How do you leverage the benefits of a seasoned CIO without the full-time commitment and costs? With a fractional CIO, small- and mid-market companies are gaining tremendous value. In this blog, you’ll learn what a fractional CIO is, when to engage one, and what to expect from one.
With an increasing demand for experienced, executive-level technology expertise, many small- to mid-market companies are choosing to employ a fractional CIO (Chief Information Officer) instead of hiring full-time. These leaders can provide tremendous value to an organization.
Several drivers compel companies to consider a fractional CIO. Those might include leveraging technology for growth, acquisitions and mergers, regulatory and compliance changes, stabilizing IT environments, mitigating risks, or other business transformations. A fractional CIO can help determine the current state, identify gaps and develop a roadmap to meet future goals.
Before you engage with a fractional CIO, it’s important to clarify roles, responsibilities and objectives, along with determining how this leader could benefit your organization.
What Is a Fractional CIO?
A fractional CIO is a senior leader who provides ongoing strategic guidance, offers thought leadership, leads technology development and optimization, and provides other tailored services aligned to your business’s needs. He or she helps to optimize your budget while still meeting objectives and helping your company realize its key performance indicators.
In addition, this leader offers a unique outside perspective, offering best practices in all aspects of technology, including emerging technology, regulations and security threats. A fractional CIO can often bring a broader perspective and experience levels, complementing a company’s internal capabilities.
When Should My Organization Consider a Fractional CIO?
Today’s business environment is rapidly evolving, with an increasing reliance on technology. Companies can end up at a competitive disadvantage without a dedicated IT professional to help navigate technology challenges.
Even when an organization has dedicated IT technicians, they may have limited capacity or capability to develop a strategy and set the IT agenda. When your company is facing growth opportunities with limited systems capabilities or capacity, a fractional CIO will help you identify those gaps and develop a remedy plan.
There are a host of reasons companies may consider bringing on a fractional CIO:
1. Uncertainty about the direction of technology:
Competitive pressures, outside threats, market opportunities, and global and social forces all play into technology positioning for your company. Your company will have an advantage with an experienced fractional CIO in your toolbox to call upon both during times of crisis and when sailing is smooth.
2. A gap in IT expertise:
In 2020, 80 percent of North American managers and 78 percent of worldwide leaders reported skills gaps, according to the Global Knowledge 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report. Whether it’s the speed of technological change outpacing skills development, a lack of training programs or professionals who are unable to keep up with rapid changes, the cost of a gap in your IT expertise can be high.
The report states, “The number one impact of skills gaps is increased employee stress. Other costs include lower quality work, decreased ability to meet business objectives, increased project duration and a decline in innovation.”
3. Lack of strategic visioning and leadership:
An effective CIO is a change agent. This leader remains close to innovation in today’s business environment, using their skills and deep expertise as a foundation for decision making. In the small- to mid-market space, organizations often have a talented and capable IT team who can execute and manage projects efficiently. A fractional CIO will ask probing questions to help develop an effective strategy and plan for moving forward.
An internal IT team often lacks the ability to develop a strategic roadmap that leads to growth and value for the organization. A fractional CIO would improve your internal IT team’s effectiveness.
4. Concerns about security posture and vulnerabilities:
Security attacks are getting more prevalent, and cybercrime is getting more sophisticated. A seasoned professional helps to identify and build a strong cybersecurity program. According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 41 percent of respondents experienced an increase in cyber-security incidents in 2020, just through remote-working alone.
“This challenge has caused security to become the top technology investment priority, and for the first time in this survey’s history, cyber-security expertise has become the most in-demand skill-set,” the survey reports.
5. Budgetary constraints:
A fractional CIO can be a good solution for companies with smaller budgets, where they, maybe, can’t afford a full-time CIO. The company gets the benefits of a high-level executive leader without the full-time commitment or costs. A fractional CIO can optimize your IT spend and ensure you’re getting the highest return on your technology investments.
What Should My Company Expect From a Fractional CIO?
A fractional CIO can help your company with all of the following:
- Tapping into technology best practices
- Offering advice and direction
- Leveraging technology to improve company performance
- Providing strategic IT vision and navigation while capitalizing on internal knowledge and bridging gaps
- Leading, coaching and developing IT within your company.
This leader also can reduce risks business-wide by highlighting areas of vulnerability and implementing remediation plans. They can evaluate your company’s IT capabilities and craft an effective insourcing and outsourcing approach.
In short, companies should expect everything they would from a full-time or interim CIO, only on a part-time basis:
- An experienced and objective baseline assessment
- Collaboration and alignment with top leadership
- Documented IT strategy and vision for the future
- An IT roadmap based on your company’s resources and capacity for change
- IT leadership and technology navigation
- A structured budget and forecasting analyses
- An executive project portfolio dashboard
- Team coaching, development and mentoring.
The decision to engage with a fractional CIO entails several factors. But if, after careful evaluation, you find you need one, bringing on a fractional CIO can be the best decision to ensure your company can survive and thrive.