Are you a small business owner struggling to make financial decisions about hiring a CIO? You’re not alone. If you need the expertise of a Chief Information Officer but can’t afford a full-time hire, fractional CIOs are becoming increasingly popular.
Read on to explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of relying on one in your team.
What to Look for in a Fractional CIO
When considering hiring a CIO on a fractional basis, it’s important to assess their credentials and capabilities before making a commitment. The following points should form the criteria used to evaluate potential fractional CIO:
Depth and quality of experience: It’s important to ask probing questions about their experience in areas such as project management, technology innovations, and implementations. Their answers will reveal the level of expertise they have in specific fields.
Technical expertise: Ask detailed questions that can give insights into the candidate’s technical abilities across various areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and more.
Industry knowledge: Find out how well the candidate understands your industry sector and what challenges or opportunities they could bring from their knowledge or previous experience in similar organizations. This can help you quickly determine how much value and benefit they might bring to you when tackling challenges or initiatives related to your business goals.
Leadership skills: Even though fractional CIOs often hold strategic positions for short periods of time, leadership skills are still essential for successful problem-solving and strategy implementation in order to move toward achieving a company’s objectives over time. Make sure to ask interview questions that genuinely test their leadership qualities rather than those that rely mainly on surface answers or techniques they may have used in prior interviews – this will help you identify if they possess real leadership potential with the right attitude and vision for your business goals.
Problem-Solving Skills: Problem-solving is a key skill for any strategic leader, so look for signs that tell you not just about the CIO’s technical expertise but also how well equipped they may be handle business crises or operational issues at critical moments without compromising company objectives even when challenged by tight deadlines or technological complications encountered during specific projects or phases of work with your organization over time.
How to Structure the Relationship with a Fractional CIO
For many small and mid-sized businesses, the ability to hire a full-time Chief Information Officer (CIO) may be prohibitively expensive or simply not necessary. Even if you need the services of a CIO, you can structure the relationship on a fractional basis. This can provide you with some of the advantages of having an experienced CIO on staff without having to commit to a full-time salary and benefits package.
They are typically senior executives who have gained expertise in their field and now provide interim or consulting engagements, often taking on short to long-term contracts with organizations. They will have significant roles within an organization and may provide guidance on technology initiatives or help drive strategic objectives and establish policies for greater company adoption of technology.
When structuring a fractional relationship with a CIO, consider these key points before entering into an agreement:
- Establish upfront what type of role the candidate will fill within your organization. Will they be strictly operational or more focused in IT strategy?
- Assess your timeline. Will this need last only six months, one year? Or is this arrangement likely to evolve into something longer term?
- Determine how quickly the candidate needs to become productive and what resources will be needed for them to ramp up quickly.
- What communication processes do you need in place for this type of arrangement – should it be vendor vs employee related?
- Discuss any required deliverables that need to be accomplished during their tenure at your organization – what reports should they submit, etc.?
- Have clear expectations around availability – how responsive must they be when contacted? Ensure compliance around overtime as well (if applicable).
How to Maximize the Value of a Fractional CIO
For many smaller businesses, a full-time CIO may be both cost-prohibitive and unnecessary. Hiring a fractional CIO or virtual CIO can be an excellent option for organizations that don’t require the daily support of a Chief Information Officer. Virtual Chief Information Officers provide similar services as their full-time counterparts but without the overhead costs associated with hiring, onboarding and supporting a full-time executive. Here are some tips to maximize the value of your fractional CIO.
Have realistic expectations: A fractional CIO is not going to work miracles in the same way that a full time CIO might. However, they should have expertise in helping companies decide which technology investments will bring improved efficiency and results. The complexity of engagements for these types of professionals naturally varies by company size, industry and organizational maturity level, but it is important to identify goals upfront so you can better assess success over time.
Prioritize communication: It is particularly important to ensure open lines of communication when utilizing a fractional resource; otherwise projects could stagnate due to lack of clarity about timelines, deliverables or changes in scope or priority from the customer side over time. Also, effective communication systems should be established across departments within your organization so that issues can be discussed openly amongst stakeholders who may not have any direct contact with the outsourced resource involved in the project(s).
Utilize technology: Technology can serve as an effective solution for project management and collaboration on virtual teams working together on remote projects with virtual chiefs of information organizations (two examples are Asana and Flock). Using such tools allows organizations to stay organized and to ensure that all work stays within budget—an important consideration when dealing with non-traditional IT solutions like the utilization of remote resources instead of internal staff members or consultants onsite at your organization’s location.
In conclusion, while it may be possible to find experienced CIO’s who are willing to work on a fractional basis and provide ample expertise in their given field at a lower cost than obtaining a full-time employee, there are several factors to consider in order to ensure that the decision is beneficial for your organization.