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CEO’s report: Your IT questions answered

Everything you wanted to know about IT and technology but were afraid to ask

We wanted to know what mid-market business leaders were thinking about when it came to their IT and technology. So we solicited their questions. Then we had our own IT leaders respond.

The result is this free CEO’s report. It’s a fascinating collection of real-world questions and answers about cyber security, integration, ERPs, private equity, compliance and more. Download it now and feel free to share it with our compliments. The answers may surprise you!

 

 

For more non-technical advice, visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre, which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT directors, CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with SME and mid-market organisations, and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Meet our technology experts

‘Between us all, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we’ve done it.’ Our IT leaders explain their extensive digital and commercial technology experience.

We’re a team of 85+ Board-level technology leaders (CIOs, CTOs, CISOs and IT Directors) who collaborate and knowledge share every day so that we can deliver the very best for our clients. We work across all industries including; retail, manufacturing, logistics, pharma, facilities management, professional services, construction, engineering, private equity to name a few. It’s safe to say we’ve got you covered!

Visit our Knowledge centres which include expert documents that will help your business improve and grow.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Top 4 benefits of hiring a digital strategy consultant

Many companies wonder what are the benefits of using a digital strategy consultant, a role often fulfilled by an experienced CIO or CTO. We see 4 specific areas where digital strategy consultants bring advantages over internal staff or other experts.

Broader experience

Digital strategy consultants will typically be working with a wider range of businesses, in both your sector and in adjacent sectors.

For most companies, strategic reviews are relatively rare, whereas for consultants this is bread and butter and they are able to bring a wide range of recent experiences to bear.

It’s important to have experiences from the same sector, but we would also point to extremely valuable experiences from adjacent or entirely different sectors. For example, B2C e-commerce has seen major innovations in recent years that have shifted people’s expectations and these are now being reflected in changes in B2B e-commerce.

Methodology

Corralling a management team through a strategic review process can be a difficult challenge in itself.

Part of the challenge is to present a simple, sensible and appropriate methodology that the leadership is confident with. Digital strategy consultants are able to refer to a range of methodologies and established practices that they have used many times and are able to confidently follow.

The consultant’s confidence in the methodology can create momentum and enthusiasm that is transformational in itself.

Impartial

Impartiality has a number of different aspects. Of course, it includes being distant from the internal politics and the competing objectives of different leaders within the organisation. It also means not being tied to particular solution vendors and other external teams.

The best digital strategy consultants are able to work through internal battles and to recommend what is right for the organisation rather than receiving commissions or other incentives to sell particular products.

Access to wider network / other outside experts

Digital strategy consultants are often able to access other networks of experts and advisors. These include specific functional experts as well as companies who can implement their recommendations.

This is obviously useful in itself but also means that they can check the achievability of their recommendations during their consultancy intervention. They can, for example, create a vision to match a budget rather than working in a vacuum, and they can ensure that further partners are lined up to deliver the vision rather than just creating a “white elephant”.

Freeman Clarke often leads digital strategy creation and acts as a consultancy. We have unparalleled experience of devising, leading and implementing digital transformations for mid-market businesses. We bring broader experience, methodologies, impartiality and access to a wider network.

For more non-technical advice, visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre, which includes all content related to this topic.

Why Freeman Clarke?

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT directors, CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with SME and mid-market organisations, and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

What does a Fractional CIO do?

CIO stands for ‘Chief Information Officer.’ It’s a Board-level position responsible for technology, staff, and suppliers. CIOs also oversee systems, processes, and data reporting. The term ‘fractional’ in ‘fractional CIO’ simply means ‘part-time’ (ie they work for a portfolio of 2 or 3 other companies)

Nevertheless, a fractional CIO has a transformational role. In addition to technology delivery, they focus on:

Why should your business have a Fractional CIO?

CIOs command high salaries due to their decades of expertise in IT and technology. A fractional CIO means that your business gets the support and innovation it needs at a competitive, sustainable price. In addition, they bring in external skills, experiences and different perspectives that internal staff rarely see.

Freeman Clarke CIOs align IT solutions to business objectives, ensuring focus and cooperation across teams and departments. In addition, our CIOs are expert strategic thinkers, guiding your business through all the necessary changes to meet well-defined commercial goals.

Due to our stringent standards, only 1% of our initial candidates become part of our team. So you can be confident that your fractional CIO has the highest technical and commercial expertise, adding benefit to your business from Day One.

What does a Fractional CIO do and how can they help your business?

Fractional CIOs ensure that the IT and technology of your business support your goals. They ensure that systems are well-integrated and that processes are efficient. Fractional CIOs take ownership of the day-to-day IT and technology, including risk management and cyber security.

Fractional CIOs will also drive transformational projects, such as automation or a new ERP system, or a complete digital transformation.

The overall goal is to create an IT and technology environment that is flexible and adaptable and provides a platform for growth. A fractional CIO will also lead teams through the inevitable business challenges and strategic obstacles — our CIOs have guided businesses through extremely challenging transformational events like COVID-19 and Brexit.

Fractional CIOs are accountable for technology, teams and suppliers

Fractional CIOs have a crucial role in a business in that they have ownership of virtually every aspect of its IT and technology, including hardware and software and how staff uses the technology. They supervise the technology-related teams, taking responsibility for day-to-day operations as well as the delivery of longer-term projects.

An important part of the fractional CIO’s role is that they are accountable for suppliers. They foster sound, productive long-term relationships and ensure that all contracts and deliverables make sense for the business and will renegotiate or replace suppliers when necessary.

Fractional CIOs drive integration, automation and transformational projects including ERP and online

A fractional CIO’s role should be transformational. Their impact should be felt positively throughout the business. The transformation could simply be a matter of making improvements in existing technology, such as improving integration — ensuring that systems communicate with a minimum of problems. Another way to make an impact is through automation: a fractional CIO will see where automation is possible and if it makes sense for the company.

A fractional CIO is responsible for larger transformational projects as well, including an ERP if needed, or when necessary deep changes and upgrades to digital platforms. This will often require changes to process, organisation and culture, and a fractional CIO will take a leading role in these changes.

Fractional CIOs align IT with business strategy

Fractional CIOs are responsible for aligning the IT to the business strategy. This may mean helping to clarify the business goals first before making changes to IT and technology. Once the goals are clear, the CIO’s role is to help the business achieve its commercial goals, so they will make all IT decisions in that light.

Fractional CIOs improve systems and digital usage within a business, transforming profits

A fractional CIO looks to make improvements in how staff uses the systems and indeed all the technology. For example, systems may actually be working well, but employees have never been properly trained in their usage, leading to wasted time and money. A fractional CIO takes a hard look at how staff interacts with technology in order to exploit it to the fullest.

‘Freeman Clarke have made IT a strategic enabler, aligned with our business strategy. Our systems now provide much greater support for our staff, reducing wasted time, costs, and problems. The culture and practices within our IT team have changed radically, and they are now a critical contributor to our success.’ Mike Yiannis, Hydrock’s Chief Financial Officer, Hydrock.

For more non-technical advice, visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre, which includes all content related to this topic.

Why Freeman Clarke?

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT directors, CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with SME and mid-market organisations, and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Hybrid working is the strategic challenge of the decade. Why?

Mid-market companies are facing enormous challenges. Customer expectations have shifted dramatically, and staffing shortages will be an ongoing problem. Freeman Clarke co-founder and CEO Graeme Freeman explains how the flexibility of hybrid work will be key to keeping workers and customers happy.

Visit our Hybrid Working & Post-Pandemic Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organisations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Hybrid working: The challenge of the decade

Hybrid working is the strategic challenge of the decade for mid-market business leaders. Why do I say that?

Business is all about relationships. And in-person, face-to-face contact builds relationships like nothing else. Companies selling engagement apps and collaboration tools say otherwise, but they have a vested interest in their own nonsense.

Since the ‘war for talent’ began — the enormously competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining top talent — we’ve seen that the magic behind great companies is employee engagement. And the hybrid workplace is now a crucial part of that. The winners will be those businesses with a hybrid workplace that attracts and engages the best people.

The pandemic complicated the issue. Many companies are finding that the talent they recruited during the pandemic don’t have the same connection to the company.

The challenge now is to create deep ties, rather than allow loose ties to become normalised. And all of it must be within the hybrid paradigm.

A lack of staff engagement hurts a business. Some surveys suggest 40% of staff globally are considering leaving their current job. In that environment, strategic progress is impossible — simply maintaining stable operations becomes the all-consuming focus.

As the cliché says, every challenge is an opportunity. This is your chance to redefine where, who, and how you recruit. It’s an opportunity to reconsider which parts of your business are insourced and outsourced. It’s even an opportunity to redefine the processes and systems that underpin your entire business.


Read our blogpost, The three-step strategy for hybrid working.


In the meantime, you can take smaller, more immediate steps to solidify engagement — and ironically that’s by reinventing face-to-face meetings.

It’s so easy to communicate from home, so an in-person meeting must be something better. Treat each one as a valuable opportunity. Every face-to-face meeting should be as productive, enjoyable, and enriching as possible. A couple of suggestions:

  1. Be considerate with their time. Bear in mind the time, aggravation, and resources consumed in travel to the meeting, as well as the length of the meeting itself.
  2. Bring your A-game. When you’re leading a face-to-face meeting, give it your full effort and attention. Plan ahead. And expect the same of everyone else.
  3. Get everyone involved. Let everyone know what’s expected of them beforehand, and then ensure they all get involved.

Remote engagement requires a more strategic approach. Hybrid environments need efficient systems and operations. Effective outsourcing requires seamless systems integration. And all of the above requires a vision and world-class leadership.

If you want to discuss how this should look for your business, then please get in touch. We’ve been helping mid-market businesses create systems and work environments for new hybrid strategies — I’d be delighted to see how we can help your company.

 

Visit our Hybrid Working & Post-Pandemic Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

What is a virtual CTO?

A Chief Technology Officer, or CTO, is a critical role in a mid-market business. A CTO is a Board-level position accountable for just about all technology in the company, from hardware to software to teams and suppliers. Reporting to the CEO, the CTO drives innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness across the business.

A ‘Virtual CTO’ or ‘vCTO’ has similar responsibilities, but they are usually more limited in scope. Whilst a full-time CTO makes a long-term commitment to a business, a vCTO will be brought in for a specific task, such managing an ERP project, or shoring up cyber security and compliance.

Virtual CTOs have become more common during the pandemic, as many businesses found themselves with specific immediate needs during lockdown. However, for an ambitious business with medium- to long-term growth plans, a vCTO may not be the best choice.

On the other hand, a fractional CTO will take responsibility for the day-to-day as well as larger projects. A Virtual CTO will, by definition, have a certain distance from the business. But a fractional CTO can deal with the people, process, and technology issues of a mid-market company.

‘Fractional’ simply means ‘part-time’. It is a Board-level position, with the full responsibilities of a CTO. It just provides more flexibility and affordability for a mid-market company.

(Click here for more details on the role of the CTO.)

Who needs a Virtual CTO?

Mid-market companies will turn to vCTOs for a number of reasons. They may need a CTO with very specific experience. Or perhaps the business could use an outsider’s perspective on its technology and growth plans. One very common reason is money: since vCTOs are by definition part-time and/or contract employees, they cost less than a regular CTO.

Fractional CTOs, however, provide benefits in the short-, medium-, and long-term, while remaining an affordable choice.

What do Virtual CTO Services include?

The services a vCTO provides will be specific to the needs of the company. They may take a broader view, providing an overall vision or strategy. Or they may spearhead a specific project, such as a front-end redesign, or purchasing and implementing new software. Whatever the brief, a good CTO needs excellent technical skills and communication skills, as they have to clarify their role to investors, the Board, and staff.

How much does a Virtual CTO cost?

The salary of a full-time CTO will range from £100,000 to £230,000 per year, depending on the experience of the candidate, the role, and geography. A Virtual CTO will be less expensive, but the exact cost will depend upon the length and complexity of the assignment. A fractional CTO, however, can ramp up or down as needed.

Are there many CTO jobs?

There are hundreds of open CTO positions across the UK, but the competition is high. It can be a challenging, secure, and well-paying job, with the possibility of making a real difference to a company, so it’s a sought-after position.

Job seekers should also consider fractional CTO positions, which offer more flexibility and variety. At Freeman Clarke, we specialise in fractional CTOs. Click here to get in touch.

‘The Freeman-Clarke model has worked well for us at an important time of change. Our fractional CTO’s professionalism and “can-do” approach meant delivery of a number of critical projects which have brought our IT systems up to date. Our CTO’s ability to pick up on the complex technology of our industry, combined with his IT capabilities, has resulted in a stronger, more secure IT environment.’

Why Freeman Clarke?

Quality. Our unique model provides a cost-effective way to get the best talent in the business on your team. We hand-pick IT leaders on the basis of their skills and experience and their ability to fit in to the culture of a mid-market business like yours.

Business-minded. We are business people, and we speak your language. Our IT strategies are always tuned to the needs of the business and commercial realities.

Independence. Our CTOs are completely independent. We make no arrangements with suppliers, so you can know that our recommendations are completely objective.

Flexibility. We don’t insist on an upfront payment or commitment to a six-figure sum. We demonstrate value every day, or else just tell us to stop immediately. It’s as simple as that.

Affordability. Our people are the best in the business, but as you take a fraction of their time the price point is affordable. We set our prices appropriate to the mid-market and we don’t cross-sell or upsell.

 

Visit our Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

What is a virtual CIO?

A Chief Information Officer, or CIO, is a crucial role for a mid-market business. It is a Board-level position with ultimate responsibility for technology, teams, and suppliers. Reporting to the CEO, they provide clear oversight of systems, processes, data reporting, and staff.

A ‘Virtual CIO’ or ‘vCIO’ is a hired gun who often takes a narrower role, rather than deal with the day-to-day technical needs of the company. A vCIO may be brought on for a specific task, such as creating bespoke software or beefing up cyber security.

A vCIO brings certain limitations. The post-pandemic technical needs of businesses are expanding. It’s unclear how many workers will return to offices or continue to work remotely, for example, and a vCIO may see these complications as beyond the scope of their work.

A fractional CIO, in contrast, will take responsibility for the day-to-day as well as larger projects. Whilst a vCIO will, by definition, have a certain distance from the business, a fractional CIO can deal with the people, process, and technology issues of a mid-market company.

‘Fractional’ simply means ‘part-time’. It’s still a Board-level position, with the full responsibilities of a CIO. It just provides more flexibility and affordability for a mid-market company.

(Click here for more details on the role of the CIO.)

Why do you need a Virtual CIO?

Every business right now runs on technology. It is simply impossible to have a thriving business in the twenty-first century without it. A high-quality CIO is a must-have for any ambitious company. But CIOs, with their decades of experience in all aspects of technology and IT, tend to command high wages.

Mid-market businesses tend to use Virtual CIOs as a way of getting strategic value without paying a full salary. Fractional CIOs, however, provide better strategic benefits and continuity whilst remaining an affordable option.

What are CIO services?

So what does a vCIO do? Whilst a regular CIO will have full responsibility for all things technical in a business, a vCIO will have narrower responsibilities depending upon the needs of the company. They may include:

How much does a virtual CIO cost?

A CIO salary can range from £180,000 to £250,000 per year, depending upon the demands of the position and the location of the company. The experience of the candidate also affects salary. A virtual CIO will cost less, since they work on an as-needed basis. This may not always be the best decision though, since ‘as-needed’ doesn’t create continuity for a business. A fractional CIO, however, can ramp or down as needed.

How do you hire a CIO?

Employment or personnel firms will help a business find a vCIO, usually for a fee. A better alternative may then be a fractional CIO, who will provide a mid-market business with the right combination of affordability and continuity of service, without a markup. At Freeman Clarke, we specialise in fractional CIOs. Click here to get in touch.

 ‘Freeman Clarke provided us with the perfect individual to be our CIO. He quickly connected with Exigent’s high-energy culture and international footprint, and he helped to get colleagues excited about the possibilities of change.’

Why Freeman Clarke?

Quality. Our unique model provides a cost-effective way to get the best talent in the business on your team. We hand-pick IT leaders on the basis of their skills and experience and their ability to fit in to the culture of a mid-market business like yours.

Business-minded. We are business people, and we speak your language. Our IT strategies are always tuned to the needs of the business and commercial realities.

Independence. Our CIOs are completely independent. We make no arrangements with suppliers, so you can know that our recommendations are completely objective.

Flexibility. We don’t insist on an upfront payment or commitment to a six-figure sum. We demonstrate value every day, or else just tell us to stop immediately. It’s as simple as that.

Affordability. Our people are the best in the business, but as you take a fraction of their time the price point is affordable. We set our prices appropriate to the mid-market and we don’t cross-sell or upsell.

 

Visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

What does an Interim CTO do?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is responsible for technology, teams, and suppliers. They drive innovation and efficiency across the business.

Sometimes a company may be between CTOs and will hire a CTO as a stopgap. Thus an interim CTO, by definition, will be replaced by a permanent hire. This can create confusion and a lack of continuity for a company.

A better choice may be a fractional CTO. ‘Fractional’ simply means ‘flexible’ and can mean ‘part-time.’ But a fractional CTO can stay with your business for years, providing strategy and continuity. And because they work on a fractional basis, it’s more affordable and cost-effective than a permanent hire.

Who needs to hire an interim CTO?

There are a number of situations that may drive a CEO to seek an interim CTO. Sometimes a company looks for an interim CTO to develop bespoke software. Or a start-up may need technology leadership to provide credibility to investors. A mid-market company may want an interim CTO to help it through a period of rapid growth. Finally, a company may seek an interim CTO to keep the IT and technology working well until they can find someone permanent.

In our experience, a fractional CTO has been a better choice in every one of these scenarios. An interim CTO, by definition, is for the short-term; a fractional CTO can help with the same short-term issues, but their long-term commitment means a more comprehensive and strategic approach. And you aren’t stuck with a contract: a fractional CTO can ramp up or down depending upon client needs.

What do CTO Interim Services include?

  1. Creating a robust, secure, trouble-free infrastructure (including desktops, email, phones, network, file storage)
  2. Managing business systems, including the processes, people, and technology needed to make them work well (such as training, data standards, and documentation)
  3. Delivery of digital initiatives that likely encompass customers, partners and suppliers
  4. Ensuring compliance and risk management (for example, GDPR, PCI, ISO27001).

How much do CTO Interim Services cost?

Surveys by recruitment companies indicate a pay range from £100k to £230k per year, depending on the exact scope of the job and geography. An interim CTO will often work on a day-rate, and that can add up quite quickly.

A fractional CTO, in contrast, is a fixed, predictable cost that works out to be (of course) a fraction of a total salary. At Freeman Clarke, we specialise in fractional CTOs, from a few days per month to full-time, or even entire teams. Click here to get in touch.

How to Hire an Interim CTO

There is no shortage of agencies who specialise in interim CTOs. When considering an interim CTO, consider the following points:

If any of these questions are not answered to your satisfaction, it is likely your business is better off with a fractional CTO.

‘Freeman Clarke aligned our IT with our business strategy. Our systems now provide much greater support for our staff, reducing wasted time, costs, and problems. The culture and practices within our IT team have changed radically, and they are now a critical contributor to our success.’ Mike Yiannis, Hydrock’s Chief Financial Officer, Hydrock.

Why Freeman Clarke?

Quality. Our unique model provides a cost-effective way to get the best talent in the business on your team. We hand-pick IT leaders on the basis of their skills and experience and their ability to fit into the culture of a mid-market business like yours.

Business-minded. We are business people, and we speak your language. Our IT strategies are always tuned to the needs of the business and commercial realities.

Independence. Our CTOs are completely independent. We make no arrangements with suppliers, so you can know that our recommendations are completely objective.

Flexibility. We don’t insist on an upfront payment or commitment to a six-figure sum. We demonstrate value every day, or else just tell us to stop immediately. It’s as simple as that.

Affordability. Our people are the best in the business, but as you take a fraction of their time the price point is affordable. We set our prices appropriate to the mid-market and we don’t cross-sell or upsell.

 

Visit our Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

The three top post-COVID concerns of mid-market CEOs

We’ve been getting a surge of calls from mid-market CEOs. They’re wisely planning for the end of the pandemic, but we keep hearing the same three concerns. Find out what they’re worried about — and the one answer to all of them. (Hint: they’re all about creating value and risk management.)

Visit our Hybrid Working & Post-Pandemic Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.

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