In Part 2, Ben Wolf, host of Win-Win, an Entrepreneurial Community, and Burke Autrey, Founder and CEO of Fortium, discuss the value of working with Fortium Partners, how deliverables or outcomes are defined, and the concept of access over ownership.
The Value: Each Partner is Supported by All Fortium Partners
Ben: Do you have a method if the Partners have an issue with their client? If they're working with them four or eight hours per week and they come up with issues that they haven't come across before: Do you have a forum where your fractional leaders can learn from and teach each other about their issues? Do you have anything like that?
Burke: Sure, we do. And I think that's one of the benefits of being a larger firm, right? Being a larger firm with multiple people, we've got over a hundred technology leaders and the combined experience is just fantastic. We do have a forum internally; it's software that we use to reach out to our partners. Sometimes it's informal too, they'll reach out to the people they know.
We also specify on our engagements that there's a single person, say the CIO, so we also staff that with what we call an advisory team that is not billed to the client and doesn't give a committed amount of time. But typically that could be three people. One might be a CISO, one might be a CTO, and there also might be someone from the industry of the client that can oversee that. So that CIO has immediate access to a smaller team that is helping on the engagement that’s a phone call or a chat away. And then we have the Managing Partners, who are the people that are overseeing that. And we have the full firm behind us whenever we need that. It's a tremendous resource and one of the major differentiators of being a larger firm.
How Deliverables or Outcomes are Defined
Ben: How do you define the deliverables or outcomes that you're giving to your clients or that your fractional leaders are giving to your clients? How are those deliverables and outcomes usually defined?
Burke: We like to say that we deliver our service in a couple of ways.
One is the role
The other is an outcome.
So generally, when you're sitting in the seat, you're taking on the responsibility of the function. What that means is you control the budget, you control the people, you hire and fire, and you sit on the executive team and help make decisions. That's a role. And we typically don't define in advance what the deliverables are because most people understand that you sit in the seat, you do the job. It's on an ongoing basis so we're going to do whatever's necessary.
Now, we do have an approach that we take even with all of our clients as full-time people. How can you be a great CIO? And what sort of approach do you take? That involves a lot of what we just talked about, having the firm behind you, having a managing partner overseeing that, and so forth.
When we're working for an outcome, typically that outcome is an opinion: due diligence for private equity, and due diligence on the sell-side, for companies looking to sell. We do a lot of that to help them identify where the potential weaknesses are. Or a company might want an assessment to say, “Hey, where are we strong? Where are we weak?” That's typically an outcome and we do define that; that is a clear deliverable. It's a methodology that we have as an assessment tool. We have an outcome or a deliverable that we can actually share with a client.
Then the other way we work for an outcome is when something's in trouble, you have a large implementation that's in trouble or a company that's being spun out, and the full-time CIO doesn't have time to focus on that. Or you're consolidating five data centers down to two. That's an outcome that we call situational leadership, where you put the leadership of a CIO, CTO, or CSO into a situation where they're not really in the role, but they're using the skillset of the role to make that outcome happen. So we typically just call that kind of leadership as overseeing the initiative.
Ben: Like a project?
Burke: Yes, it is a project. We like to call it an outcome-based solution with a leadership person overseeing it.
Ben: Right. Okay, that's very helpful. I think it would also be awesome if you could share any stories or examples - situations you're able to come in or help with. Or give examples of when you were able to help transition somebody over to full-time afterward. If you need time to think, we could come back to it.
Burke: Sure, we have hundreds of examples. I was just talking with the CEO of a healthcare company today as a prospect. I told him about a situation we had in the same industry, in a very similar situation where, in this particular case, we had two partners engaged. One was very heavily entrenched in the industry and happened to be in healthcare.
Ben: When you say partners, you're referring to the fractional leaders?
Burke: Yes, we're a partnership. I didn't mention that, but we're a partnership. All of those 100+ professionals are owners and partners, limited partners in our firm. So we're all going to market together as owners.
So, we were able to deploy, in this particular case, two partners. One had significant experience in the biotech space, so he knew the business really well as a CIO. We also deployed a CTO because he had some interesting challenges with a system that they were implementing. And it required, in this case, a more technical outcome so the two of them sort of tag-teamed that. The goal was to get through a significant upgrade or significant implementation and meet some deadlines that they had in their industry for compliance that they had to have.
So that was the true value of what we delivered. And then we were able to recruit, interview, and hire a CIO for them, a long-term CIO, and then we leave. So, that’s significant value to get a company from where it was to where it needed to be. And then oftentimes we find ourselves in the position of helping them hire their full-time person. It may not seem like we would be involved in something like that, but I firmly believe that sometimes the CIO is the best person to help a company find a CIO because they've done the job. They understand the pros and cons of that individual.
Access Over Ownership
Ben: Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me. I mean I'm a fractional integrator, working with EOS companies (Entrepreneurial Operation System®), kind of like an outsourced COO, for those not familiar with the term, but it's certainly the same thing. I'm involved in helping advise on the job description, on interviewing, and permanent replacements for myself. I'm sitting in the seat on an interim basis so that they have the benefit of somebody who's experienced in that role. But it makes perfect sense why you or one of your people as a fractional leader would be helping with that. That seems like that's the biggest success that you could have.
Burke: Yeah, we stay as long as it's necessary. It’s one of the hallmarks of our model is that we're easy to engage. We can be there very quickly; in some cases, we're there tomorrow. It's happened. It's been a little bit stressful, but it has happened. Typically, it only takes a week or two before we start.
We're only there as much as needed and as long as needed. And there's a lot of value to that. We like to say access over ownership. You don't own the person, you just access the part of the person that you need, as long as you need, with the experience that you want. You're doing the same thing in the COO space. That’s great.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where Ben and Burke discuss the cost and the benefits of technology leadership versus an independent contractor.