It’s been years since someone first uttered the oft-repeated phrase, “all companies are tech companies.” It’s provocative and still debated. Some organizations will use tech as a crowbar, some as a crutch, and for others it is an essential piece of who they are. What’s not up for debate is that digital tech is a key component of almost any viable business today. Business strategy and success is intertwined with IT strategy and success. It’s nearly impossible for one to exist without the other.
The title Chief Information Officer (CIO) did not exist before 1981 and did not really take off until the early 2000s. It was around that time that business leaders saw their digital and informational assets growing astronomically in comparison to their tangible assets. There was a strategic advantage to be gained by getting IT right. Not everyone is scaled to have a seat for a CIO, though. That’s where strategic consulting services come in.
What are Strategic Consulting Services?
You might be highly familiar with management consultants. You definitely know the names. When you hear someone say they’ve engaged McKinsey or Deloitte as a management consultant, you probably nod your head in recognition while not fully knowing what that engagement might entail. Typically, a management consultant is hired to identify problems an organization is facing as a whole. So what makes strategy consulting services different?
A strategy consultant is hired to provide strategic advice on specific management topics. Whereas a management consultant will take a broad look at organizational effectiveness, potentially diving into research, client education, implementing new processes, analyzing competition or markets and more, a strategy consultant usually advises at the highest level of a company and uses deep industry knowledge to provide action plans that help clients meet defined goals.
Why Might You Need Strategic IT Consulting Services?
The experience and expertise required of a strategy consultant to assist on the specific topic of IT are specialized. And it’s quite common for a small or medium-sized business not to have that unique combination of experience and expertise in house. They may have functional IT skills and business vision, just not wrapped up together in the form of one person who can offer a broad and necessary perspective.
With a strategic IT consultant, you have someone who can:
- Assess. A strategy consultant can take the temperature of your environment, understanding the context and constraints within which your IT operates and creating the potential path forward. They can assess the status of your existing networks, hardware, software, digital documentation and security.
- Map. Your consultant can lay out a vision for your organization that will help your digital resources become a competitive advantage and less of a burden. They can establish timelines, budgets, policies/protocols and disaster recovery solutions.
- Secure your digital assets. Your strategy consultant can help you proactively mitigate risk from compliance failures and other risks. They can also provide a plan for your cybersecurity and increase resistance to attacks.
How Can You Get IT Done with a Strategic Consultant. The Rise of the vCIO.
Today, businesses are investing in a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO). We live in an increasingly virtual world, so it’s an appropriately timed trend. In parallel fashion, some consultants refer to their strategic consultant offering as “fractional”. In the same way you might buy a fractional share of a private jet service, you might buy a fractional use of the expertise and experience of a talented IT hand. The consultant/vCIO relationship allows a small to medium-sized business to retain the services of someone with experience in a larger setting, a person who possesses a broad set of skills they can put to use for the business.
At a moment where the digital is integral to every type of business large and small, where the threats to data safety and security are real, and the downsides to inefficient or ineffective digital strategies are too great to ignore, strategic consulting services are coming into their own.