Fractional CTO

A Fractional CTO, or Fractional Technology Leader is an individual who works on a part-time or freelance basis, usually for small or midsize businesses. The role of a Fractional CTO is to provide technical guidance and advice to the company, as well as manage and oversee the technology and/or information team.

The benefits of hiring a Fractional CTO include having access to high-level technical expertise without the full-time commitment or cost and being able to scale up or down the level of support as needed. Oftentimes, the Fractional CTO will have domain knowledge in multiple business areas as well which helps drive further value and innovation for the company.

The work that a Fractional CTO focuses on is mostly strategic with some hands-on tasks. Many times the strategy and plans recommended will be implemented by the Fractional CTO and the proper teams. Use cases for me have been a mix of:

  • Roadmapping/Technology vision and planning.
  • Governance, compliance for technology and security.
  • Day-to-day delivery management of technical projects and work loads.
  • System architecture, design and audits.
    Hiring/Firing/Sudden departure of the technology team.
  • System and vendor assessment, alignment and procurement.
  • An unbiased plan for determining the best build versus buy options for new systems and technology.
  • Using technology to increase company value, often through online and digital initiatives.
  • General IT procedures, processes and best practices.
  • Acquisition preparation from a technical perspective.

When do you know it’s time for a fractional CTO

Not all businesses have the resources to take on a full-time CTO, however, they still need someone leading the technology charge. If you’re struggling with any of the following, it might be time to consider taking on a Fractional CTO: You know your business needs to invest in technology, but there are no tech experts on your leadership team.
  • You know your business needs to invest in technology, but there are no tech experts on your leadership team.
  • You are not yet sure that you need a technology leader or CTO, but you are willing to start off slowly to prove out the value at a minimal risk.
  • You’ve consistently struggled to meet company milestones to grow your business.
  • You need someone to fill the CTO role, but you can’t afford to compensate for a full-time CTO, or you don’t have enough work to employ a full-time CTO.
  • You’re working on a specific project that requires insight from a seasoned tech executive.
  • You have a handful of software developers that might be lacking the right experience or industry knowledge to make the strategic tech decisions for your company.
  • You’re in-between CTOs and need someone to quickly and temporarily, yet effectively, step in.

Reasons to engage a fractional CTO

  1. Companies Don’t Have Budget for a Full Time Hire
    Salaries for tech leaders are higher than ever, and salaries for full time CTOs are often above $250k/year. As such, companies that have a tight budget consider hiring such an experienced CTO, but only for a few hours a week.

  2. Hiring a Fractional CTO Is Faster Than Hiring a Full Timer
    Hiring a full timer means long interviews, notice period, etc. It can easily take up to 6 months. On the other hand, Fractional CTOs usually have the bandwidth to start much earlier, given the fast nature of engagements.

  3. Companies Want To Build Technology, but Don’t Know How
    A common use case for Fractional CTOs is to strategize products and technology, together with a company’s Founders/Execs. Companies don’t usually need someone full time for this. But sound experience is mandatory.

  4. Company Is Transitioning To More In-house Development
    This is very common for companies that launch new products and find product-market fit. They first leveraged outsourced developers, and now want to ramp up their own internal team as they get ready for scale. Companies are also in need of a Fractional CTO to lead and manage the outsourced and in-house teams to a standard set of governance and compliance.

  5. Company Needs To Hire New Talent Or Manage Service Providers
    This comes often when a company is starting or in the middle of a digital transformation, where suddenly they need to hire talent or bring on expertise in a short amount of time. They chose to hire someone externally to handle these new processes to avoid a short term slowdown. They also need assistance or help with managing vendors or MSP (managed services providers) for new and existing projects.

  6. There’s a Roadmap and a Team, but There Are “Issues”
    This is a catch-all for shit shows like:
    • Sudden departure or prev leader
    • Many team members are leaving
    • Abandoned projects that are picked up again
    • Speed is too slow
    • Costly bugs often going to production