Interim, Fractional, and Virtual IT Leadership for Higher Education

November 26, 2019 | by Haley Rose, CMO, Columbia Advisory Group

Did you know that the salaries for top CIOs in the US can be well above $300,000 per year, even before you factor in benefits and expenses? Many colleges and universities need this level of expertise on staff, but budgeting for this salary and recruiting strong candidates can be a challenge, especially in non-metropolitan areas. CIOs are in greater demand than ever, so strong candidates come at a premium and are competitively recruited.

What if your campus could share the cost of a CIO with another institution? What if you could expect a start date of less than 30 days with no recruitment or relocation expenses within an E&I contract?

That’s effectively what happens with Columbia Advisory Group’s (CAG) Interim and Fractional CIO program. CAG employs CIOs with experience in higher education. These senior IT experts have built IT departments from scratch, managed and created cybersecurity infrastructure, managed major IT projects, and established strong governance processes for many colleges and universities. The result has been substantially improved IT compliance, security and user satisfaction. Having access to this proven expertise means college and university clients can execute IT projects and strategy with minimal onboarding time, leveraging experienced interim and fractional CIOs who are accustomed to those types of environments and processes.

CAG will also help find, coach/mentor, and support a long-term, permanent CIO with the skills to continue the progress achieved by an interim or fractional CIO and team, as needed.

Case Study: Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System hired CAG in 2013 for Interim CIO services, when strategic IT projects needed immediate attention and the CIO role remained unfilled. The A&M System needed a strong, long-term IT strategy that could be executed by member campuses. CAG was able to place one of our senior, experienced CIOs onsite on an interim basis. This Interim CIO improved the A&M System’s security infrastructure, got IT projects back on-track, and helped create a comprehensive IT roadmap and governance program that the A&M System is still following today. In order to position the A&M System for continued IT success, CAG also helped recruit and onboard a permanent CIO.

Case Study: Texas A&M University – Commerce

In the fall of 2012, Columbia Advisory Group was engaged by Texas A&M University – Commerce, following the departure of the CIO, to help its IT department improve satisfaction and trust of A&M-Commerce stakeholders. A&M – Commerce contracted with CAG to provide an interim CIO, a business analyst, and project management services to help stabilize the department. A&M-Commerce benefited from CAG’s unique insight derived from its combination of private sector and higher education experience working with more than 300 IT organizations. CAG was able to evaluate current and future needs, install a substantially improved governance structure, provide practical recommendations, and create a roadmap to improve A&M – Commerce’s IT function.

Prior to engaging CAG, their IT project list included over 100 loosely defined projects, and the department suffered from low user satisfaction rates and poor compliance performance. Through CAG leadership, CAG and IT worked with A&M-Commerce stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, federal agencies, and more—to get a complete understanding of project requests and the IT department’s capacity. This was done in order to properly define each project’s scope and prioritize projects. CAG’s project management capability helped to ensure that projects were completed on time and on budget. A&M – Commerce has since outsourced its entire IT function to CAG, which will enable them to focus their efforts on core capabilities, education, and research, while enjoying industry-leading IT best practices.

In addition to fractional CIOs, Columbia Advisory Group can provide fractional or virtual CISOs, Directors of Applications, and other IT roles. If your organization needs an Interim or fractional CIO or help with any other IT needs at your educational institution, we’re here to help. Please feel free to contact me at

Find out more about E&I’s competitively solicited contract with Columbia Advisory Group and sign up today.

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