Full Time or Fractional Support? How to Choose.
One of the things leaders struggle with in a variety of forms is whether to handle business needs by hiring or by outsourcing. Sometimes this is a simple decision; for example, easily quantified tasks such as bookkeeping or payroll are often prime candidates for fractional support.
But when it comes to the executive suite, things get a little thornier, and the decision points become less clear. Does it make sense to outsource C-level functions? For many organizations it does, but let’s look at some considerations that might help guide you to the right decision.
Is yours a newer company? One thing that trips up many start-ups is that they “don’t know what they don’t know.” In other words, the current team may simply be unaware of other, better ways of doing things. At the other end of the spectrum, companies that have been in existence for a long time run the risk of hidebound, “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.
While both of these scenarios could presumably be addressed by a new C-level hire, a seasoned executive advisor might be the better choice. A new hire will bring experience from their previous firm, and probably some fresh ideas. An executive advisor brings to the table experience not only from a number of other companies, but across a variety of industries. You might be surprised at how often a solution from another vertical is the right fit, especially when it comes to software and other IT considerations.
Cost Benefit of Fractional Support.
This one is usually a pretty easy decision at any level. One of the main reasons the outsourcing model exists in the first place is the cost benefit. Whether it’s a bookkeeper or a CIO, fractional support will almost always be a more attractive option than a full-time hire with benefits, from a cost perspective, anyway.
Beyond the ongoing monthly numbers, though, there’s this: it is very costly to find, hire and onboard an employee at any level, especially in the C-suite. And if that person doesn’t work out, not only does the whole cycle repeat, there’s an additional opportunity cost in the things that didn’t happen because you made the wrong move. In other words, the time investment in a hiring mistake may put you further behind the competition by the time you realize things haven’t worked out.
Forest or Trees?
This is the corollary to the “we’ve always done things this way” mindset mentioned above. It’s very easy to develop tunnel vision as it pertains to leading your organization. One way this plays out is in bringing in someone to solve an issue that then turns out to be a symptom and not a root cause.
Returning to technology, we see this play out over and over again with CIOs hired to address software shortcomings. Often the real problem is not the software itself but that the overall IT picture was not designed to align with the organization’s needs and goals. This frequently involves new software rollouts, and if you think a bad hire has a high cost, you’ve never lived through a poorly-planned software launch. Beyond the expense of redoing everything, a misstep here can cause team morale to plummet in a hurry.
The fractional CIO starts with the forest – what the company actually needs to accomplish – and then moves on to the trees of actual software solutions. He or she has the goal of breaking down the silos that hamper planning and communication to get feedback and buy-in from all concerned. When everyone is rowing in the same direction and knows they’ve been listened to, that software rollout has a much higher probability of success.
And there’s yet another way in which this can play out for the best: the executive advisor first helps to align technology solutions with organizational needs and goals. With that framework in place, the path to a successful permanent CIO hire is much clearer, and the organization can interview for the best fit with what is now a clearly defined strategy.
There are many more considerations to any decision of this scope, of course, and there absolutely will be situations in which a full-time C-level hire is the right decision. Consider the benefits of an executive advisor, however, to help you make that decision more effectively.