Fractional Leadership and the Fractional CTO and CIO
If your greatest need or what’s keeping you up at night relates to the proprietary tech products or systems you built and that you sell to your customers, or if you need your out-of-the-box systems up and running every second for your business to run, you may need a Fractional Chief Technology Officer or Fractional Chief Information Officer.
Let’s paint a picture of what that looks like.
You or a member of your leadership team are doing your best to manage a patchwork of freelancers, an Managed Services Provider (MSP), a VoIP provider, and internal or external developers or resources. Still, you don’t have the time, experience, or resources to do this well. It’s taking a toll on your ability to do what you need in other parts of the business. It’s holding you back.
Alternatively, you built a product using freelancers, and you sell usage of that product to your customers. But you’ve now grown the business big enough that the product and your customers’ needs are outgrowing your ability to serve them effectively. You’re one outage or bug away from disaster.
Another scenario is that you need to do a technology-heavy rehaul or turnaround of your operations, but you’re not sure where to start and certainly don’t have the bandwidth to drive and oversee
Do You Need an FCTO, FCIO or Consultant?
So, which role would best serve your business do you need, a Fractional CIO or CTO, or a consultant? Let’s run down the basics for each position.
The Fractional Chief Technology Officer
If you developed your proprietary technology and have an internal or external development team maintaining it, you may need a full-time CTO or a Fractional CTO. Without the right person focused on your product and the systems on which it operates, your entire business sits on very shaky ground.
You need someone who understands the servers on which those systems run, whether server-based or cloud-based. Your critical risks include data security, server reliability and speed, redundancy if something goes wrong, external and internal tampering, and hacking. You likely need someone with experience to take ownership of your technology.
The Fractional Chief Information Officer
Even if you utilize others’ technology, CRM, or ERP, if you’re over 1,000 people or have very complex, customized, or temperamental systems you desperately rely on every second, you may need an FCIO to allow you to sleep at night. You’ll also free yourself up to focus on running and growing your business once your technology isn’t hogging a huge share of your mental and emotional bandwidth.
Technology and Process Consultants
When do you need a technology or process consultant? In short, these professionals are most helpful when your need is more transactional or short-term. Suppose you need to choose and customize a technology once. In that case, a consultant can help you map out your business processes, research and choose the right technology solution for you to buy, and then hand off oversight of the actual implementation to someone internally.
Many technology and process consultants also offer implementation services. This still falls under the transactional or short-term umbrella. They’ll oversee the selection, execution, data migration, and rollout of the selected technology so that you don’t have to. But after that, their work is done.
Suppose you have significant ongoing needs that require strategic, ongoing leadership to oversee or continue improving and iterating the technologies on which you rely. In that case, you should consider retaining an FCIO or FCTO.
What Does the FCTO or FCIO Engagement Look Like?
The order of operations at the beginning of an FCTO or FCIO engagement depends heavily on why the business brings them in. Things look different if they’re there to implement a herculean technology overhaul or significantly level up and then shepherd ongoing operations. But first, they’ll lay some groundwork:
- They’ll likely start off getting a lay of the land by getting to know you and the internal or external technology people you already have in place and exploring the systems you already have.
- They will work with you and your team members to understand your business model and legal or regulatory framework.
- Finally, they will learn from you about your long-term plans, vision, and goals.
This groundwork is critical for an FCTO or FCIO to ensure that your technology serves you not only in the short term but so that they have the information necessary to create a roadmap for the future to ensure that your systems continue to align with and support the achievement of your goals and don’t become an obstacle or liability later on.
Once they have the lay of the land and understand your ultimate destination, your FCIO or FCTO will prioritize the next steps necessary to align your systems with your current and, ultimately, future business.
On an ongoing basis, an FCIO or FCTO is your partner and continual resource in driving, overseeing, adapting, and iterating your technology infrastructure or products so that you can sleep at night and focus on growing the other parts of your business. You can rest assured that someone who knows exactly what they’re doing is taking care of the technology side of things.
Critically, this technology leader is a strategic partner and participates with your leadership team in their regular meetings and discussions. Ongoing operations, issue solving, budget, and plans all touch your tech in some way. You want your FCIO or FCTO to hear and be aligned with the other parts of your organization. The rest of the team needs your technology leader’s input regarding day-to-day operations, financial decision-making, and planning for the future.
What to Ask When Hiring an FCTO or FCIO
Once you’ve decided to move forward and hire a Fractional CIO or Fractional CTO, Consider the following when interviewing potential candidates:
- Ensure that you and your potential FCIO or FCTO speak the same language, literally. The terms CIO, CTO, Head of Product, Product Manager, and Chief Information and Security Officer (CISO) all mean different things, and not everyone defines them the same way. Confirm that you’re both talking about the same things when using these terms.
- As always, communicate exactly what you want the engagement to achieve and in what time frame.
- Ensure that they have relevant, demonstrated experience doing something similar to what you need. This particularly applies if your potential FCIO or FCTO has a daunting technology goal like overseeing a new system rollout and data migration or directing the development of a product for sale to your customers.
- Ensure they have industry experience if that is important to you. Examples include when your industry has an unusually specialized business model, complicated regulations that affect technology (like hospital systems or Department of Defense security requirements), or standards that would make the learning curve of someone without that industry experience unwieldy.
Virtually every business, and certainly one in growth mode, requires technology, including hardware, networking, security, internet, VoIP, and various Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to run the day-to-day business. If your business is struggling in any of these areas, a Fractional CTO or CIO might be the answer.
This blog is the last in a series that outlines some high-level considerations and offers insight into the five major types of Fractional Leadership: marketing, sales, operations, finance, and technology.
The information is a consolidation of my personal experience as a Fractional Leader (FL), retaining other FLs in businesses I managed or manage, interviews with FLs on my podcast, Win-Win—An Entrepreneurial Community, and my network and relationships with other FLs.
My experience in operations and being a Fractional Leader in companies running on EOS certainly contribute to my knowledge of operations. I am not, however, a subject matter expert in marketing, sales, finance, or technology. I’ve written these topics with reliance on business owners and FLs in those fields — from a 30,000-foot perspective.
Check out my blogs discussing the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (FCMO), Fractional Chief Sales Officer (FCSO), Fractional Chief Operating Officer (FCOO) and Fractional Chief Financial Officer (FCFO).