When Should we Hire a CIO?

Before you can decide it’s time to hire a Chief Information Officer (CIO), you will want to have a thorough understanding of the role they’ll play in your organization and what benefits they’ll provide the company.

What is a CIO?

A CIO is a businessperson – an outstanding communicator with financial awareness, strategic thinking skills, and an understanding of the ins and outs of a successful business.  Most importantly, they also have an in-depth understanding of technology, especially IT security.  They’re generally not a hands-on technician, a network engineer, or a systems administrator, but a well-rounded professional with several years of experience in a variety of IT-related roles.  They are forward-thinking, able to look at the big picture (not just a departmental level snapshot), and they understand how decisions made today will impact processes across the board tomorrow.

What does a CIO do? business strategy images

A CIO’s primary responsibility is to oversee the evaluation, selection, and implementation of internal tech – tools and applications that improve business processes and bolster IT security.  They typically serve as a trusted technical advisor to other C-level executives and are tasked with making smart decisions regarding technology investments.  They often act as a liaison between vendors and internal folks who are responsible for the implementation of hardware or software solutions.  A CIO’s job is not to implement technology any more than your CFO’s role is to work on the production floor or in a patient exam room.  However, they take the initial steps to research options, compare products, view demos, and conduct basic testing.  After vendor selection, a CIO will often participate in contract negotiations.

Does it Make Sense to Hire a CIO for your Small Business?

Many small businesses (20 – 250 employees) recognize their IT should get more attention than it does.  It’s not always possible (or advisable) to rely on existing internal IT folks to make decisions about large investments, business continuity and disaster recovery planning, or other high-level IT topics.  However, hiring a C-level executive like a CIO can be expensive; after all, their skills and expertise are valuable.  For some organizations on the larger end of the small business spectrum, the benefits of a full-time CIO might be worth the increase in hiring and employment costs.

Small businesses sometimes look to a Fractional CIO (Account Manager) when their needs don’t yet require a full-time CIO.  An Account Manager may be a long-lasting fit for a stable company that’s content where they are, or they may be a midpoint alternative for a business who plans to expand and grow, eventually needing more full-time technology oversight.

An Account Manager fulfills most of the job duties of an in-house CIO, just on a part-time basis.  They can sit in on strategic planning sessions, attend board meetings, and participate in management meetings as required.  They basically offer the same input as a CIO, but with a smaller price tag!

Whether you’re ready for a full-time CIO or a Account Manager, it is important to have someone at the head of your IT planning who knows the critical importance of security.  Remember, technology decisions made today will impact, positively or negatively, your organization for years to come.


At Safety Net, our Account Management Team can help with the same guidance and planning as an Account Manager. Learn more about Account Management services our team provides Safety Net clients.