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The benefits of working with a great team of CIOs CTOs and IT Directors

During our recent Freeman Clarke conference we talked to a few of 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 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.

What does a fractional CTO really do for a mid-market business? 5 tips to make it work.

The use of fractional Board-execs in mid-market businesses is growing. More companies see and hear stories of successful engagements, more talented execs looking for a change start to think of the fractional model as normal… this creates a virtuous circle.

There have been fractional execs for decades, typically Finance Directors, and this way of working has gradually spread across the disciplines: marketing, HR, legal and finally IT.

Freeman Clarke are the largest team of fractional CIOs, CTOs and IT Directors – this is our business.

What’s the difference between Fractional and Interim

Interims typically work full-time for a client for a limited period on a specific project. They are retained to deliver a technical result, they are “hired guns” who inevitably remain outsiders.

Fractional Board-level execs really engage and connect with the company and the team. They are there to deliver a business outcome, they will put in the effort necessary to do this, and they are committed to the long-term success of the business.

5 Tips for a successful fractional CTO engagement

  1. Check your fractional CTO has real Board-level experience, first class business skills and deep technical expertise.
  2. Choose a fractional leader who fits with you and your Board; they need to feel relevant and “get it” immediately.
  3. Treat your fractional CTO as part of the leadership team. Open up, include them in difficult and confidential discussions. A fractional leader can’t be relevant if you don’t give them the permission and knowledge.
  4. Demand short-term wins but keep a laser-focus on the long-term business objectives. Insist on a clear strategy, as well as real, visible progress every month.
  5. Take the opportunity… a fractional CTO can create new starting points, offer new visions, save money, and potentially transform your business. Of course you want today’s problems fixed, but keep an open mind to the bigger picture as well.

Contact us… it all starts with a conversation!

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.

Who are Freeman Clarke?

We are the UK’s largest and most experienced team of CIOs, CTOs and IT Directors and work exclusively in the mid-market. Our team of Principals are highly experienced and deliver real value to our clients everyday.  Graeme Freeman, one of the Co-founders and Directors) explains exactly who we are and what we do in this short video.

(Image left to right: Graeme Freeman, Steve Clarke)

For more information or to find out how one of our Principals can help you use technology to grow your business please get in touch today. [email protected] 

 

Recruiting a CTO is getting harder for mid-market businesses

IT leaders who are focussed on software development and digital are often called CTOs (Chief Technology Officers). The terms CDO (Chief Digital Officer) and CIO (Chief Information Officer) are also sometimes used but, in this content, we’ll stick with CTO.

You can download the briefing where we talk about

What exactly does a CTO do?

Why are CTOs so hard to find?

Options for finding a CTO

Part-time or fractional CTOs

Over the coming weeks we are creating a series of content pieces about CTOs, their role, how to find and recruit  them and the invaluable benefits they provide to a business. All of which can be found on our CTO Knowledge Centre page here.

You might also find our page on CTOs for software and digital relevant/interesting too.

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.

Hiring a CTO – what are the 6 must haves?

We hire more CIOs, CTOs and IT Directors than any other organisation in the UK and we are often asked about our approach.

Our recruitment process is sophisticated and detailed and our screening and selection has been developed and improved over several years.

We have an infographic which highlights the 6 must have talents that we think makes the best CTO for your business. View the infographic.

So what do we look for?

We specifically look for 6 things. All are equally important and all are absolutely essential.

    1. Technical Expert. Custom software and digital technologies are complicated and involve deep and specialist knowledge. CTOs need an extensive understanding of technology, security and engineering built up over years in the industry. They need to understand infrastructure, business systems and online technology and, in addition, they need up to date and detailed experience of products, vendors and evolving practices. No field changes as rapidly! The best CTOs don’t just follow the field, they are leaders – active at events and in online discussions.
    2. Focussed on People. Of course, all of business is about people. Even the most complex software needs to be built by people, and for people, and team working is at the heart of any successful venture. The CTO needs to be a coach and mentor to his team, respected by all those around him. Communication needs to flow easily upwards, downwards and across.A CTO needs to engage with all the stakeholders, be a source of energy and good-humour, and needs to fit in.
    3. Creative Entrepreneur. The CTO needs to be passionate about driving growth and fully committed to the ambitions of the business. That means understanding funding and valuation mechanisms, business plans, and the full range of disciplines like marketing and legal.Of course, any complex project has issues and the CTO needs to be creative, agile and proactive to rapidly recognise when changes are necessary to stay on track with the vision.
    4. Commercial Manager. Running the team and suppliers requires good planning, good communication and careful attention to detail. CTOs are often responsible for a range of compliance issues and need to be aware of the implications of contractual and regulatory frameworks.Budgets need to be carefully monitored and managed and contracts and prices negotiated. Managing suppliers is a careful balance to maintain good relationships and long-term commitments whilst ensuring that costs are kept under control.
    5. Strategic Thinker. Technical discussions are often extremely (painfully!) detailed. Bespoke digital technology is complex and intricate but a good CTO sees the bigger picture and how the technology will be part of the business strategy. Often discussions around the Board table are vague; opportunities are ambiguous; the key questions are about the art of the possible and good CTOs need to be comfortable with this. A tech strategy must be creative but also sensible, useful and flexible.
    6. Compelling Leader. The CTO forms part of the senior team and needs to lead from the front. The CTO contributes to decisions, is bold and visionary and holds others to account. As the business grows the stakes become higher and the CTO needs to be confident despite the pressure. Where there are external investors, partners or other stakeholders the CTO needs to represent the business to them. External investors, in particular, need to draw confidence from the CTO as his or her role is so critical to the success of the venture.

We devote a huge part of our management effort to recruitment, screening and selection of CTOs, CIOs and IT Directors. And, because we work in the mid-market, we only select CTOs who can fit in with dynamic businesses rather than needing the comfort of the corporate environment!

It is rare to find all of these talents in one person – which is why a good CTO is so valuable.

Over the coming weeks we are creating a series of content pieces about CTOs, their role, how to find and recruit  them and the invaluable benefits they provide to a business. All of which can be found on our CTO Knowledge Centre page here.

You might also find our page on CTOs for software and digital relevant/interesting too.

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.

How can a mid-market business recruit a CTO?

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-up businesses are increasingly investing in custom software. Very simply they want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focussed, flexible, experienced CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) who can make a real difference. I recently had a discussion with Graeme Freeman (Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke) about who CTOs are and why so many mid-market businesses are requiring them – below is the summary of our conversation:

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 tech. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes to the Board.

Graeme Freeman: So is this an internally facing role?

Martin Davis: Well again that depends 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.

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.

The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.

Graeme Freeman: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?

Martin Davis: Great technicians who are also leaders and are tuned into business and commercial issues are very hard to find. 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 fintech, proptech, healthtech and edutech 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.

The UK is a world-leader in developing new tech-based ideas in many industries and great tech leaders are in demand.

Graeme Freeman: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?

Martin Davis: There are really only 3 ways forward.

Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive – of course agents or head-hunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. And partly because you have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interims 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 expect to 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.

They have the backing of our full team, we are completely independent of any suppliers and this is all we do.

Over the coming weeks we are creating a series of content pieces about CTOs, their role, how to find and recruit  them and the invaluable benefits they provide to a business. All of which can be found on our CTO Knowledge Centre page here.

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.

Managing Partner’s Briefing on IT’s Role in Successful Legal Services

The context for IT in the legal sector is changing but the winners are those with, amongst other essentials, a defined IT strategy where IT spend is targeted at driving their business performance. Many of our IT Directors have wide experience in this sector and they have created this Briefing Document specifically for Managing Partners/CEOs in this sector.

 

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.

Hiring an interim Chief Technology Officer, interim CTO

As more companies invest in bespoke software, there is an increasing demand for interim Chief Technology Officer (interim CTO). This blog post helps explain the potential opportunity and potential issues.

Why build bespoke software?

Many companies have crashed on the rocks of bespoke software – it is both risky and potentially expensive.

Any project can go awry, for example an office fit-out can go wrong – but at least you can see what’s going on; you can explain what you want and why; and you can assess progress and issues with your own eyes. But none of this is true for bespoke software. It’s complicated and most of it isn’t visible. And developers are notoriously difficult to communicate with!

But, bespoke software can extremely be valuable – not least because it’s difficult to get it right. Bespoke software can allow you to do things better than your competitors, it can allow you to give you customers a higher quality experience, and to create new, high value services. It can allow you to scale your business without proportionate increases in costs. Bespoke software is intellectual property and it amplifies the value of a business.

What is a CTO, Chief Technology Officer?

A CTO or Chief Technology Officer owns all aspects of IT centred on software development. A CTO should bridge the gap between the business and the development activities and ensure the software delivers the business plan.

The CTO’s basic role is to understand the market need and commercial opportunity, and help develop business plans. And then to ensure the ideas are turned into working software effectively, in-house or externally. But most importantly the software must be well designed, well engineered, secure, properly tested and compliant with contractual and regulatory requirements. Finally the CTO ensure that all software is properly hosted and supported.

In order to deliver, an interim CTO must understand the commercial context properly. For example, for ecommerce they should understand external partners like Amazon, ebay and how search marketing is optimised.

As well as working well with the rest of the Board, an interim CTO should be able to deal credibly with external investors, advisors, partners and suppliers.

How to hire an interim CTO

Interim CTOs generally work on fixed term contracts, on a day rate basis. Interim CTOs normally find their work through agencies and are available at short-notice when available. They will expect their appointment to be full-time for the duration of the contract, and will generally work alone.

Freeman Clarke provide fractional (part-time) CTOs rather than interims as we believe the interim model lacks flexibility for the client and exposes the short-term interests of the interim. Our team make a long-term commitment to understanding a client’s business aims and have a long-term interest in the viability of their work. We can ramp up or ramp down so remain engaged with our clients on a flexible basis for the long-term.

CTOs can only join our team after an extensive and rigorous screening process, so we guarantee that our people really are the best in the business.

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

Real-world advice to the Board about Meltdown and Spectre

Another week and another story about malware, this time the attacks are called Meltdown and Spectre. These weaknesses are particularly technical and widespread and, this time, it’s been picked up and (hyped up!) by the media.

But our advice is pretty much the same as always. Your IT guys simply need to get the basics right every time, efficiently, quickly and reliably, then you will be as safe as you can be. This attack has hit the headlines but there are new issues every week and this just should be bread and butter to your IT team.

The background is that Intel have revealed a significant flaw in their chips that has the potential to make almost every single computer used across the globe vulnerable to hackers giving them the ability to read the memory of the computer potentially gaining access to account details and passwords. What’s different on this occasion is that the problem is with the hardware, specifically the processor, and not something that can be easily fixed in hardware unless we’re going to replace all our devices, including smartphones and tablets, and computers and clearly that’s never going to happen. Instead, it’s the Operating System that needs to be updated to protect the hardware from the hackers and so, even though the flaw is on the chip itself, it’s the likes of Microsoft and Apple that are having to rush out a software patch.

It’s actually surprising that hardware flaws like this haven’t been seen before, today’s processors are incredibly complex so it’s quite likely that we’ll see more of this kind of flaw being found, particularly now researchers know they are possible.

Patches are being released for Microsoft, Linux servers and Apple and these should all be rolled out as part of the regular updates on your company PCs, servers, phones and tablets as soon as possible. However, your technology team or supplier should be careful; Microsoft have already identified that in some circumstances certain Anti-Virus systems can interfere with the patch and cause other problems. So, make sure that your technology team or supplier test the patches on a few machines first to satisfy themselves that all will be well before rolling it out to all machines in your company.

So check someone on the Board is chasing your IT guys about the schedule for applying these patches, updating anti-virus for all your servers and all your other devices. If you use cloud systems (or other hosted systems) then your IT people need to be checking that the provider is taking the necessary action.

Fortunately, because these flaws are complicated, at the moment the risk of hackers exploiting them is low. But new threats emerge every day, and your IT team must be actively involved, and managing the rollout of patches and updates all the time and checking your critical suppliers are doing the same.

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.

Giving back

Our Principals consistently tell us when they join that one reason they  got out of a corporate environment and have decided to make a career as a Portfolio IT Director is because they want to give back. We work mostly with fast growing companies usually with revenues in excess of £5M, but that doesn’t stop our Principals wanting to do more, particularly with charitable organisations that would benefit from our skills. We do donate to charities, both as a business and as individuals, but money can sometimes be limiting. Giving our time and effort will, we believe, provide a far more significant difference.

This was why we got very excited when we found out about CITA, the Charity IT Association, because it is exactly what we were looking for; an organisation set up to help other Charities find people in the IT profession who could help them with IT Strategy or sometimes specific IT issues within their particular charity. It couldn’t have been a better fit and after talking with Tracey Phillipson of CITA, I was struck by how much alignment there was between the two of organisations. CITA enables charities to register on their website and explain why they need help. Volunteers, like our Principals, sign up and can view those requests and, if they want, take them up on the requirement and get in touch. Most of them want some help with IT Strategy or similar which is why the fit is so good for us.

Until now, Tracey explained, CITA has mostly concentrated on London because that was were most of the volunteers came from, but with our national coverage through our Principals, the opportunity to grow throughout the UK is immediate. This can only be a good thing. Freeman Clarke’s aim is to make a long-term commitment to CITA and provide an opportunity for our Principals to give back and for the Charities associated with CITA to benefit from this relationship.

You can find out more about CITA here: https://charityithelp.org.uk/

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.

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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.