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Are you on your “A”​ game? Keeping yourself up to date has never been more vital…

FACT: The CIO/CTO position is the only Board position where the necessary knowledge and skills need constant updating. Just like Moore’s Law has seen the exponential increase in computing power, so has the IT expert’s need to stay abreast of technology. It can be a nightmare. CEOs want their teams to be on their ‘A’ Game, and for us that means constantly updating our knowledge and our ability to handle new tech.

And the stakes are high. IT increasingly underpins all strategic business objectives—no department can deliver them without IT. It’s our team that increasingly underwrites the strategic objectives and enables the CEO to deliver them and to provide shareholder value. So we absolutely must understand the latest technology and being able to discuss options, ideas, and principles with department heads.

We don’t have to know everything. I’m not talking about in-depth ‘build-a-layered-network’ type of knowledge. I mean having enough technical knowledge to be able to innovate, to make informed strategic decisions, to keep the business ahead of the competition, and to know what the technicians are talking about.

This means that a fundamental part of knowledge acquisition is deciding what to learn, how to learn and when to learn. So, how do you choose?

We use a simple diagram:

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The idea then is to figure out where each bit of technology falls on the continuum. Here is what I suggest:

1. Think about your current situation and the needs. You might even make a list:

·      What do you need?

·      What does the company need?

·      What does your team need?

2. Once you have the needs in front of you, prioritise:

Where is the most urgent need for knowledge? Concentrate on that area, but don’t ignore the others—make sure they have an appropriate place in the order.

3. Work out how best to gain this knowledge. There are a number of ways to learn:

·      The traditional route. Websites, books, magazine articles, etc. Many CIOs we know set up Google Alerts on topics they want to stay on top of. This method is useful for finding new knowledge or innovative ideas.

·      The on-the-go route. Podcasts, TED sessions, audiobooks and the like—sources that you can learn from when you’re driving or exercising. This method works well for topic assessment or getting under the skin of a specific technology.

·      The planned attendance route. These are occasions when you’ve signed up to a training session, a conference, or a webinar, because the topic is interesting and useful, but it’s not an immediate priority. It’s also useful for ‘large topic’ learning.

·      Just-in-time. This is when you’re just a few pages ahead of those you’re working with. This sort of knowledge can be gained from peers, colleagues, or even the technical teams. You just need to know how to ask the right questions. This is not a substitute for the other routes; it has to be ‘as-well-as,’ not ‘instead-of.’

·      ‘Find an expert who knows.’ Look within your network for someone with an in-depth knowledge of the subject. Buy them a coffee or lunch and find out the salient points. Also: ask the expert how he or she acquires their knowledge; they may know a website or seminar you haven’t heard of.

Remember that for the most part this is not about monolithic knowledge. It’s about distinguishing which pieces of knowledge will be useful to you and the business. Prince2, for example, is all very well. But if you try and implement the whole thing you lose credibility. Instead, implement a few useful parts as the basis of sensible project management. The key to knowledge acquisition is knowing which bits to leave on the cutting room floor.

CIOs and CTOs have a complex job, and their knowledge base reflects that. It’s not just the functional IT knowledge they need to keep improving, there’s all the IT leadership knowledge as well. Not to mention the business and commercial skills, like forecasting and budgets. Whilst these other areas of knowledge don’t change at half the speed functional IT does, they do move on. So you need to constantly review the diagram above, adjusting your learning objectives accordingly.

A successful CIO or CTO will be the one who invests time and energy in judiciously updating their knowledge and skills. If it’s not yet a priority for you, it damn well should be! The fundamental point is don’t let it become something that you look back on and realise you should have done more of. Regret can be a painful thing to have in a career.

 

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.

CIO, CTO, or CISO: Which one do I need?

We are often approached by ambitious mid-market CEOs looking to transform their business with IT and technology. The question of how to go about it depends on the particular business. (When a salesperson tells you their product is exactly what you need to fix all your problems, hide your wallet.) What all these businesses have in common, however, is the need for an experienced, commercially minded IT expert on the Board who can lead the transformation.

Another question quickly arises: What kind of expert? Does your mid-market business need a CIO, a CTO, or a CISO? Let’s take you briefly through each position so you can make an informed decision.

What is a CIO?

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a Board-level position with ultimate responsibility for technology, teams, and suppliers. CIOs provide clear oversight of systems, processes, data reporting, and staff — when it comes to IT and technology, the buck stops with them.

CIOs will actively contribute to Board discussions on higher-level decisions and will ensure the IT solutions support the business strategy. Their focus is on business improvements, risk management, and cyber security, rather than delivering the day-to-day technology.

In addition, CIOs drive integration, automation, and transformation projects, such as an ERP or bespoke software development.

CIOs have decades of experience in all aspects of technology and IT, so they tend to earn high salaries. (See our article on CIO salaries.)

What is a CTO?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is also a Board-level position, someone with deep commercial and IT experience who can create, lead, and deliver technology strategies and solutions that accelerate business growth. The CTO, however, will be more involved with delivering technology initiatives, for example overseeing the development of bespoke software or apps.

For organisations with both a CIO and CTO, the CIO is usually senior. But the positions should be complementary, especially if a business is looking to grow. And whilst there will of course be overlap in terms of skillsets, they are two different positions, with different career paths.

CTOs also have decades of experience and tend to earn high salaries, if not quite as high as a CIO. (See our article on how to determine CTO salaries.)

What is a CISO?

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is also a senior-level executive, and usually works closely with a CIO and/or a CTO. As a mid-market business becomes larger and more complex, it often needs a specialist to own and lead cyber security, so they hire a CISO.

A CISO is specifically responsible for the security and safekeeping of technology, information, and systems. They communicate risk and mitigation strategies in commercial language that makes sense to the Board, whilst driving the leadership and cultural changes that make security a reality.

This means that CISOs have ownership of cyber security for a business’s infrastructure, applications, and systems and processes. They manage information risk and regulatory compliance, as well as disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

CISOs are highly specialized and in-demand, so they too command high salaries.

Paying for a CIO, CTO, or CISO

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the differences between the positions and what your own business may need. There is also the question of how to pay for them. Mid-market businesses often don’t want, don’t need, or can’t find a full-time CIO, CTO, or CISO. That’s why Freeman Clarke uses the fractional or part-time model. (See our article, Why fractional?)

We are not a recruitment agency. We’re a team of 85 Board-level CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs who can join your senior leadership team to own and deliver your IT strategy and cyber security on a fractional basis.

This means that we bring transformational business benefits at a fraction of the cost. Our expert technology leaders create, lead, and deliver systems and digital strategies that will drive growth and innovation, help you seize new opportunities, and ensure you’re safe from cyber concerns, without harming your bottom line.

The range and experience of our IT leaders also means that you’re not limited to the strict definition of any of the above roles. We get you the IT leader you need, which might draw together different aspects of a CIO, CTO, or CISO.

If you’d like to learn how we’ve helped mid-market businesses like yours, read our client stories. Or Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs 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.

How does it work to engage a Freeman Clarke Principal?

What happens when you hire a Freeman Clarke IT leader, or ‘Principal’? How do we actually work with our mid-market clients to drive growth? Our own CEO Graeme Freeman explains what to expect.

Find out more in our Client Stories. Or visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs 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. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Why are the first 3 months with a client so important?

The first three months are a crucial time when a mid-market business hires a CIO or CTO. Find out why it can make a difference — when it’s done right.

Visit our Digital Transformation 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.

Making a roadmap for growth

We all want to see our businesses grow, but without a technology roadmap for growth it can create a lot of headaches for a mid-market business. Our experts discuss the value of a roadmap for growth and why you should start one.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation 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.

Vision + CTO = efficiency and growth

The right CTO will help a business leader turn their vision into a reality. Find out how our expert CTOs can make a difference to your mid-market business.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Solidifying your company culture

Meeting apps like Zoom and Teams have been incredibly useful for keeping businesses going during the pandemic. And now hybrid work is the new normal. So how do mid-market business leaders solidify their company culture in this new environment? Our experts discuss how IT and technology can help.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Investing in technology, moving into new markets

Many mid-market business leaders see IT and technology as a straightforward business expense. The real visionaries understand that technology can take an organisation to a new place. Listen to our IT and technology experts discuss how they’ve helped mid-market businesses scale up and even move into new markets.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

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.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

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You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.

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