CIOs are, of course, costly and many businesses attempt to function without them. This, however, is very dangerous, as a degree of knowledge and oversight is needed for even a very small business. A CIO need not be full time, but does need a level of expertise that is rather extreme. In some cases, a CIO might only be needed a few days, or possibly just a few hours, a year. Having a CIO, even a very good one, need not be highly expensive.
Without a CIO, a business is left vulnerable. Vulnerable to maintaining status quo due to a lack of planning, vulnerable to de facto decision making without proper evaluation, vulnerable to vendor sales people, vulnerable to unneeded products and services, vulnerable to missing big opportunities that were never identified.
But with a small business, a planning roadmap might be laid out for a year or two in advance with almost no need to review it during that time. Purchasing decisions, business changes, new opportunities are rare and don’t need to be watched for every day. For very small businesses, a long lunchtime conversation with your CIO might be enough for your entire year – lay out the latest changes, ask about the newest things to be looking for. It can really be that casual.
For bigger businesses, a part time CIO, often called a Virtual CIO or vCIO (because, you know, “Virtual is cool these days”) can mean a few days, or a few weeks a year. As you get larger, maybe it’s a few months on, a few months off. Eventually a full time resource might be warranted, or perhaps a junior CIO role that is full time with a very senior CIO adviser as even moving through the CIO ranks can be very challenging.
No business is too small for a CIO, and every business can benefit from one. Finding one that understands your needs, and can work within a framework that makes sense for you, is all that is needed.