There is growing discussion and need around the use of interim and fractional technology leadership- CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs. It would seem obvious that when a technology leadership position is vacant, that having an interim or a fractional leader would be better than none at all. But, many times companies choose to not fill the technology leadership position while a search takes place, or they knowingly fill the position with an internal candidate as an interim leader, who is not actually capable of filling the role. So what’s the harm? Both of these decisions can actually result in impact to the organization and/or the business.
So, when should organizations consider an interim or fractional technology leader for their companies? Here are some items to consider when sorting through this decision.
Business/IT Projects are Critical to Business Plans
If a critical business project(s) rely heavily on IT, and business results are dependent upon their timely and effective delivery, you should seriously consider bringing a seasoned technology leader on board for a short-term assignment. When business results are on the line, you don’t want to risk going without leadership.
Staff Continuity is Critical
There is a real risk of critical staff leaving the organization when there is a leadership gap and a pending change. Many times, it’s the leadership gap that creates uncertainty about the future. It could also be a situation where critical resources see themselves as the heir apparent, even though they don’t have the skills. Having an interim technology leadership helps mitigate or address that issue. Lastly, there are times when senior management just cannot provide the oversight to staff on a day–to-day basis while a new search is conducted.
While there are exceptions to this rule, having a seasoned interim technology leader on staff is nearly always accepted as a better situation than having one of the staff as a temporary, or no leader at all.
Major Service Issues Require Immediate Attention
Make sure that you clearly understand what major/repetitive service issues are impacting critical processes or users. There are times when current staff can’t deal with the complexity of sorting out a key issue, and need outside eyes to address a nagging problem. Don’t let existing problems get worse. Take positive steps to address immediate issues instead of waiting for a new technology leader to arrive.
The Search Takes 90 Days or Longer
Everyone knows a search can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. But, we rarely plan for anything beyond 3 months. Sometimes searches take longer than planned due to finding the right fit, relocation, or timing around financial handcuffs. Additionally, a CEO, CFO or other senior executive is going to be distracted by the interim nature of their role in providing direction to a group of 4–7 IT professionals. Let’s all agree, these skills aren’t usually in the CEO, COO or CFO wheelhouse, and it isn’t value added work when other business challenges exist.
Do You Know What You Want?
There are times when clarifying the existing, or forecasted, critical issues in your IT organization will allow you to focus your search on critical skills. Having an IT strategy or organization assessment completed before you start your search, or using it to confirm your search criteria is always beneficial. This can be done through an interim assignment or as a specific assessment. Either way, it provides a starting point for senior management and the new technology leader to bring focus to key areas when the new leader does come on board.
Manage Risk and Ensure Success
Managing risk and ensuring we set the business and IT organization up for success is essential. When only one of the above conditions exists, it may not trigger a need for an interim or a fractional technology leader. However, I would suggest that when more than one of the previous conditions in the IT organization are present, or, when one issue is so large that it cannot escape immediate attention, you should consider an interim or fractional technology leader.