Meet Our Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO): Scott Ehrman
The support of a virtual chief information officer (vCIO) is one of the most important and misunderstood aspects of our managed IT service solutions.
However, for most people outside the IT industry, the term “vCIO” doesn’t mean much. Because vCIO solutions vary between IT companies, comparing services and understanding exactly what kind of support a business can expect from its vCIO is difficult and confusing.
In this blog, we sat down with Astute Technology Management’s vCIO Scott Ehrman so he can tell us about his job, what he does on a day-to-day basis, and how businesses can benefit from having him on their side.
What Do You See as Your Primary Role as a vCIO?
I work in partnership with your executive team to keep business goals and technology in alignment, providing IT insight and leadership to small and midsized organizations in much the same way that a chief information officer (CIO) would at a larger enterprise.
This has several dimensions. I guide the evolution of my client’s network technology and help them make plans to help keep their IT relevant to their business.
As technology becomes an important area of competitive differentiation in many businesses—including healthcare, financial services, and construction—it’s become important to have a trustworthy vCIO in your corner to keep you ahead of the curve.
Most small and midsized businesses simply don’t have someone in that role that they can rely on to provide that high-level strategic insight, and without that big picture understanding, businesses expose themselves to a range of risks, like budget overruns, cybersecurity issues, poor efficiency, and low morale.
So, Your Job as vCIO is Primarily Technical?
Not exactly. I see my most important role as a liaison between my clients and the technical teams here at Astute Technology Management.
My job is to make the technical easy for clients to understand. I’ve worked in the technology field for many years now. I’m fluent in the technologies I work with and do a lot of research to stay ahead of everything and understand it in a broader business context, but ultimately, my goal is to help build a business case for strategic technology.
Another one of the benefits I provide is giving our clients a single point of contact for all their technology, so they don’t have to run around chasing down each vendor to find out if there are going to compatibility issues or product updates you need to worry about. I handle all of that for them and report the most important news back to your organization.
This saves them a lot of time and the stress of interfacing with IT vendors on their own.
What’s Your Day-to-Day Like Working for Clients?
Well, there’s meeting with clients and talking to them about their goals; that’s something I do monthly or quarterly, depending on what the client needs.
Budgeting and planning are big parts of what I do. For businesses to be truly proactive about IT, they should have a six- or twelve-month vision of how their IT will evolve. Doing that means digging deep into the budget and helping them plan the finances around technology that supports their strategic vision.
Sometimes, we must make sure things are in budget year ahead of time. Without that kind of head-up, a complex cybersecurity project would never get off the ground, because they often require significant expense. Even as something as upgrading a Microsoft license for enhanced security can cost a midsized business thousands of dollars every month, so they need to see that and plan for it. I help with that.
Proactivity is at the heart of it all. I’m constantly reading the latest research—we all are here—and chatting about it around the office, exchanging ideas about what’s working and what’s not working.
Additionally, while my job isn’t necessarily to ensure service quality, I do work with account managers and other people in the company to review service desk metrics and gather feedback about my clients’, so I can help them understand their network performance better; that’s one of the technical components.
What Should Businesses Look for in a vCIO?
The path to becoming a successful vCIO is circuitous, and each vCIO will have a unique path and strengths that they bring to the table. Some vCIOs have a technical background, while others will have business management experience and be relative newcomers to the IT field.
Being a vCIO requires an interesting mix of leadership experiences, which means being relatable and empathetic. I think that’s ultimately the most important skill. They need technical skills but the ability to sit down with executives and explain things in a way that drives home the importance and gets the right support.
Building trust is essential to that. It takes time to build that trust because clients will resist ideas that are in their best interest if they’re not presented the right way! My job is to listen to their concerns and make my ideas clear enough that they can understand.”
A lot of times, that’s because of the baggage of working with a lackluster MSP in the past. There’s a lot of baggage involved in that. We can’t just say, “Hey, we need to restructure your entire server environment.” That’s not something that I can realistically lead with, so there’s months of listening, learning, and really meeting people where they are.
Question: What Do You Want Companies to Know About Working with a vCIO?
The vCIO relationship is about mutual trust and communication. At the end of the day, open lines of communication are what defines a successful vCIO relationship.
I want to know about any changes that you are making to your network so that we can adjust our services to meet those changes. We might know something that you don’t, enabling us to proactively close security loopholes.
Just a few weeks ago, we had a client that had another vendor come in and bring in a new piece of equipment, and they couldn’t get it working. They spent days trying to get it done, and it simply came down to not giving us enough heads up. The device was running afoul of the cybersecurity protections we’d provided to them and that lack of communication cost them days of productivity.
In the end, communicate. Over communicate, if you can; there’s no way that I can understand your business or needs too deeply! If my clients do that, then I have everything I need on this side to turn their goals into reality.
Virtual Chief Information Officer Support
Small and midsized businesses in Columbus and Cincinnati often struggle to find a reliable IT partner who can help them navigate their technology challenges with confidence. Scott and our vCIO team are always available to answer your questions. Contact us at any time at 614-389-4102 or [email protected].