What is a Fractional CIO?

Googling the term “fractional CIO” will quickly return lots of hits of what a fractional CIO role is for organizations that utilize them. The best sites that I’ve found describe the position as a virtual or part-time CIO who works a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CIO. A typical fractional CIO is a contractor serving in the same role as a full-time CIO, but is generally more strategically focused on alignment of IT with the business objectives. The role may be placed as an interim position until a full-time CIO is hired, or could be placed to work with an individual who needs mentoring into the full-time role. There may be more direct duties of a fractional CIO such as focusing on a few strategic projects such as compliance, reorganization, and transition as part of a larger corporate transaction. A fractional CIO may work for multiple companies in that capacity at once.

Who Typically is a Fractional CIO?

Many full-time CIO’s over the years have had the benefit of working in some innovative companies. Years of experience exposes seasoned CIO’s to many industries and companies large and small, public and private, as well as enterprise projects that afford them the unique know-how to navigate challenges. The value that an experienced CIO can bring to a company in a fractional role can be quite compelling.

Why Should a Company Engage a Fractional CIO?

There are many great reasons for companies to utilize the services of a fractional CIO, especially in mid-sized companies where:

  • An acquisition carve-out of a division of a larger company does not come with a CIO and the need is immediate to execute the transaction.
  • The CIO position has become stale and executive management desires a fresh outsider’s perspective.
  • The fractional CIO can help their client better define the long-term CIO role requirements and assist with onboarding the ideal CIO full-time candidate while serving in an interim position.
  • An unexpected departure of an existing CIO has occurred and a management is concerned about active initiatives and their IT organization unraveling.
  • A mid-sized company cannot afford a full-time CIO and a fractional role is ideal until they grow to a larger size.
  • A company may be positioning itself for acquisition and there is no long-term need for a full-time CIO role or a full-time CIO is difficult to recruit.
  • Management desires to shift away from legacy systems and the current team is struggling with the paradigm shift or pushing against change that a fractional CIO can overcome.
  • There is a need to rebuild relationships that have broken down with the business and IT.

Who Does the Fractional CIO Report To?

Typically, the fractional CIO role is a working member of the executive management team. The position generally is charged to perform traditional CIO duties for a fixed duration, but is often kept strategic in nature as the role is only available to the management team a fraction of the time. A fractional CIO may report to the company’s CEO, CFO, board of directors or the company’s private equity partner depending on the need. By the nature of the role, a fractional CIO is generally a trusted advisor, an objective third party management team member, a strategic partner and someone that is entrusted to dig into issues to get things done.

How Do I Engage a Fractional CIO?

At Answerport, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation and advise if you have a fit for such a role. Not all needs can be met by a fractional CIO – by the nature of the position it is part-time and may not be able to accommodate around-the-clock operational issues. We are pragmatic about placing someone from our team or our network of experienced CIO’s in such a role to ensure the best fits for success. Since the role is a trusted advisor, a member of the executive team, and may be working in difficult situations, you want to make sure the need is clear and there is a good fit.

If you would like an objective perspective on the use of a fractional CIO or other IT challenges you may have, please send me an email with any questions or to share your experiences at: duane.breeden@answerport.com.

About the author: Duane Breeden has served as a senior IT executive, most recently as the CIO and senior member of two companies’ executive teams over the past 15 years.