CEO Best Practices

How To Hire A Fractional CIO

Fractional CIOs may be all you need. But getting the most out of the relationship is another matter. These four dynamics will help you hire the right fit and maximize the benefit.

Scott Smeester


April 18, 2024

Photo credit:
Lex Sirikiat

When is a cup half-empty actually full?

When what is in the glass is all that is needed.

Full is measured by need more than capacity.

The Place For Fractional CIOs 

If you have determined that a fractional CIO meets your need, you have four major considerations to take into account in the hiring process.

The first is to do an assessment of your essential needs. It’s not enough to say, “We need a CIO, but we only need them part of the time.” A hunch, a sense, is never enough, nor is the fact that you have an IT team that seems to be in need of more executive leadership. Eliminate the vague.

To do so, assess three critical areas:

  1. People: What is needed in delegation - so that the team is more efficient - and what is needed in development - so the team is more effective?
  2. Process: What systems need to be built so that a fractional CIO is directing energy where it needs to be?
  3. Platforms: What do we need our incoming CIO to anticipate and to prioritize?

Look For These Qualities

Professional: You want a CIO who is proven in four areas.

  • They are reliable. You can’t waste time in deadline delays, meeting changes, or other drawbacks that are more easily recovered by a full-time CIO.
  • They fit the culture.
  • They are analytical. Fractional CIOs must be quick to pick up current realities.
  • They are strategic. Not all CIOs are strong in strategy. The fractional must be.

The goal of finding a professional is to reduce friction as they integrate into the company.

Relational Leader;

  • They are adaptable.
  • They are positive and create positive environments and exchanges.
  • They develop individuals and teams.
  • They know how to include employees within IT and outside IT.

The goal of finding a relational leader is to be more intentional with team development.


  • They are self-assured. The C-Suite can work with a full-time CIO’s insecurities over time. The fractional must mature, holding to a solid sense of self.
  • They communicate well, both listening and translating, particularly as it relates to understanding the objectives of the business and the realities of IT development.
  • They maximize situations and resources.
  • They are catalysts, moving from ideation to activation.

The goal of hiring an executive is to increase confidence in profitable technology.


  • They have a history of achieving.
  • They understand how to most effectively arrange the parts into a cohesive whole.
  • They stay focused on their strengths and their lane.
  • They are consistent in the application of their gifts, skills and strengths.

The goal of hiring an expert is to maximize your investment of time, energy, abilities and money.

How To Onboard A Fractional CIO

Three keys:

  1. Have those working directly with the incoming CIO do their own assessment of IT.
  2. Similarly, have them list 90-day expectations of what will or will not be accomplished.
  3. Report findings to the incoming fractional CIO, and work with them to incorporate appropriate needs/expectations into a change-leadership plan.

The goal is to ensure that change is to fulfillment - people don’t mind change if it serves their preferred state.

How To Lead A Fractional CIO

When bringing on a fractional CIO, you want to do so establishing a unity of purpose. Having served as a fractional, I have a history of building systems, leading change, and a general way of doing things. 

It’s a bias that needs to be checked and challenged depending on the purpose. Not everything a fractional has done translates to your current need. 

Also, you need to establish the fields of evaluation a fractional CIO can expect. It’s more focused than what a full-time CIO may be accountable for. How does the fractional know that they are succeeding in your eyes.

Finally, establish a clear exit. That could be based on time or projects accomplished or systems built. The exit can be renegotiated, but a clear view of the end informs a fractional’s strategy and plans from the outset.

The tech landscape is rich with fractional executives, most of whom are characterized by proven resumes, storied careers, and a heart to invest in exciting, but well-defined, opportunities. 

I’m happy to introduce you to the one you need; the CIO Mastermind network has a nice looking stable of talent to tap. I’m also happy to help you conduct the assessment and/or participate in the search.

I am for you. I am for them. I’ve never considered myself a matchmaker; I will make an exception for you. You might find your cup runneth over.

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