You Have a Gap: The Case for the Small Business CIO

There is a gap in your IT world. At least, there probably is if you own or work for a small-to-medium-sized business. Let’s say under 150 employees. The gap is that you probably don’t have anyone really dedicated to making sure that how you’re using technology really makes sense, in the Big Picture sense.

In a larger company, that role would fall to the Chief Information Officer and their staff. But for companies below a certain size, that role doesn’t typically exist and the tasks are left to some ill-defined combination of the CEO, CFO, IT staff / vendors, and office managers.

The case that I’m here to start making is simple: that status quo doesn’t work anymore. Maybe it never really did. But in the day and age of cloud-everything, automated and financially motivated security threats, and everyone working from everywhere, it definitely doesn’t work now.

Whether your business is new or you’re running a mature business that’s increasingly integrating technology into your day-to-day, the problem is the same.

For newer businesses, getting the basics online was probably a frenetic, let’s-just-get-this-done sort of thing. Get a domain name bought. Get email setup in the cloud. Get a web site setup. Buy computers. A handful of other things you might need right away. In all likelihood, those things were either done by the founding staff (who may or may not have any background in IT at all) or by a friend-of-a-friend who “knows computers.” There’s nothing wrong with that—that’s all done in the finest startup spirit, and no new business really wants to divert resources from the actual business for IT. But fast forward a little bit, to building a more mature business that can grow, stay secure, attract and onboard talent—and it hardly covers everything.

For more mature businesses, it’s often an organic, piecemeal development process. Trying new technologies, looking to mine additional efficiencies or sources of revenue. Approaches from outside vendors with new technologies that promise to make your life better. Responding to things going wrong and improving in the process. Again, there’s nothing wrong with those things—but it’s not enough.

In either case, you very likely have an “IT person” of some sort. Maybe you have an IT service provider that keeps things up and running, someone that your staff can call when they have a problem. Maybe it is just a person: either an employee with some level of IT savvy or an outside contractor.

But I would ask you this:

Do you really—really—have someone considering the big picture? Someone standing at the intersection of “business” and “technology” and making sure that things really make sense?

That serious, existential risks to the business are covered? An unbiased assessment that the money you’re already spending on technology is money well spent? That you’re actually taking advantage of opportunities to make things work better, smoother, happier?

I’ve worked with a lot of businesses in this range. There’s a pretty good chance that the answer is “no”.

We’re going to talk about this some more in future posts, so please stay tuned. And if someone comes to mind as you read this, please share!