I hope it’s OK to write about something other than the newest cloud feature or the latest tech gadget, because I’m not going to talk about new technologies in this article. Rather, I would like to talk about the necessary leadership in today’s businesses.
Not so long ago, the only IT goal of any business was to find someone who could do the work of implementing, upgrading, and maintaining technology. It was a hard-to-find skill set, and it was even difficult to find someone able to set up a basic network. That is not the case today. There are IT providers all over the place now. Certainly not all are created equal, but there are options.
However, today’s small businesses have a different leadership gap challenge.
The Leadership Gap: Combining Business Leadership and IT Leadership
IT leaders used to be defined by hardware and software expertise.
While technical expertise is still a very important skill that we value at OXEN, a new void has appeared: There are many ways to do IT today. Does IT understand your business deeply enough to know what it needs?
The gap in leadership today is being able to recognize a business need and then finding the right technology to meet that need or that will enhance your business. Business leadership and IT leadership must now go hand in hand.
Today’s IT leader must deeply understand the business they are working for – their mission, vision, and business objectives – in order to make the most beneficial technology choices. There are many questions:
- Do you move to the cloud, or not?
- If you do, what cloud?
- What parts work? What won’t?
- Have you taken reasonable steps to secure the data you have?
- What risks do you have?
- Do you need a cybersecurity policy?
- Do you need a security training program? How do you do that?
And that’s just to name a few.
What Is a CIO or CISO?
Neither of those terms are new, but they used to be irrelevant for small business. It simply wasn’t required. The path that you used to take was fairly straight forward in terms of IT decisions. Now the CIO and CISO leadership positions are needed in the small business, because the right technology path is not clear.
There are many choices to make. Those decisions need to be made with a business mindset combined with a technology understanding. Small business is a prime target for cyber-attacks because this leadership gap exists in the cybersecurity space.
The Shared CIO & CISO for Small Business
Recognizing the need for CIO and CISO leadership a few years ago, OXEN developed a “Shared CIO” and “Shared CISO” role. “Shared” means you share the cost, making it affordable. “CIO” means you get quality leadership that can guide you to the right technology solution. And “CISO” means you have someone focused on your business’s cybersecurity.
For many small businesses, it doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time employee to do this. But it doesn’t make any sense to ignore your business’s needs either.
What does this collaboration between business needs and technology look like? Here are two scenarios.
- A Technology Driver: Email and phones were the norm for communication for a long time. When tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype, and other instant messaging (IM) programs were introduced to businesses, IM redefined how communication happens. IM is more timely and urgent than email, but it’s less intrusive and attention-demanding than a phone call. This is an example of technology driving business. It enhanced communication efficiency, enabled more collaboration, and changed how businesses operate.
- A Business Driver: From the other direction, we have security concerns. A business wants and needs to be protected by threats. So, for example, knowing that multi-factor authentication (MFA) can drastically lower the risk of accounts being compromised, a business may adopt this technological solution to meet their security needs.
Both scenarios help the business, but they’re driven by different sides. Having someone that understands technology and your business is highly valuable. That is what our Shared CIO role provides. The role is not about implementing technology. It’s thought leadership, planning, and brainstorming in the context of the mission and vision of the clients that OXEN serves.
How Does It Work?
So, how does it work? Basically, you get a day of a Shared CIO/CISO’s time each month. It can be a full day or spread out through the month. Your shared CIO will work with your leadership team to determine the right opportunities, and challenges, to work on. As those needs change, we will adapt to serve you in the most effective way.
We have seen great success in working with clients in this capacity. We’ve seen dramatic increases in their security posture, as well as helping them evolve their businesses to change the way they work and becoming more mobile or efficient. We are even engaged in working through some clients to give back to the community as a whole.
Our Shared CIO/CISO offering is focused on making your business successful, and helping you to reach your business objectives with the right IT and cybersecurity strategy. It’s time to recognize the void and inquire about how a Shared CIO can help you.