solutions that don’t suit your company. 

Service 

By using knowledge of where your architecture currently stands, as well as the strategy we’ve defined, we’ll determine which of our world-class services will best help you accomplish your business goals. 

Risk 

We utilize the NIST framework to audit your risk posture. Then, we add context through the 3 other pillars to determine whether you should mitigate, accept, transfer, or avoid the risk. Our reports allow for easy to read transparency so you can feel confident knowing we’re making the best decisions possible for your company. 

Ready to Experience True vCIO Services? 

ISM’s clients have commented that our vCIOs feel like true members of their internal team. With our vCIO services, you will have a clear picture of how to improve your technology to enable success on your business goals. If you’d like to learn about what a true vCIO would look like for your business, please contact us today at (406) 443-8386 or sales@infosysmt.com.