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Developing Custom Software? Don’t Hire an 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.

Visit our Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

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.

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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You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.