What Is a Virtual CTO?

A Chief Technology Officer, or CTO, is a critical role in a mid-market business. A CTO is a C-suite 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. While 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 cybersecurity and compliance.

Virtual CTOs have become more common during the pandemic, as many businesses found themselves with specific immediate needs when offices were closed. 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 an executive 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 executive team, and staff.

How much does a Virtual CTO cost?

The salary of a full-time CTO will range from $140,000 to $280,000 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 US, 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 specialize 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 financial 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.


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