Let’s step back and define the roles of a Permanent CIO and an Interim CIO before we get to Fractional CIO. Permanent is straight forward. That person is the full time employee who is the senior leader of Information Technology in your organization.

For various reasons — M&A events, performance, retirement or leaving for another company’s role, you can have an open CIO position. Rather that jumping right in and hiring a replacement, sometime it makes sense to bring in a full time temporary person on a short term basis to operate as an Interim CIO. These days, Interim CIOs are change agents who can move your company along and realign; vacancies often reveal issues that weren’t apparent previously and require prompt attention.

If you are a Billion+ dollar revenue company, odds are you need and should have a full time Chief Information Officer. Information Technology can and should be an integral part of your business and you need an experienced senior leader in house every day to drive and align your Information Technology with your business goals. You need a Permanent or Interim CIO to execute continuously in the role to run operations and align Information Technology with the business.

If you are less than a Billion in revenue Fractional might be the right answer for you.

A Fractional CIO is a part time experienced leader who can

  • Create and execute on a strategy that aligns your IT with your business
  • Act as a Change Agent
  • Do the “heavy lifting” after a merger or other significant event
  • Right size the Finances of the IT organization
  • Provide mentoring for existing IT staff

The major advantage here is that you get to have a qualified, experienced executive presence at a fraction of the cost of a full time or interim CIO.

What does a great Fractional CIO Look like?

The best Fractional CIO is a person who:

  • Has been a sitting full time permanent CIO in the past
  • Cares more about the business than technology
  • Has successfully tackled a variety of challenges similar to those your firm is facing
  • Can scale their involvement up or down, as driven by your needs
  • Is NOT a sole resource, but has peers with complementary experience to call upon

Take note that a Fractional CIO is not a vCIO (virtual CIO). That term is used by a number of vendors providing basic managed IT services and generally represents a part-time, off-site, IT director whose charter is basic ongoing operations, not strategy or leadership.

How does this align with the business and the rest of the IT Organization?

Depending upon the size of your company and the scope of your Information Technology needs, you might only need a Director of IT or even a strong Project Manager for day-to-day oversight. However, every sizeable firm needs someone looking out past the horizon to ensure that there is a technology strategy that is informed by and supports the goals of the business. Daily operations and strategic vision are two very different managerial skills; attempting to combine them in a single individual seldom succeeds.

Employ the people you need to count on day-to-day. Keep them focused and on-task, challenged, but not overwhelmed. Contract for visionary leadership — at least until the business can comfortably afford to employ such an individual in addition to the operational team.


A Fractional CIO might be the right answer for you if

  • Your firm is growing and evolving, but not of sufficient size to justify a full-time CIO
  • Your industry is seeing significant technology innovation that you haven’t adopted
  • You current IT management keeps things running, but doesn’t focus on the future
  • You think you need a new position of CIO, but aren’t certain

Author: Richard Harris

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