What is a Fractional CTO?


Why do I need a CTO?

As a startup or agency, one of the most critical hiring decisions you will make is to bring on a CTO or chief architect. As a technology-based business, the success or failure of your company depends on making the right decisions regarding technology stack, high-level system architecture and how to grow your development team.

But what if you don’t have enough time to invest in finding the right technical leader, or the size or scope of a project doesn’t justify bringing on a full-time CTO?

That’s when a Fractional CTO is a perfect option.

What can a Fractional CTO help with?

1. Establish a solid technical foundation.

One of the most important factors in determining the success (or failure) of a project is to establish sound technology choices based on unique requirements and constraints. For example:

  • What high level system architecture (e.g: API-driven, monolith or microservice based, event sourcing) should be used?
  • What backend technology stack and datastore(s) should be used?
  • What frontend framework (if any) should be utilized?
  • (If relevant) what technology will be used for the mobile applications? E.g: hybrid (Cordova-based), native compilable (React Native) or fully native (Objective C/Swift, Kotlin/Java). A CTO or chief architect can help you make the right decisions to set up your project (and team) for success.

2. Put the right tooling in place.

Having the right tooling in place is essential to guarantee the development team is efficient, engaged and operating with sufficient transparency to the rest of the business.

Without proper tooling, the development team will waste time on tasks that should be automated and will “spin their wheels” on busywork, which offers no value to the business.

Examples of must-have tooling for high performing development teams include:

  • Efficient and easily configurable development environments, which match the production servers as closely as possible (e.g: Vagrant, Docker).
  • Automatically enforcing coding standards and architectural precepts using linters and static-code analysis tools.
  • Deeply integrating project management software (Jira, Clubhouse, Pivotal Tracker, etc.) with source control, so project progress and release history can be tracked with high granularity.
  • Using best-in-class IDEs, selected on a per-language basis.
  • A Fractional CTO can help select and implement the right tooling to guarantee the efficiency and efficacy of your development team.

Optimize your development processes/work-flow.

A Fractional CTO can help optimize your existing development processes, or put optimized processes in place from day 1.

These processes include:

  • An appropriate level of automated testing and/or test driven development (TDD), based on the problem domain and business’ risk profile.
  • Putting continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines in place.
  • Establishing industry-standard source control processes and best practices.
  • Helping to define a development and release cycle, including automatic generation of release notes.
  • Working with the development team to put code review and/or pair programming practices into place.
  • Having the right processes in place will ensure the development team is productive, engaged and always operating with transparency with the broader business.

4. Development services, including rapid prototyping.

Having access to a Fractional CTO also means that you have the ability to instantly deploy a senior level engineer for urgent or mission critical development tasks. Typically use-cases include:

  • Rapid prototyping for exploratory projects.
  • Last minute support to push a project over the finish-line.
  • Urgent troubleshooting and debugging of production issues.

Want to find out more?

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