3 Reasons Why Your SMB Needs a Fractional CISO

Cybersecurity, Interim Leadership, Resources


A witch’s brew of globalization, disruptive technology, and regulatory compliance has created new challenges for business executives. Never before has Information Technology been so integral to a company’s success and outright survival. From emerging to mid-size companies, having a part-time CIO serve on your Executive Management Team is the most effective way to leverage the knowledge and experience of a seasoned CIO without the expense of having one on staff full time. 

Often, small and medium businesses have an infrastructure-centric IT Manager or Director that doesn’t yet have the business acumen to guide the executive management team through strategic IT related issues and opportunities. Nor do they have the experience to ensure that the proper business processes and related business systems are in place to support scale.

A fractional CIO can provide:

1. Methods to leverage technology and process to drive scale

Often, early-stage companies struggle with supporting growth without additional operational costs that usually come in the form of adding headcount. An experienced CIO will possess a unique understanding of how an enterprise and its supporting technology and business processes evolve through a company’s developmental growth stage and how innovative IT approaches can increase the value of a company’s products and services.

A CIO with end-to-end start-up thru scale-up experience has ‘been there and done that.’ They know how to introduce sound business processes that support growth without stymieing innovation and agility, as well as how to reduce the need for additional headcount to support administrative needs. These early-stage processes are the foundation for good business practices and governance as the company matures. I’ve worked with several companies that implemented emergency programs to focus on process and governance to prepare for an IPO or improve their “appearance” to be an attractive acquisition target. Starting early in the process is less disruptive and becomes part of the company’s DNA while increasing its potential valuation.

2. A ready resource for advice on large technology investments, strategic direction, and acquisition issues

An experienced CIO, especially one that has been a member of an executive management team, can provide valuable advice on IT strategy aligned with its strategic plan. This early alignment will provide a roadmap for IT investments required for growth and will save precious capital in the long run.

M&A transactions do not always meet expected financial goals due to unidentified IT risks, unplanned IT integration expenses, and a lack of focus on IT cost savings opportunities. Technology due diligence, part of the pre-acquisition process, can identify potential IT cost savings, impact on infrastructure architecture, and integration strategies. During the integration phase, an experienced CIO will identify operational risks and mitigation strategies to manage the critical transition period across business units.

3. Input to management issues such as regulatory compliance and governance requires the experience beyond that of a Junior IT Manager.

Depending on your company and the nature of your business, compliance issues are on the agenda of every executive management team. The list of compliance regulations (SOX, PCI/DSS, FERPA, HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, RoHS, 21 CFR Part 11, Patriot Act) is long and getting longer. The implications for IT departments can be far-reaching, time-consuming, and expensive.  Because of the risk exposure to the company, including its brand, ‘doing it right the first time’ has never been so important. A fractional CIO can create governance techniques, processes, and frameworks that can be applied to support compliance.

Experienced fractional CIOs have the street credentials and the boardroom savvy you will require from your CIO when your company decides it is ready for one full-time. Adding an experienced part-time CIO early to your team will help ensure an effective and efficient application of your IT assets. You can acquire the executive IT management experience your company needs for a fraction of the cost.

About the Author

Rocky Vienna is Crosslake’s Practice Director for IT Due Diligence and Cybersecurity. With over 25 years of experience, he has led global enterprise initiatives at an impressive array of Fortune 100s, start-ups, and medium, fast-growth companies in healthcare, technology, financial services, retail, digital publishing, hospitality, and higher education.