Fractional CIO vs. in-house CIO: How to decide which is best for your business

Head-on view of a dark desk and office chair with a gold nameplate that reads "CIO."Serving on a company’s executive leadership team and working part-time might sound like a paradox. However, those two factors go hand-in-hand for professionals in a particular role: Fractional CIOs.

In today’s world, investing in new technologies and digital transformation is vital. At the same time, though, companies face staffing shortages and economic pressures. Subsequently, part-time CIOs can offer essential expert IT leadership without necessitating significant spending.

However, whether opting for contract CIO services over an in-house CIO makes strategic and financial sense depends on your organization’s specific situation. If you’re considering hiring a part-time CIO instead of adding a full-time exec to your staff, here’s what you should know about fractional CIO services and how to determine if this type of solution is the best choice for your business.

What is a fractional CIO?

TechTarget defines a fractional or part-time CIO as a “high-level consultant who aligns information technology (IT) with business goals.” Also known as part-time CIOs, these executives offer guidance to their clients for only a fraction of the time and frequently work simultaneously in this capacity for multiple companies.

Because part-time also means a fraction of the cost compared to a full-time internal CIO, these services can appeal to organizations that require high-level IT guidance but can’t afford the expenses associated with an in-house staff member (hiring, on-boarding, salary, benefits, vacations, sick days, etc.)

A fractional CIO’s duties vary depending on the client’s specific needs. However, fractional leadership services commonly include everything an in-house exec would do (albeit on a part-time basis), such as the following:

    • Leading digital transformation efforts
    • Overseeing compliance initiatives
    • Finding ways to improve cybersecurity posture
    • Overseeing your IT support team, data, infrastructure, and processes
    • Vetting and managing solution suppliers
    • Working with other executives to align your IT and overall business strategies


Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

A table comparing a fractional CIO versus an in-house CIO. Both vet and manage IT solution suppliers, establish strategic roadmaps, find ways to reduce cybersecurity risks, ensure tech and business strategy alignment, guide digital transformation initiatives, and lead compliance efforts. Only an in-house CIO works full-time as a member of your staff and necessitates investment in hiring, on-boarding, salary, benefits, sick days, vacations, and off-boarding.

4 signs you could benefit from a fractional CIO vs. an in-house CIO

Fractional CIO solutions can have a significant positive impact on some companies. However, as with all IT solutions, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Before partnering with a part-time CIO, you’ll want to carefully consider whether the decision makes sense in light of your unique pain points, requirements and objectives.

You might benefit from fractional CIO services if the following statements apply to your organization:

    • You need expert IT leadership, but the costs of an in-house CIO would strain or break your budget.
    • Your company’s IT needs aren’t complicated or intense enough to require a full-time IT executive.
    • You already have a full-time CIO, but they lack expertise in specific technologies or areas crucial to your company’s progress and could benefit from additional support.
    • Your in-house executives and IT team members are open to working with a part-time CIO.

If you’d like more information, please visit our fractional CIO services page. You can also schedule a consultation with our technology advisors by calling 877-599-3999 or emailing

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