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  • Michael R Sheehan

Five Things to Look for When Hiring a Virtual CIO for Your Biotech Startup


Starting a new business from scratch is difficult enough, but the unique requirements of a biotech startup makes things considerably more difficult, and even if you have invented the next big thing to revolutionize medicine, you will find yourself dealing with a great many technical details outside your expertise.

Like most great leaders, you find someone more skilled than yourself, and delegate those tasks.

But finding the right people for the task of configuring your networking, asset management, or data transfer infrastructure is no easy feat, when you yourself have no real idea of the computing power required, the options available, or the logistics involved. So, you must turn to your CIO.

Finding, interviewing, hiring, and on-boarding a CIO for a complex venture such as yours, coupled with the inherent risks involved in a start-up, might take far longer to achieve than your timetable will allow. The answer? A virtual CIO. Get the Executive level IT leadership, without the executive.

There are five areas of consideration that you should use to configure your thoughts:

1. They understand your business.

This is perhaps the single most important consideration. Do they have a good idea of how you will be using the tech, your data requirements, GxP regulations and security concerns, the amount of data generated by your process, storage issues, imaging requirements, and more? A virtual CIO that has worked with biotech and pharmaceutical startups will ask the questions that are required, anticipate your needs, and help resolve issues before they occur.

2. They can explain their choices in a way that makes sense.

Every profession has its jargon, and the world where information technology meets biotech has more than most. We have all seen the stereotype of the IT person that baffles the client with doublespeak and tech lingo. A consultant that can explain and describe the complexities of the technology in a method the client understands will ensure that you are both on the same wavelength, avoiding costly errors or delays.

3. They are a problem solver.

Some virtual CIOs are autonomous by nature, others want you to sign off on every detail. A CIO who regularly does not allow daily obstacles to slow them down but instead simply resolves the issue and moves on, will simplify your life. Ask your potential CIO for some real-world examples of problem solving.

4. They apply technology to improve efficiency, not simply because it's new.

Technology changes at a very rapid pace, and the best virtual CIOs keep up with those changes, of course. But the great ones do not specify anything for their customers simply because it is cool, or new, or says it will do one amazing thing. Instead, they holistically match vendors and products to serve YOUR needs, not hot trends.

5. They should keep you informed of costs.

Of course, any CIO, virtual or otherwise, hired to do any job should perform this basic function, but startups, more so than established businesses, are often working with Series based investments, Grants and individual investors that having meticulous reporting and accounting procedures, so transparency is a must, something often of secondary consideration in the IT industry. A consultant who understands this from the outset is worth their weight in gold.

The requirements to turn a great idea into a great company are complex. The rapid pace of technological change and the shifting business landscape makes even the most basic of IT designs more difficult than ever before. Finding a virtual CIO that not only understands the work you want to do, but also how to conquer the many challenges you do not even yet know that you will face. Make the most of your chances by finding the right general to fight your IT infrastructure battles for you.


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