Chief Information Officers make day-to-day technology decisions and provide guidance to executive leadership, the board of directors, and staff within large corporations. Unfortunately, many smaller businesses are challenged to realize the value and potential of technology because they do not have in-house expertise. Most businesses rely on attorneys and accountants to act as trusted advisors for critical decisions. Businesses can be challenged to evaluate the costs and benefits of technology and to create an Information Technology Strategic Plan that will effectively support their strategic objectives. As your virtual CIO or vCIO, we can be your trusted IT business partner.

We will make your business’s strategic objectives the top priority. After gaining an understanding of your unique business objectives, your challenges, and your competitive landscape, your vCIO provides guidance on how to minimize and control your infrastructure technology costs while providing the critical and necessary infrastructure and information systems required for success in today’s technology-centric business environment.

We assess your company’s technology staff and resource requirements and design processes to support the business needs. We evaluate existing information systems, develop critical information and data backup and disaster recovery capabilities, and ensure proper security protocols and systems are deployed to protect your electronic assets. Lastly, your vCIO will provide guidance on how to use Information Technology as a competitive asset to differentiate your business from competitors and accelerate growth within your market.

Nine ways a vCIO provides value

  1. Help define and drive strategic priorities, key initiatives, and measure effectiveness and ROI
  2. Provide methods and processes to drive change
  3. Evaluate security and privacy maturity and measure business risk
  4. Offer insight and direction on regulatory and compliance matters
  5. Evaluate current team skills for business alignment
  6. Manage day to day technology direction and team
  7. Build an effective IT and/or product development team
  8. Evaluate and support strategic vendor relationships
  9. Evaluate and develop a technology budget that supports business objectives

ClearTone Consulting provides expertise and value in the following areas:

Executive Technology Strategy, Communications, and Execution

Successful organizations share the common trait of relying on mature planning processes to drive growth and ensure operational efficiency. Just as with other business functions, organizations need to have a measured and well-developed technology plan.   A successful technology strategy is far more than just deciding what platforms to build or use, it requires bringing together and coordinating four related domains — technology, data, process, and organizational change capability.  Failing to incorporate a balanced plan across all these domains can hinder an otherwise well-conceived strategy.  Often in today’s dynamic business environment, successful execution of a technology strategy has resource and cultural change as a critical cornerstone.

“60% of corporate strategists cite slow strategy execution as their biggest challenge.” – 2019 Gartner Strategy Agenda Poll

Unfortunately, well-formed Information Technology strategies are often nonexistent or ineffective.  Info-tech research found that 84% of IT departments surveyed claim their IT strategies are less than adequate47% of business leaders feel that their goals are unsupported by IT and that the IT function does not effectively communicate their support for business goals.

ClearTone Consulting can guide your organization through a process of developing a technology strategy wholly focused on supporting the broader business objectives.  Guiding the leadership team through identifying their desired target state, understanding the current position, exploring gap analysis, developing the roadmap and communications plan are all part of the process.

Does your organization have a strategy supported by a technology vision to drive your growth?

Information Technology Systems Management

In today’s technology-centric world, it is unlikely a single department exists within your business that does not rely upon one or more applications, often requiring interconnected integrations and a degree of data awareness. From legacy, locally deployed software systems to modern, cloud-based SaaS offerings, software drives all areas of the business.

The more these systems remain reliable, communicate well, share data and information, and meet the changing needs of the organization, the better the business is positioned to succeed in their competitive landscape. 

Business systems can be categorized into several areas including

  • Enterprise Resource Platforms
  • Financial Management Systems
  • Equipment Management Systems
  • Employee Management Systems
  • Information Management Systems
  • Customer Management Systems
  • Product Development Systems
  • Operations Management Systems
  • Technology and Security Management Systems
  • Communications Systems 

This complex environment requires strategic vision, oversight, and management to ensure the business can maximize their return on investment.

Many businesses are challenged with the ever-increasing rate of change within Information Technology. Implementing new technology can cause fear and disruption if not managed properly. If systems are connected in an optimal way, then vital business information flows properly to help support the organization. Left unmanaged, technology issues will eventually reveal themselves as challenges for your customers and will ultimately affect your ability to grow. Leveraging these integrated systems to get the most from the data and intelligence they offer can be a daunting task, particularly if the business struggles retaining adequate staff to support them and see the big picture. Lastly, security risks can be complex and overwhelming. All these challenges can be managed by leveraging an experienced technology systems leader.

Does your organization struggle with Technology Systems Management? Do you have a large implementation that is taking critical focus from your team?

Product/Software Development Strategy and Management

There is little in our world that changes as fast as development platforms and processes.  As the world’s developers race to move their skills into cloud-based platforms such as AWS and Azure, how should businesses manage their legacy platforms to ensure they do not find themselves in a serious support challenge?  Processes also continue to change extremely fast.  Some business leaders are challenged to know what to expect as their IT teams talk about about moving from Waterfall to Agile, Scrum, or Kanban methodologies.  Does changing development platforms or processes introduce new risks or costs to the business?

Even as some industries have been extremely challenged due to environmental factors such as COVID-19, the technology industry has demonstrated an amazing resiliency and continues to grow, introducing potential retention challenges for your business.  Attrition within IT teams introduces business risk and slows the progress of the entire enterprise. 

Understanding the mindset of technology resources, creating satisfying work environments, applying effective hiring processes, and guiding the team’s toolset and process selection to ensure the support of business objectives is maximized is a key strategic value of senior IT leadership.

Does your organization have a software product concept to develop into a business ? Are you struggling with on-time or reliable development delivery?

Vendor Selection, Contracting, and Management

Vendor relationship management is the practice of evaluating business partners, suppliers, or third-party vendors both before a business relationship is established and for the duration of your business contract. This is a critical practice to execute during the evaluation of your vendors and the procurement process and to re-evaluate as the vendor landscape and business needs change.

Your vendor relationship management program should include an agreement that outlines the relationship that will exist between your business and the vendor. Because of the increasingly interconnected nature of the flow of data, there should also be documented guidelines detailing who has access and control of sensitive information. All too often performance expectations and protocols for addressing performance shortfalls are overlooked in technology-based agreements.

A relatively new yet critical feature of vendor management is understanding your vendor’s cyber-security capabilities and privacy practices. This allows an organization to understand how well the vendor will be able to secure your business data, both from a physical and cyber perspective. As laws such as GDPR and CCPA are enacted, attention needs to be directed to vendor compliance to protect the business.

Is your organization including the proper performance clause in vendor agreements? Are you including adequate security language?

Data and Business Intelligence Management

A Business Intelligence Strategy is a Roadmap that enables businesses to measure their performance, seek out competitive advantages and truly “listen to their customers” using data mining and statistics.

Chances are your organization could benefit from greater Business Intelligence. Recently, terms such as Big Data and BI have become more than just data science buzzwords and have found their place within the foundations of successful organizations. Without real time insight into their data, businesses remain reactive, miss strategic growth opportunities, lose their competitive edge, fail to take advantage of cost savings options, and miss opportunities to create customer satisfaction.  In response to this increasing need for data analytics, BI software has flooded the market. With the numerous benefits and the increasing risks of limited BI, it is easy to want to adopt a solution quickly.

Unfortunately, a “jump in fast” approach could be ineffective and costly. Investing in BI should not be taken lightly as the platforms are often expensive and it is rarely as easy as they would lead you to believe. Whether you are just starting out, looking to move beyond spreadsheets, or looking to incorporate a new BI platform into your organization, you need a Business Intelligence Strategy and Roadmap in place.

Is your organization leveraging data to maximize its potential? Have you developed a data-driven insights culture?

Events and Exhibitions Technology Strategy and Implementation

Not unlike all other industries, technology has taken a critical and pivotal role within the Events and Exhibitions Industry.  Critical technology-centric systems required for successful event organizers include:

  • Customer, Member, and Attendee Engagement Platforms
  • Relationship and Membership Management Systems
  • Event Registration Systems
  • Event Housing Reservation Systems
  • eCommerce
  • Continued Education Tracking
  • Speaker Management
  • Sponsor Management
  • Exhibitor Management
  • Exhibition Space Sales
  • Behavioral Insights Platforms

The vendor landscape changes on an annual basis with new suppliers and new technology offerings being introduced continually throughout the year.  System and data integrations continue to grow in both criticality as well as complexity.  Successful event organizers need technology-centric leadership resources to help create realizable strategies and manage this complex and dynamic environment to ensure performance will meet or exceed the organization’s objectives.

ClearTone Consulting has over 20 years of expert experience within the Events and Exhibitions Industry. Read more about it here.

Is your organization challenged to leverage technology in this ‘new normal’? Have you developed a strategy for the upcoming ‘hybrid’ reality of face-to-face?

Security and Privacy

In today’s technology-centric business environment, it is imperative for business leaders to understand the critical importance of cyber-security and how to protect their organization from threats. While these concerns historically resided within the IT department, which can often lead to confusing “tech-speak”, it is now the responsibility of business leaders throughout the organization to prioritize security and lead by example for the rest of the team.

More than half of businesses that have fallen victim to data breaches are subjected to extreme levels of public scrutiny—with overall negative results.

  • 29 percent of businesses that were breached lost revenue—38 percent of those lost more than 20 percent of their annual revenue
  • 23 percent of businesses lost new business opportunities after a cyber attack
  • 22 percent of businesses that suffered a cyber attack lost customers
  • Ransomware incidents continue to rise, with some industry’s realizing 22% of their companies experiencing attacks.
  • Insider threats continue to be the biggest risk to organizations

Without a strong cyber-security system in place, your organization is at risk for loss of revenue, reputation and customers—which ultimately leads to a considerable drop in profitability.

With all that said, implementing cyber-security has very real costs that can add up quickly.  Complicating matters, the terminology and language of the trade is often new and a challenge to effectively communicate between business leaders and technical resources.

What is needed for every organization is a technically savvy leader that can bridge the gap in communication, understand the risk profile of the company, explain the cost/benefit analysis of protection, and create a realistic security strategy to help protect the organization while not breaking the bank.

Is your organization where it should be regarding security? Have you balanced the costs of protection against the cost of risks?

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

Current research shows that 60% of organizations do not have a fully documented disaster recovery or business continuity plan and 40% of those with a plan admit it is not very effective when a disaster occurs.  The inherent human tendency to poorly plan for low probability but highly impactful events works against organizations to sufficiently protect their business.  But to be clear, there are very real costs involved in the creation, ongoing testing and support of a DR/BCP plan.  Understanding exactly where to draw the line between costs and preparedness is a challenging executive decision.

Full DR/BCP plans are detailed and complex. Some of the most important aspects involved include:

  • prioritization of data backups and backup availability
  • business process/system prioritization
  • remote accessibility
  • test procedures
  • the role of cloud hosting and storage
  • understanding and defining recover-time objectives (RTO) and recovery-point objectives (RPO)
  • organizational communication

Business leaders benefit from an expert technology leader to guide them through all the options, costs, and risks so that the organization can make well informed and realistic decisions regarding the protection of the business.

Is your organization’s DR and BCP plan adequate? Are you setting the best recovery point and recovery time objectives compared to associated costs?

Networking, Cloud Services, and End-User Support

The core of any organization is the connection of its people and its digital assets through computing infrastructure.  If any part of that complex system falls short of desired performance objectives, the organization suffers loss in terms of productivity, revenue, and customer satisfaction.  The systems hosting and communications industry changes potentially faster than any other environment making it challenging for business leaders to understand their options, the benefits and the associated cost implications.

As the need for productivity continues to increase, so too does the need for accessibility and reliability of information systems.  Remote working has grown 91% in the last ten years and even more dramatically with the recent COVID-19 pandemic disruption.  Successful organizations will be those that embrace the new paradigm of remote yet connected business.  An experienced technology leader can help support an organization to create the right networking, hosting, communications, and support strategies to accelerate their business into the future.

Is your organization’s cloud strategy aligned with business objectives? Is it clear how cloud services will support your competitive position?

Merger & Acquisition Due Diligence and Maturity Assessment

With the continually growing role of information technology assets in businesses of all types, the need to include a thorough IT review during M&A due diligence is greater than ever.  Identifying IT issues and challenges prior to completing an acquisition transaction is critical to the success of the deal.  Not all issues that are discovered may be critical to the continuation of the deal, but they could carry significant influence over valuation.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, 63% of acquisitions are completed by companies that purchase no more than one company per year.  Therefore, it’s not realistic to expect that such companies would have resources dedicated or experienced in IT due diligence.  A 2019 Deloitte survey found that the primary strategy for acquisition was to “Seek deals that will help us acquire new technology.”

An experienced information technology leader with broad experience in all aspects of how technology supports the business, including the pitfalls that may be difficult to identify from a high level, is critical to supporting the acquiring firm’s vision and objectives.

Have you uncovered the risks and future costs hidden within the infrastructure of your acquisition target? Do you know the proper life expectancy of the technical assets you want to acquire?

ClearTone Consulting Value-Added Services

  • Assessments
  • Maturity Evaluations
  • Strategic Planning
  • Team Building
  • Budgeting and Financial Analysis
  • Technology Management
  • Vendor Management