What is a Fractional CIO & Why Should You Hire One?
Updated: Jul 24
Not all businesses are able to hire a permanent, full-time Chief Information Officer (CIO), and a top-tier CIO is a pricey executive for an expanding mid-cap enterprise. However, retaining a Fractional CIO can deliver the capabilities and expertise of a full-time CIO on a part-time basis, without having to cover the associated costs of an additional high-level executive salary.
There are a number of challenging stages and transitions in a business’s lifecycle in which a Fractional CIO can ensure alignment of business and IT strategy, execute business process improvements, oversee complex projects and digital transformation, and own IT governance.
Elevate the level of experience
Perhaps your business relies on a mid-level IT professional who manages the day-to-day IT operations, but lacks the ability to offer strategic IT leadership. A Fractional CIO works in tandem with your executive leadership to develop an IT strategy that aligns with the company’s vision and goals.
One of the problems that happens when there isn’t IT representation at the executive table is that strategic planning – the broad and long-term goals of IT – are never clearly defined. And without defined objectives, the danger is that the business’s IT team becomes solely focused on tactical execution.
As an example, department executives may pressure the IT team to undertake certain projects that do not align with the overall priorities of the business. If there are no clearly defined goals as part of a strategic IT plan, a lot of effort can be expended travelling in the wrong direction. Even worse, without strategic goals, the IT team won’t even know if they’ve hit or missed the business’s targets.
A Fractional CIO assists with creating a strategic IT plan that aligns with the business’s vision, and develops an IT roadmap that prioritizes projects and initiatives on a timeline and budget that is right sized for your company. Further, a part-time CIO will develop and implement key performance indicators to assess performance against industry benchmarks.
Step up the skillset
Your company may be faced with challenges and critical projects in innovative technologies that demand a high-performing level of expertise that current staff simply don’t possess. This could include up-to-the minute knowledge in the rapidly changing areas of digital transformation, cybersecurity, analytics, big data, IoT, AI, disaster avoidance or recovery planning, and data privacy.
While executive boards are becoming more aware of the necessity of cybersecurity, their members often lack the technical skills to understand and explain the risk and exposure of data privacy, and the remediation required. When considering a new IT initiative, a Fractional CIO has the skills and knowledge to assist with determining the risks and opportunities of the implementation of new technology. In addition, the contract CIO can ensure seamless integration of the initiative, including training of staff so that there is minimal disruption to the business.
Strength in ownership
When a problem is owned, a problem is solved. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of executive ownership of the IT team when there is no designated CIO role. Subsequently, executive ownership of the IT team typically defaults to the CFO, who may or may not have the technical competencies to understand – and therefore own – the complex risks of technology such as cybersecurity and data privacy.
This lack of structure in IT is in contrast to finance and operations, which usually have a more defined structure, such as CFO – VP / Director – Controller – Manager. The IT department hierarchy usually ends at the Director, or sometimes VP, with the CFO often taking executive responsibility for day-to-day operations. Meanwhile, projects are owned by an executive sponsor (someone who is generally not in the CFO role). This lack of defined ownership creates problems when it comes to solving IT-related issues across the broader business.
A multi-faceted, experienced Fractional CIO not only becomes a conduit between the executive leadership and the IT team, they also take ownership of the vital CIO role and oversees IT governance. On the one hand, this on-demand CIO collaborates with the executive team and explains the complexities, risks and opportunities of technology, while on the other, manages the IT team’s execution of initiatives so that they align with the vision of the business.
Determine a budget that works for your business
If your growing business simply doesn’t have the budget or the need for a full-time CIO, a Fractional CIO offers the ability to scale-up or scale-down as needed. By filling the role with a seasoned and experienced senior level technology professional on a fractional basis, your company can reap the benefits of ownership of the position at a reasonable cost, right now.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing fractional CIO and digital transformation services. As Principal, he leads the implementation of various programs and projects that increase innovation across businesses. Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
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