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Technology Advisor vs. Fractional CTO

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At Rosewood we've engaged with our clients both as advisors and as fractional CTO's. We have discovered that the distinction is not always clear to everyone. When should you engage a fractional CTO and when should you opt for a technology advisor ?

It should go without saying that the individual you engage with should have executive level experience, in a relevant domain.

Their job is to bring the knowledge you DON'T have to the table.

A technology advisor is someone who assists the executive team in making decisions. These executives may include the CTO or CIO. Alternatively it may consist of only a single person - for example the CEO - who needs objective advice or support in an unfamiliar domain.

The primary duty of a technology advisor is to inform the decisions that his clients make. These decisions can entail strategic choices affecting products and business processes, or tactical considerations like the choice of software stack and the cost management of infrastructure.

Notably the advisor does not have the power to make decisions - but she influences outcomes by broadening the perspective and knowledge base of her clients.

Reasons to hire a technology advisor might include:

  • A lack of technical expertise in the business - for example when all software development work is outsourced.

  • The need for making key strategic technology decisions without possessing broad in-house knowledge

  • To assist with the selection of senior technical executives - for example during the hiring process for a new CTO.

  • To assist with technical due diligence during an acquisition process.

A fractional CTO, on the other hand, often undertakes many of an advisor's responsibilities, but with the key difference that a fractional CTO will have the remit to make decisions. They interact far more closely with the technical teams in a business. While the fractional CTO can offer advisory services, their primary role is that of managing and implementing the strategic roadmap of the business within the technology domain.

The term "fractional" indicates part-time engagement, meaning they aren't employed full time but dedicate an agreed-upon number of hours to the business.

Business typically engage a fractional CTO when:

  • They are in the process of hiring a permanent CTO, but they anticipate that this process may take a long time. A fractional hire can fill the gap.

  • The business is unable to hire a full-time CTO, due to cost constraints or difficulty in finding suitably qualified individuals.

  • They are not of sufficient scale to justify hiring a dedicated executive.

  • The business wants to hire a person with a specific skill set that can later be replaced by a more generalist executive.

Another way of looking at the difference between these roles, is to think of an advisor as a "pull" role and a fractional CTO as a "push" role. The advisor is consulted as needed, while the CTO will actively manage and guide a team.


Rosewood offers both advisory and fractional CTO services. Reach out to us for more information.

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