What is a Fractional CIO and Why Should I Use One?

What is a Fractional CIO and Why Should I Use One?


What is a Fractional CIOSmaller businesses typically only have a single person at the top – the business owner/CEO. That person is also responsible for many of the other executive functions of the organization as well – such as Human Resources, Finance, Technology, and Sales.

When your business hits a certain size, though, it can be challenging to balance all of these roles while still running the company. When this happens, companies will often hire subject matter experts to oversee each of these roles. Typically, the workload is more than the CEO can handle alone, but not enough to justify a full-time hire.

This is where a ‘fractional’ CXO comes in. In a ‘fractional’ role, a senior executive supports multiple companies for a few hours a week. You pay for a fraction of the role’s time and, obviously, pay a fraction of the cost. You may hire a PEO (professional employment organization) to oversee HR, a fractional CFO to oversee bookkeeping, or a fractional CIO (Chief Information Officer) to manage IT.

Usually, the cost of a full-time CIO doesn’t make sense for a smaller organization, but with this massive digital transformation that is happening in the marketplace around us, almost every business owner knows that technology plays a crucial role in staying competitive and being profitable. Hiring a fractional CIO can be the answer.

Why would you want to hire a fractional CIO?

There are several reasons why a fractional CIO makes sense for business owners.

The main reason to hire a fractional CIO is to help you plan for the future. As your business grows, it gets more and more difficult to keep your finger on the pulse of how sales, administration, and finance are all functioning. A good fractional CIO will be able to keep IT systems and processes in alignment to help you facilitate your growth.

Perhaps more importantly, they will bring systems together to keep the major functions of your business working together. For example, a good employee onboarding system helps HR give new employees a great first experience with your company. A good off-boarding system will keep your company data safe when employees exit the business.

A good fractional CIO will also be able to stay tuned into what is happening in your industry as it relates to IT. Most manufacturing leaders know they need to be thinking about IoT (internet of things), but they don’t know where to start or how it may impact their business.

Healthcare and finance leaders know that compliance and security are critical pieces of their business, but with so many regulations and so many tools in the marketplace, most wouldn’t know the best way to submit or review a request for proposal to solve their challenges.

A good fractional CIO could manage both of these projects and would likely have the contacts in the industry to assist with any areas where he/she may be weak from a knowledge standpoint.

A fractional CIO is not IT Support

A fractional CIO should not play the role of IT technical support. That role is best left to your on-premises IT or your outsourced IT provider. In some cases, your outsourced IT provider may have a team of fractional CIOs who play this role – but they should not be the same resources delivering technical support.

There are several reasons for this – but the biggest reason is that it is tough to do both roles exceptionally well at the same time. A fractional CIO should be focused on the big picture of technology in your organization. An IT support resource should be focused on the day to day of making sure your technology is working correctly.

How much does a fractional CIO cost?

The amount that you should expect to pay your fractional CIO will vary based on your needs (and potentially, your geography). Some organizations charge by the hour, and in that type of engagement, you should expect to pay between $175-250 per hour.

Others may also just charge a flat fee per month with a cap on the number of hours that they will work on your account. (If you go this route, ask for detailed time accounting with each invoice). Finally, other organizations (like ours) include fractional CIO services in ‘All You Can Eat’ style managed IT service plans.

Access to a senior level resource who can help you plan and manage your technology doesn’t have to be out of reach for small and mid-size businesses. Hiring a fractional CIO can be the key to unlocking a digital transformation without breaking the bank.

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