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CIO vs CTO: What’s the difference?

It is quite easy to assume that a Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the same thing as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). However, there are important differences from the point of view of a mid-market CEO. Read on to learn about both job titles and their functions.

Internal or External?

Although there isn’t universal agreement on the difference, one way of thinking about it is that the CIO is more internal-facing, whilst CTOs are more external.

CIOs take ownership of internal processes — the day-to-day tech, the systems and devices. A CIO also facilitates collaboration between the Board, IT teams, and other stakeholders. A CIO speaks the language of tech and the language of business.

Of course a CTO must communicate between techies and businesspeople. But they have a strategic function, developing the tech initiatives that will drive growth and value. For example, they will oversee the development of bespoke software and apps.

Is CIO higher than a CTO?

For organisations with both a CIO and CTO, the CIO is normally 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.

Do you need both a CIO and a CTO?

If the business is large and complex, it is a very good idea to have both a CIO and a CTO. Just make sure that there is a crystal-clear delineation of duties so that both roles add value and have space to operate effectively.

The internal vs. external idea is a good place to start. Remember: it’s the CIO’s job to keep things moving along inside the company and to communicate between the techies and business units. The CTO looks forward, developing innovations for growth.

And it behooves the CEO to ensure smooth communication and cooperation between the positions so there is no confusion or duplication of work.

Comparing a CIO and a CTO

CIO: Chief
Information Officer

image/svg+xml

Internal
IT operations
Builds systems to supports growth
Supervises vendors of internal systems
Represents IT teams to the Board
Focus on improving systems and processes
Organized, skilled communicator and technologist
Click to learn What is the meaning of CIO.

CTO: Chief
Technology Officer

image/svg+xml

External
Ensures connection between tech and business goals
Supervises medium- to long-term initiatives, e.g. bespoke software and apps
Skilled communicator and technologist
Uses systems and digital to drive innovation and deliver value
Click to learn What is the meaning of CTO.

“Freeman Clarke were able to provide a CIO to help us develop a roadmap for the future state of our IT systems, together with a strategic plan to help us get there. Our IT has always been a significant value driver in our business, and we need to ensure it stays that way.… [Our] Freeman Clarke CIO has not only helped us with creating that roadmap. He also became a key member of our senior leadership team.” – Chris Johnson, Chairman, JJS Manufacturing.

Why Freeman Clarke?

Freeman Clarke CIOs and CTOs work on a ‘fractional,’ or part-time model. This provides a business with first-class tech leadership without the full-time cost.

Our fractional tech leaders are uniquely suited to mid-market businesses. They have outstanding technical and strategic skills. They understand how to use tech to drive growth. And they are suited to the culture and reality of mid-market businesses.

Whatever the remit, our CIOs and CTOs operate from the fundamental idea of linking a business’s systems and digital strategy to business objectives. This should be the goal of every innovative, ambitious mid-market company because it’s one of the best ways to create real, sustainable growth.

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

What is the meaning of ‘CIO’?

First, there is a simpler question: What does the abbreviation ‘CIO’ stand for? The answer: ‘Chief Information Officer.’ But what is the CIO’s role? How is the CIO different from the CTO? How does a CIO make a difference to a mid-market business?

There is no universally agreed definition of a CIO’s role. But in our view, a CIO is a Board-level leader whose remit encompasses all aspects of IT, including systems, processes, organization, and governance.

The CIO helps develop the vision and strategy of the business and ensures the systems and processes create a firm foundation for growth.

For CIOs to succeed, they must be expert at delivering complex, transformational digital programmes. And they must know how to make tech and people work successfully to achieve commercial aims. This means understanding IT in detail as well as being an impressive communicator and organizational leader.

Who does a CIO do? What are the roles and responsibilities?

The CIO oversees all internal IT teams and suppliers, all IT budgets and IT operations, cybersecurity, and risk management. Their role may encompass digital and online and they may drive initiatives across other areas as well.

These initiatives should include systems and data integration in order to deliver more efficient processes. Integration improvements are often focused on improving margins and customer service. But the CIO will tie integration to improvements in management information and reporting, which are crucial to enabling growth.

The CIO will also be responsible for streamlining and automating systems and processes whenever possible, in order to enable scalability, reduce costs, and facilitate the ability to demonstrate compliance.

In some cases, the CIO is responsible for linked areas of information and compliance, such as regulatory approvals like GDPR and ISO 27000.

Are there different types of CIO?

Naturally, the CIO’s role will vary depending on the needs of the organization.

In some cases the CIO’s main purpose is to drive transformational change; sometimes the role is to maintain and continually improve infrastructure and systems.

Some CIOs are very externally focused, ensuring, for example, that everyone on the Board understands the needs of their customers. Others are far more occupied by ongoing management of internal operations.

For mid-market businesses, a ‘fractional’, or part-time CIO, provides a cost-effective way to access the skills of a top-class CIO.

How does a CIO impact businesses of different sizes?

Systems and tech are at the heart of any modern business, so the role of the CIO is crucial regardless of its size.

In larger organisations, the CIO leads broad-based initiatives where a siloed approach would be counterproductive, for example in businesses struggling with disintegration and incompatibility. The CIO provides unifying leadership, bringing together different groups, resolving competing objectives, and creating buy-in to a single vision.

For smaller organisations, the CIO ensures that commercial objectives are met by managing suppliers, teams, and specific projects. The CIO understands the technical and commercial details and can make decisions accordingly.

In a mid-market business, the CIO spans the range from unifying leader to expert. Critically, the CIO always sets the agenda and drives the business priorities into the IT culture. The CIO is always aware of the strategic direction of the business and ensures that the systems and digital strategy match.

‘A new business strategy required TGS to become the operational centre of the other businesses within the group. We had no systems in place at the time and a very short timescale, so we needed somebody with the knowledge, experience and drive to understand our business very quickly, source and implement a group wide ERP solution, create a new IT infrastructure, and find a trusted IT partner in minimal time. Freeman Clarke came in and completed what we believed was a mammoth task within our timescales, with no drama and delivered us exactly what we needed. Fantastic.’

Clare Coles, Group Finance Director, Traffic Group Signals.

Why Freeman Clarke?

Freeman Clarke CIOs work on a ‘fractional,’ or part-time model. This provides a business with first-class tech leadership without the full-time cost.

Our fractional CIOs are uniquely suited to mid-market businesses. They have outstanding technical expertise. They are strategic thinkers. They understand how to use tech to drive growth. But they are also suited to the culture and reality of mid-market business.

Whatever the remit, our CIOs operate from the fundamental idea of linking a business’s systems and digital strategy to business objectives. This should be the goal of every innovative company because when the two disciplines are connected, we see real, sustainable growth.

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

What is project management consultancy?

Project management consultancy is when an expert project manager from outside an organisation manages or oversees a project or contributes to its management or oversight. 

A project management consultant makes sense for mid-market businesses who are beginning a large project, as most of their people are already committed to other roles. And large projects may be rare, so the company lacks the necessary project management routines and structures.

A professional project management consultant will have the time and expertise to fill this gap. He or she will guide the project and introduce the processes necessary for its delivery. 

Project management consultants also bring their experience of different organisations and projects, and they can avoid getting drawn into routine work that eats up the regular staff’s time. 

What does a project management consultant do?

 

At its simplest, project manager consultants focus on four activities:

  1. Identifying the necessary work.
  2. Identifying the necessary resources.
  3. Ensuring resources are properly allocated to deliver the work.
  4. Monitoring escalating issues and delivery.

These are important activities: large projects won’t succeed if they aren’t done properly. But crucially, these activities alone will not guarantee success

Why do projects fail or get ‘stuck’?

 

It is a well-established fact that most projects fail to deliver. In our experience, projects go awry because project managers don’t address the following crucial issues:

How do you find the right project manager consultancy?

 

The above points are leadership gaps, and project management consultants may not always fill them. In contrast, here are the key ways in which Freeman Clarke consultants ensure a successful project.

  1. Set clear business goals. The underlying business value of the project must be clear and accepted by all the stakeholders. Our role is to have the courage and drive to ensure this clarity is maintained until delivery.
  2. Embrace change. Delivering value often requires significant changes: for example, changes in organisation, behaviour, and/or processes. We take ownership of these changes and ensure they contribute to the success of the project. 
  3. Communicate issues or challenges. Project managers may not communicate issues or risks to the Board in ways that inspire positive action. This can happen even when there is ample progress reporting! We make sure that technical and non-technical people understand potential problems and take steps to resolve them.

To sum up: for most mid-market businesses, large internal projects are relatively rare, so they do not have the senior-level management skills available in-house. Project management consultants provide a solution, but they often leave a leadership gap. Freeman Clarke works with ambitious mid-market businesses to fill this gap and ensure that projects deliver the planned business objectives on time and on budget.

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us or call 0203 020 1864 and we’ll be in touch for an informal 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.

The future of work | Event

Virtual events can be tough, but we did well with this one!

On October 7th, we discussed the ‘Future of Work’, office space vs remote work and fostering employee engagement.

Our experts, Craig Teahen, Regional Director for Freeman Clarke Manhattan, Rachel Drunkenmiller from Unmuted and Richard Sexton from Office Concierge, gave an excellent virtual workshop which can be seen here.

Richard Sexton – Office Concierge

Richard Sexton, MBE, is the Founder and CEO of Office Concierge, a commercial real estate advisory firm. Richard helps companies review their workspace needs and navigate the spectrum of solutions, from flexible to traditional, to ensure companies align the right blend of office space with their WFH policies.

Rachel Druckenmiller – Unmuted

Rachel Druckenmiller is on a mission to humanize the workplace by guiding leaders and their teams to be more resilient, connected and courageous. Through experiential and interactive keynotes, workshops and leadership training – virtually and in person – Rachel activates what’s best in people and organizations.

Craig Teahen – Freeman Clarke

Craig Teahen is the Freeman Clarke Director for Manhattan. Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of fractional CIOs and CTOs. Expert IT leaders who can join organizations to oversee digital innovation, systems and infrastructure to drive business growth.

 

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.

The Fast Tech Audit – join our next workshop

The Fast Tech Audit is an interactive, business-focussed workshop that helps non-technical business leaders learn how technology can drive your company forwards.

Freeman Clarke invests invaluable time with ambitious mid-market entrepreneurs to guide and support them. These sessions are also a great way to build connections with peers in your region.

If you would like to know more about the Fast Tech Audit or want to sign up for one of these free interactive sessions, please complete the form below and we will be in touch to arrange a date and time convenient to you.

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.

Learning from Travelex

Due to a cyberattack, Travelex, the world’s largest foreign exchange bureau, has been at a standstill for more than a fortnight. The reputational and financial impact on the company and its senior leaders will be severe. New laws and regulations, like GDPR and NY Shield, mean that such breaches can no longer be swept under the carpet, and the commercial damage will be compounded by huge fines.

Travelex is a wake-up call to all businesses. In today’s cyber-risk environment, maintenance of your basic IT infrastructure and services is critical to remaining profitable and even staying alive. You may be concerned that if a giant like Travelex gets hacked, how can a mid-market company protect itself? It’s less complicated than you might think.

When we engage with clients, we talk about ‘getting the basics right’. A fundamental part of that is making sure the IT infrastructure and services are fit-for-purpose and up to date. If the basics aren’t right, then there’s no hope of looking at ways to use technology to grow the business and get ahead of the competition.

To provide you with a head-start, here are your first nine priorities:

  1. Prioritise systems maintenance. All systems and services, particularly those that are connected to the outside world, must be kept up to date with the latest software patches. The IT team or your Service Provider must review and update systems in a regular, controlled manner.
  2. Review your backups. Many malware infections encrypt your data and hold it to ransom. Frequent backups mitigate the chance of you losing everything. A regular complete backup of data stored somewhere with no connection to your systems – what’s called an air-gap – will greatly limit the damage of an attack.
  3. Get a penetration test. Get a reputable security company to undertake an external penetration test of your systems and services. Resolve all the concerns raised in the results. Find your vulnerabilities and patch them before hackers find them for you!
  4. Earn a certification. Spend some money, usually less than £10k on earning the Cyber Essentials Plus certification. The process involves making your technology secure, and we’ve seen clients win new business after being certified.
  5. Lock down your data. Each individual in your business should only have access to the data they need to do their job. This minimises the risk of data loss should they leave with it or accidentally click a malware link. Allowing employees wide-ranging access to data is asking for trouble.
  6. Invest in protection. Keep the bad guys out with well-configured firewalls, anti-spam email systems, malware detection software, and pro-active Day-0 protection systems.
  7. Get some insurance. Cyber insurance covers the losses resulting from a cyberattack. It can also aid with the management of the incident itself, particularly reputational damage and regulatory enforcement. Crime insurance covers the loss of money due to theft, fraud or dishonesty and includes theft of money by hackers. Add these two insurances to your portfolio as separate policies, not just add-ons to existing business insurance.
  8. Train your staff. Your employees are the most vulnerable security point in your business. The more they know what to look for and what to do, the better your chances of avoiding an attack. Training is essential for all new starters, and it needs regular refreshing for the whole business – including you!
  9. Plan for the worst. Even with all the above nailed down, you still need to be ready for the worst. Sit down with your top team and discuss potential disasters and plan your way out of them. Who would be in charge? Who is authorised to make major decisions on the spot?

Will Travelex survive this attack? Who knows – the reputational and commercial damage may be terminal. But by following these nine steps, you can avoid that fate for your own company.

For more information see our Knowledge Centre about Cybersecurity.

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 technology to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

6 Steps to business clarity

At Freeman Clarke, we use the term ‘vision’ quite often. But we don’t only mean imagining what’s down the road for your business. We also mean asking yourself if your reports and management information allow you to see your company clearly right now.

You can grow in the short term by reacting to opportunities as they arise. But to grow a business sustainably you need to clearly see your activities and the outcomes, your customers and the wider market.

Clear vision of this information requires a platform of systems and processes that are not easy to implement. The good news is that we’ve done it many times. Based on our experience, we have created this simple list of the six steps for CEOs to achieve clarity.

  1. Clarify who’s in charge. Create a strategy and architecture for where master information is held and how it is shared between systems and people. Which system is the master? Which teams are responsible for creating and maintaining the data?

    Automate links between systems where possible to avoid manual effort which is expensive and (inevitably)  prone to errors.
  1. Set the rules. Set standards for data management and maintenance. Decide who is responsible for ensuring data is correct and for training and policing those standards. Monitor how often these rules are broken and whether specific teams or people are repeat offenders.
  2. Be efficient about reports. Finalising reports for specific individuals can be endlessly time-consuming. Instead focus on the broad areas of information that managers or directors need. Ensure you have flexible tools and reporting skills so you can build and change reports easily.

    Review your reports regularly and ask yourself which reports are valuable and which are not. Stop producing those that are no longer useful. Or change formats where ‘report fatigue’ has set in and useful information is being missed.


    Again, automate wherever possible. Manually generated reports are a great waste of time and money.
  1. Take a hard look at what you’re reporting. Often reporting is focussed on old-fashioned financial indicators. Identify the more relevant indicators, especially the non-financial ones, which will allow you to strategise and manage events as they unfold.

    For example, as well as monitoring sales last month, monitor web activity or numbers of enquiries, which may be indicators of future opportunities. Monitor unusual changes in stock levels or supplier lead times, especially of critical items, to avoid future issues with fulfilment.
  1. Analyse profitability by product, client, and service line. Ask yourself, What are the real drivers of cost? Where do you have influence over cost?

    Use this information to drive cost-reduction projects to provide an extra few points on your profitability for the coming year. Using it to inform the sales and marketing strategy can be transformational to the overall success of the business.
  1. Free your Board from operational distractions. Where in your business is ‘expert judgement’ important? How can you generate data that would allow you to use machine learning? Perhaps to improve decision-making, or to reduce manual effort, or to allow you to scale your business and to free up directors to spend their time elsewhere?

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 technology to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation. 

Team development & leadership

Your IT team and tech 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 Centre.

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 technology 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

Subscribe to our Business Insights

Plain English board-level briefings focused on technology strategies to deliver competitive advantage and business success.

* Please enter an email address
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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.