Where C-level executives are concerned, “CIO” is one of the newcomers in the game; not many associations were concerned about aligning their overall strategy with their technology resources back in the seventies.
 
But as organizations become more and more dependent upon their technology, as data security and integrity becomes more and more difficult to achieve, and as overseeing the components of IT systems become more and more complex, there has developed an acute need for executive-level management in this arena.
 
Once your association has made the determination that you might benefit from a CIO’s particular skillset, the question that follows is often what bringing this type of person in will cost you. This question has a complex answer, but we’ll do our best to break it down into more digestible pieces.
 
Below we’ll work through a list of both the direct costs, as well as the opportunity costs that you need to consider when it comes to bringing in a CIO for your association.
 

What costs to expect when hiring your association’s CIO

Here are the main elements that combine to form your overall investment:
 

 1. The time it takes to formulate the position.

What exactly is this person going to do on a day-to-day basis? What kind of budget are you going to commit to them so that they’re able to accomplish these things? If you’ve had a CIO before, why are you changing? (Did they leave? Why? Did you fire them? Why?)
 
Figuring out this position will require extensive planning time on the part of your leadership, and possibly some organizational restructuring. And all of that is time that you won’t be able to dedicate to advancing your mission.

 

2. The cost of head-hunting.

You can expect to invest 20-25% of this person’s first-year salary in actually finding them. This is no Monster.com-type candidate search—in order to find the level of professional that you need to fill this role (with the appropriate business acumen and experience in the association sector), you really need to use a search firm.
 
Not only that, but it will likely take 3-5 months to locate the right person. During this period you’ll have to invest more of your association’s time in writing the job description, holding interviews, coordinating with your search firm, and so forth.

 

3. The cost of any interim help.

As we mentioned, the hiring stage will take about 3-5 months. On top of this, your CIO is going to need time to dig their teeth into your situation after you bring them on board. This can be another 2-4 months where your CIO is unable to focus their attention on solving the problems you hired them to address.
 
The question is this: Are these problems negatively impacting your organization to the point where you’ll need an interim resource to help you work through it while you progress through the hiring process?
 
We, for example, are currently filling this very role for a global organization whose recent acquisitions left them with disparate, mismatched systems. Though they were actively searching for a CIO, the technology conflict was so disruptive that they engaged us to help assess their overall state and begin mapping next steps. Now that this person has been hired, we are facilitating throughout the ramp-up period.
 
This level of consulting will run your association between $195 and $225 per hour on average.

 

4. The person’s salary.

This is the obvious one. According to PayScale metrics, a CIO for a 150- to 200-person association in the DC Metro area will cost your organization around $160,000 each year in salary. If your association is much larger than this, you’ll need to throw some more into the pot.

 
Clearly, bringing a CIO on board is no small feat. Not only is your financial investment going to be hefty, but the investment of your time and energy is going to be just as high.
 
But here’s the kicker: if your association really is in a place where the complexity of and dependence on your systems has you questioning the need for a CIO, the cost of not bringing in the right person to oversee your systems could be even higher.
 
Over and over again we’ve seen lower-level IT Directors working to keep their technology in line with their own training and expertise, not with the organization’s actual needs. We’ve seen wasteful spending. We’ve seen muddled, unenforced policies that have put member data at serious risk. We’ve seen folks fumbling their way through AMS “solutions” that are cobbled together, losing hours of productivity every week.
 
So, while it is critical to take the time to consider all possible alternatives* before you commit to hiring a CIO, don’t be so intimidated by the price tag that your mission ends up suffering for it.
 
Remember: with the proper marriage between your technology and your mission, your IT will be transformed from a tool into a truly powerful catalyst.
 
From there, the sky’s the limit.
 
 
*Here’s an excellent book on the subject of expanding your decision matrix in the workplace.
 


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