Blog Post

Do You Need A Fractional CTO / Chief Architect

by: Simon Hughes
date: Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019
category: fractional-cto chief-architect

Over the last 20 years I have observed, advised, and launched numerous startups and I have come to the conclusion that early to mid-stage companies don’t require dedicated executives in every role. A CTO is a role that doesn’t require a full-time commitment for many modern software ventures.

Fractional Ownership

After working with a small local business, helping them to develop a brand new product far outside of their comfort zone, I started considering whether I could turn this into a full time business. Having spent a lot of time thinking through the proposition, I kept coming back to the idea that most software companies don’t require a full CTO or Chief Architect and there was the possibility of an opportunity for me as a fractional CTO and Chief Architect. I first met some CEOs of companies in Bristol and the South West to better understand their needs and see where I could provide value and this allowed me to discover some of the most common scenarios when companies need a fractional CTO.

The key business benefit of a having Fractional CTO is that they provide the same technology expertise and capability of a full-time CTO without the level of salary, benefits, bonus, pensions & stock options that usually come with adding a top level executive.

There are some key scenarios where companies need a fractional CTO:

  • You need a tech strategy and dont have a CTO
  • Your existing technology team needs guidance and oversight
  • You require more confidence and visibility into what your team are doing
  • You are launching a new product or company
  • You may have lost, or be about to lose an existing CTO

You need a tech strategy and dont have a CTO

When your executive team lacks a CTO, the responsibility for Technology often falls to the Founder, Owner or CEO. They are often over worked, and focus on their areas of expertise and leave Technology decisions to the team. They are also busy trying to deliver projects, and lack the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If you only employ PHP developers then the solution to all problems is to write something in PHP. In todays business environment leaving your technology choices to chance will not deliver the right outcome for your business. Organisations need to constantly evaluate and look at the bigger picture to work out how to remain relevant and drive larger market share and profitability.

I help my clients answer the difficult questions:

  • What is it our customers need?
  • Should we build it, adopt an open source solution, or buy it?
  • How will this integrate into the wider world?
  • Will it scale to support our customers ambitions?
  • What skills are our team missing, do we need to expand the team, or invest in training?
  • What is the wider market doing, and what do we need to do to remain relevant?

Your existing team needs guidance and oversight

You may lack the confidence in your technology team to make the right strategic and long term architectural decisions. My clients depend on my to help make these right decisions, but also to help mentor and coach and inspire the team, both personally and professionally. I can advise on the right time to grow the team, and advise on recruiting and onboarding of new team members to ensure they can hit the ground running. If your team members have ambitions to grow into the CTO role I can help them learn the new skills required to grow into the role in the future.

You require more confidence and visibility into what your team are doing

If your team is struggling but you are unsure why, I can conduct a team and technology assessment. This will help you understand why you are consistently missing deadlines, why the team are not delivering, or why you have a feeling that you’re not getting your moneys worth from the team.

I have often found that most problems product teams face stem from relationships and lack of focus so I have learned to start there first.

Fractional Simon

You are launching a new product or company

Most of the company founders I speak to are product focussed and are often advised that they need a technology co-founder to be successful. Usually these companies are lean, can't afford, and don't really need a full time CTO. In this scenario they normally follow one of 2 routes, hire a good CTO and then expect them to spend lots of time in the detail and do coding, or hire a senior developer and expect them to cope. The first situation is a complete waste of money, and the second leads to big gaps as they won't understand the complexities of the role and what is required to make the strategic decisions.

A fractional CTO / Chief Architect is the perfect answer to this scenario, allowing you to keep the costs down, whilst providing the valuable technology direction and control that is essential to building a new company and product.

I am usually hired to help evaluate technology solutions, highlight key risks and issues, help develop the product roadmap and determine the most cost effective way of getting to the Mimimum Viable Proposition (MVP) that can be taken to market and validated. I am also regularly involved in writing and presenting pitch decks as the business progresses through the milestones required to raise capital and get the business to the situation where it may warrant a full time CTO.

You may have lost, or be about to lose an existing CTO

If you have lost your CTO or need to end your relationship with them and don’t have someone ready to fill the role, or are struggling to attract the right full-time CTO, a fractional CTO can easily fill the gap. Providing this level of continuity is important for the health and focus of your team and the confidence of your customers.

If you want any more info on how on a fractional CTO can help you, please feel free to contact me, pick up the phone or drop me an email.

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