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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.

The Four Levers of Business Growth – New Jersey

Following our recent event on Long Island, we ran another 4 Levers event at the Natirar Resort in New Jersey in partnership with Vistage, The CFO Center and Chief Outsiders.

The event was to examine how technology, Marketing, Finance and Leadership can fuel business growth when adopted well. Our panelists, including our guest speaker Joe Kelley (Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Growth to Governor Murphy), discussed how efficiencies, competitive advantage and margin improvements can be readily made when these four levers are optimised. But we know it’s not always that easy. Our panelists provide “fractional” exec-level experts which the audience were very interested in learning about – in essence, working with a part-time leader at a fraction of the cost of a full timer.

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.

The Benefits of Working with a Great Team of CIOs, CTOs, and IT Directors

During our recent Freeman Clarke conference, we talked to our Principals and Regional Directors about the benefits of being part of such a large, knowledgeable team of CIOs, CTOs, and IT Directors.

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.

Team Development and Leadership

Your IT team and technology suppliers should be part of your growth strategy, helping to drive improvements in efficiency, customer service and innovation.

Freeman Clarke are systems and digital leaders with a team of technical experts who are widely experienced in leading and managing IT teams and suppliers. With careful leadership and guidance Freeman Clarke can help your business to succeed.

For more information on this topic, click here to visit our technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Center.

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.

How Mid-Market Businesses Can Recruit a Quality CTO

IT leaders who focus on software development and digital are often called Chief Technology Officers, or CTOs. You’ll also hear Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Whatever you call them, it’s getting harder for mid-market businesses to recruit a good one. Download our free CEO’s Briefing to learn:

What exactly does a CTO do?

Why are CTOs so hard to find?

Options for finding a CTO

Part-time or fractional CTOs

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.

Who is Freeman Clarke?

We are the largest and most experienced team of CIOs and CTOs and work exclusively in the mid-market. Our team of Principals are highly experienced and deliver real value to our clients everyday. In this brief video, Graeme Freeman, one of our co-founders and directors, explains exactly who we are and what we do.

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

How Mid-Market Companies Can Recruit a First-Class CTO

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-ups are increasingly investing in custom software. They want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focused, flexible, experienced Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). Recruiter Martin Davis spoke to Graeme Freeman, Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke, to find out what CTOs are, and why so many mid-market businesses require them.

Graeme Freeman: So, Martin, can we just start by defining what a CTO does in the mid-market?
Martin Davis: Well, the role varies a lot depending on what the company needs. But the key point is that a high-quality CTO is more than just the person who is accountable for the delivery of the technology. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes on an executive level.

GF: So is this an internally facing role?
MD: Well again, that depends upon what the company needs. Sometimes it’s all about setting strategy and leading software development. A lot of time may be spent dealing with external suppliers. The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.
But, importantly, a CTO should be someone who lends credibility to the venture. For example, if there are investors or bankers, the CTO has an important role in liaising with them. He or she needs to understand how they think and work.

GF: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?
Martin Davis: It’s very hard to find great technologynicians who are also leaders and tuned into business and commercial issues. The market for good people is always very tight, but it’s getting more difficult because demand from companies, large and small, is increasing.
Areas like fintechnology, proptechnology, healthtechnology and edutechnology are expanding and sucking up lots of great people. And all kinds of businesses are investing in custom software to separate themselves from the market.

GF: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?
Martin Davis: There are really only three ways forward.
Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive — of course agents or headhunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong, because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. You have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interim hires. But they are really just hired-guns, and their commitment lasts until they get a call offering them a higher day-rate. Their flexibility is very limited, if there is any lull or hiatus then they will move on.

But our offer is unique. We have built a team of outstanding people, and they work for our clients on a flexible part-time (we call it “fractional”) basis. So they can be heavily involved during busy periods, and when things are quieter, they can reduce their involvement. They all have first-class records, they’ve seen it and done it, and we have tested and screened their experience. For a CTO that can help a company grow, to work in that company’s best interest and not someone else’s, the best option is Freeman Clarke.

You may also find our ideas on CTOs for software and digital helpful.

Visit our Knowledge Center 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 Does It Take to Stay at the Top of Our Game?

Staying on top of our game — that was the big question we explored at our last Principals conference.

One thing is for sure: people are the most important part of any business, and we invest in our people.

We run conferences where we hear from expert speakers and run workshops to share knowledge, skills and experience. So, when you take on one of our Principals you get the benefit of all this training and the whole team!

Here is a snap shot from our most recent conference in the UK.

If you would like to know more about one of our Principals becoming part of your senior team, please get in touch for an informal discussion contact@freemanclarke.com

CEO’s Briefing on IT Risks, Compliance and Security

No doubt you worry about growing your business and being successful, but as the business grows and becomes successful, protecting it against risks becomes a new source of worry!

New concerns range from compliance with Data Protection regulations, ensuring the business will survive a climatic event, or fall victim of a cyber-attack that destroys all your data.

You may like to visit our Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke could support your business Contact us now for a no-strings conversation.

Hiring an Interim Chief Information Officer

Companies often contact us because they want to hire an Interim Chief Information Officer (interim CIO) and they are looking for an interim CIO agency. The term CIO is often used by larger businesses, or by business owners who have a background in larger companies.

We generally use the term IT Director as this is has a broader meaning and covers a wider range of skills and backgrounds.

What is an Interim CIO?

An interim CIO will generally be a Board-level position and will normally have the following objectives:

  1. a robust, secure, trouble-free infrastructure (eg example desktops, email, phones, network, file storage)
  2. efficient line of business systems including processes, people and technology and everything needed to make this work well (eg training, data standards, documentation)
  3. deliver digital initiatives which probably encompass customers, partners and suppliers
  4. ensure compliance and risk management (eg GDPR, PCI, ISO27001).

Click here to download our CIO CTO and IT Director Job Description

The breadth of each of these points and the balance between them will depend very much on the nature of your business.

The Right Interim CIO for Your Company’s Strategy

It is critical to establish the balance between the 4 points above and to attract an individual who has a track record in your critical areas.

Your company strategy may be to achieve lower price, better service or both. You may be looking to focus on internal efficiency, or excellent online experience. Or you may just need to overcome specific issues or risks. Before embarking on a search, you should untangle these points so you know the kind of interim CIO you’re looking for.

In addition, there are 2 other fundamental questions:

  1. Are you looking for someone to envisage and lead major change, or to manage gradual improvements and fix specific issues?
  2. Are you looking for someone to manage internal teams or external suppliers or both?

There are personality and behavioural differences between people who thrive in situations of major change and those who manage steadier improvements. Similarly, there is a great difference between people who build and enthuse internal teams, and those who manage external suppliers through contracts.

How to Hire an Interim CIO

There are a large number of agencies available for interim CIOs that can be found easily on the web. Senior professionals are very credible so we would advise careful preparation for interview and that you diligently take up references before making any offers.

We advise that you consider the following points in relation to interim CIOs:

We spend a huge amount of our time recruiting the very best CIOs in the business to form our elite team of “fractional CIOs”. Our team are committed to working for our clients for the long-term, on a flexible basis, so during intense periods they can spend the bulk of their time with a client, and during quieter periods then can have a lighter touch to keep the client’s IT on track.

When one of our fractional CIOs joins your senior team then they immerse themselves in your business and aim to be with you for the long-term. We’re completely independent and only recommend the best for you.

There is no lock in to our contracts at all and our clients simply work on a “pay as you go” basis, so our people have to make a difference every day.

We use the term IT Director rather than CIO as it is recognised more broadly in the UK. We use the term fractional rather than interim to emphasise between how we work over the disadvantages of an interim.

If you’d like to discuss in more detail how a fractional CIO can benefit your business, please get in touch via our contact us page or call 0203 020 1864.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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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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