We are winding down 2010. As I look back at the recent months to assess the trends for 2011, one thing stands out most prominently. That one thing is the VCIO or the Virtual Chief Information Officer. While I don’t particularly like that term, it is perhaps the most intuitive description for someone who serves in a part-time contract role as the CIO for small to mid-size businesses.

From my vantage point, I see three primary drivers behind the increased demand for IT experts serving in the role. Those three drivers are:

1. First, it is clear to many executives that the recession has ended. While few expect an overnight transformation to general prosperity, a significant percentage have delayed and downsized urgently needed IT upgrades that just can’t wait any longer. Given the recent positive reports on retails sales, increasing exports, etc., these executives know that they must begin re-investing in their compaanies if they hope to grow and succeed in the coming year. When these companies invest, they want to make sure that they are doing so in the most effective manner. The VCIO is there to help management understand the benefits and ROI on critical IT investments. The VCIO is a sounding board and a trusted advisor.

2. The second driver is the need for project management and general leadership of the IT team. Many executives don’t feel that their IT staffs are working on the right things. They don’t have the right priorities and they are not sticking to essential time tables. IT teams, all too often get caught up in the minutia or the tyranny of the urgent, rather than focusing on the vitally important. The VCIO is a leadership and project management role, responsible for aligning priorities, and better managing time and resources.

3. Increased regulatory compliance obligations are the third leg of the necessity for a VCIO. Many new regulations brought about by government and industry come with acronyms like PCI, HIPAA, HITECH and GLBA. Executives are busy making sure sales are coming in and that products and services are getting out to customers. Regulatory compliance is a necessary evil. With new legislation applying the bite of both monetary and criminal penalties for careless disregard of these new obligations, executives are understandably nervous. These executives have only a loose understanding of the requirements and even less confidence that their IT staff have the required knowledge. On top of that, many of these compliance obligations require an effective IT solution. Executives who have their careers and money on the line, need a VCIO who understands the requirements. More importantly, they need someone who has a proven track record of implementing a compliance program. The right VCIO brings that knowledge and experience to the table for concerned and conscientious executives.

So, I think the VCIO is a promising new IT career for 2011. Tell me what you think. Shoot me an e-mail at oli (at)Alvaka.net or call 949 428-5000 x213.