A vCIO, or virtual CIO, is a contractor, or company, that serves as an organization’s chief information officer. The vCIO collaborates with and advises clients’ IT departments and performs the same functions as a conventional CIO. Those duties include formulating strategic IT goals, planning the IT budget, analyzing and reworking business processes and facilitating technology changes. If a client lacks an internal IT department or has a very limited IT staff, the client may grant wider decision-making authority and technology deployment responsibilities to the vCIO. The main difference between the vCIO function and other technical advisory services is that the vCIO takes a broader view of the client, focusing on business and IT alignment. Pricing structures vary, but a virtual CIO generally charges according to either an hourly rate or a flat fee. Resellers or solutions providers may informally market themselves as virtual CIOs to their small-business customers, although the companies don’t necessarily identify that service as an official line of business. Virtual CIOs may find roles among small and medium-sized businesses, which typically aren’t able to afford a traditional CIO’s compensation package. This approach is usually less expensive than paying for a full-time CIO’s salary and benefits. When the service provider offers a flat rate, the CIO function may be bundled within a broader managed services plan instead of existing as a separate budget item. While cost avoidance is one benefit of a virtual CIO, customers can find other advantages as well. On the human resources side, the customer avoids the time-consuming and potentially expensive process of hiring a CIO. The availability of 24/7 support is another plus for working with a virtual CIO; that is when a company staffed with multiple consultants filling the vCIO role can be called upon. A virtual CIO may also provide greater objectivity, since he or she may be less subject to an organization’s internal politics. Under all three terms, CIO is considered to be a part-time function rather than a full-time position.
Definition from WhatIs.com