How ‘CIO as a Service’ provides top IT talent on a pay-as-you-go basis

How CIO-as-a-Service provides PAYG talent

The CIO is now a vital role in big companies, driving strategy and leading IT. But it’s a big-ticket appointment that many organisations struggle to justify. Could a pay-as-you-go, CIO-as-a-Service approach provide the answer?

CIO, or Chief Information Officer, is now firmly established as an essential leadership role at Britain’s larger organisations. Technology use is a crucial part of any organisation’s success, and with a seat at the top table, and the ear of the CEO, today’s tech leaders have moved beyond just focussing on operations – they spend their time thinking about strategy, and aligning IT with the business’s long-term needs.

A good CIO will plan, budget and direct a company’s use of technology, to obtain competitive advantage, achieve performance improvements, and ensure everyone has the tools they need. They need to show leadership, and motivate their team. They need to have sufficient technical knowledge to understand all the issues and be commercially astute. They also need to be able to bridge the gap between IT and the business, with excellent communication skills.

With this combination of attributes, it’s no surprise that hiring a really good CIO can be expensive. But while this is a full-on, full-time requirement in larger organisations, at others the need can be more sporadic, driven by cyclical IT investment, and the cost can be harder to justify.

As well as the overhead, there are issues of job satisfaction and motivation. A skilled and ambitious CIO is unlikely to want to commit to a company where there’s not a huge amount to do. Some organisations have successfully solved the problem by appointing a CIO on a fixed term contract, to guide them through a major project such as a full-scale digital transformation. But with a much more restricted pool of talent available on a contract basis, it calls for some lucky timing – hiring someone suitable on a short-term contract is far from easy.

Recently, we’ve seen the growth of the CIO-as-a-Service to address this problem, and it’s something we’ve started to offer at Total. It effectively provides an experienced, top-level person on a pay-as-you-go basis. This typically means a CIO that works several days a week during busy periods, like a digital transformation, with only a light touch in quieter times. It can also offer a great breadth and depth of experience.

In Total’s case, we’re always working on IT transformations, as well as across a variety of sectors, so customers don’t just draw on the expertise of a single individual but on the wider experience of both them and their colleagues. With this kind of arrangement, customers also benefit from long-term consistency, over multiple years, that they just couldn’t get with a contract employee who soon moves on.

What about impartiality? Could you rely on a CIO provided by your IT partner to keep your best interests as their top priority? It’s a valid question, but one I rarely hear from MDs and FDs. They are used to paying for the expertise of specialist advisors, such as the company lawyers or accountants, and appreciate that the advice often results in additional work for those businesses. The critical thing is working with trustworthy organisations that combine expertise, professionalism, and honesty with a long-term view of your business relationship.

The CIO-as-a-Service model has a lot to offer organisations who don’t require a full-time CIO. They can get affordable access to an experienced, high-level leader, with long-term consistency as their business develops.