by Scott Jack
Content Contributor, E-N Computers
Over 10 years of experience in healthcare IT and tech support.
A fractional CTO is a part-time technology expert who offers strategic guidance to businesses. Large firms have one or more full-time IT executives for this, but that’s excessive for small businesses with limited work and revenue. Fractional (or virtual) CTOs provide cost-effective expertise by giving small businesses tech strategies on a budget.
Fractional CTO is the most common fractional IT role for good reason. Outdated or poorly integrated tech can harm work quality, customer experience, and profits.
See how the fractional CTO role compares with other fractional IT roles, what it costs and how having one might benefit your business.
A fractional CTO is an IT consultant that works with your executive team to develop a technology strategy that includes choosing the right equipment, replacing it on a regular schedule, and creating a realistic technology budget. IT managed service providers like E-N Computers can provide this service on a consultant basis or as part of an outsourced IT package.
Four major fractional IT roles
What is a fractional CTO?
A fractional Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is responsible for your IT infrastructure and budget. They help you determine whether you have the right gear and how to optimize the performance of systems and applications. They recommend a hardware replacement lifecycle so that your tech does not become too outdated. If needed, they help you develop a cloud strategy.
Other fractional IT roles: CIO, CSO, CCO
Chief Information Officer (CIO): Focuses on the collection, processing, and storage of data. They assist with process improvement and are instrumental in developing a business continuity plan for when things go south. CIOs often have an operations background. Traditionally, large companies placed security and compliance under the purview of the CIO. As cybersecurity and regulatory concerns have increased, they split these functions into their own executive roles.
Chief Security Officer (CSO): Pokes and prods at systems to make sure they’re secure and designs your security controls. They can do a basic security audit (like a phishing test), make sure you have policies and procedures documented, and inform your compliance framework.
Chief Compliance Officer (CCO): A newer IT role that helps you achieve and maintain regulatory compliance in today’s complex technology landscape. Compliance is often seen as a heavy lift, but it’s really the bare minimum idea of not doing harm to others. We can help you surpass that and develop systems that actively help you.
Fractional CTO vs. Fractional CIO
It’s important to highlight that there is a difference between a fractional CTO and fractional CIO. The CTO focuses on your systems, or tech infrastructure. The CIO focuses on the data collected, processed, and stored within those systems. The chart below provides a direct comparison.
Do you need a fractional CTO?
You will benefit from working with a fractional CTO if it seems like your IT is getting in the way more than it helps, if you’re willing to invest in the technology that underpins your business, and if you’re willing to collaborate with the CTO to find the best technical solutions for your needs and goals. A fractional CTO will help you stabilize your systems and streamline their management.
Do you need a fractional CIO or other fractional IT person?
A fractional CIO is unnecessary for many small businesses. Those that provide a technical product or service — for example, a web app — are more likely to need one. But for the rest, a business analyst is sufficient.
Fractional CSO and CCO roles are so specialized that you typically would not work with one until you have a team of about 100 employees.
Hiring a fractional CTO
Who provides fractional CTO services?
Outsourced IT companies, IT consultant agencies, and independent IT consultants are the major providers of fractional CTO services. At E-N Computers, we offer fractional CTO services on a consultant basis, or included in our co-managed or fully managed IT plans.
Consultant basis: We help you create a business IT strategy, hardware replacement lifecycle, make recommendations regarding specific hardware, create a plan to standardize your hardware, and help you set a realistic technology budget.
Co-managed IT: Co-managed IT provides support for an existing IT department. If you have at least one trained IT person on staff, co-managed IT provides you with fractional CTO consulting as well as vendor management, network management, onsite support, and a tier 2 help desk. We’re always glad to collaborate with your existing team.
Fully managed IT: If you need a completely outsourced IT department, our fully managed services provide all the above plus tier 1 help desk — the frontline of support that your users can call or email anytime.
How much does a fractional CTO cost?
When you hire a fractional CTO on a consultant basis, you can expect to pay at least $175 an hour. Depending on the size and complexity of your business, a consulting engagement may cost $700 to $1000 per month.
For co-managed or fully managed IT that comes with fractional CTO support, check out our Pricing page. It has a handy calculator that can help you estimate your monthly costs.
What should you look for in a fractional CTO or CIO?
A fractional CTO should be a seasoned IT professional who knows how to prepare an IT budget, select and procure hardware and software, create and implement a hardware replacement lifecycle, and develop an effective cloud strategy. They should also have a business background or demonstrate the ability to cross the language barrier that often exists between business and IT people.
A fractional CIO often has an operations background. They have a strong grasp of technical concepts, but their focus is on managing and analyzing company data. They have experience in leadership and strategy, vendor management, and change management, all of which help them to plan, implement, and build support for necessary improvements.
Working with a fractional CTO
What you can expect from us
E-N Computers provides IT consulting and managed services plans that include the fractional CTO role. Whether using consulting services or a managed plan, we will suggest a regular meeting schedule based on your company size and goals. A smaller company usually requires less frequent meetings than a larger one.
If you are thinking about hiring a fractional CTO for a comprehensive rebuild of your systems, an IT consulting engagement will make the most sense for you. If you’re looking for a partner for continuous improvement, our managed services plans are worth considering.
Problems working with a fractional CTO
Working with a fractional CTO can have its problems. Most of the time, though, the fundamental issue is a lack of trust.
To integrate business and technology, business executives and technologists must work together. It’s the collaboration of experts on both sides of a problem that produces the best results. If an IT project — especially one that will directly affect workers and workflows — does not have executive buy-in, it is much more likely to flounder or fail.
When conflicts arise
Sometimes, you might hesitate to follow your fractional CTO’s advice. We understand, and there are good reasons for that, such as:
- The timeline is too tight.
- You can’t commit financially right now.
- You’re not fully convinced it’s the best solution.
In such cases, we aim for open conversations. We’ll show how other businesses tackle similar issues. Remember, you hired us to make improvements, so we’ll explore different ways to make it work for you.
Start toward IT maturity today
When you have the right people working together, you can implement systems and processes that actively help you reach your business goals. We sometimes call this IT maturity. But for many organizations, something is off when it comes to their partnerships, strategy, systems, and settings. How can you know what’s working well and where you have room for improvement? Start by taking our free IT Maturity Self-Assessment. You’ll walk away with some pointers and, if you want, a free appointment to discuss your results.
Is your business ready to weather changes, including employee turnover? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.