The Actional Fractional
Your first thought may be that actional is a mistake and should be actionable; however that word was carefully chosen and will be explained shortly.
The word fractional, in the context of this post, is a type of service provided to businesses; it is also often used as a title for those providing the services.
Fractional, as a type of service or part of a job title, is becoming more common, particularly in leadership circles. My title for example is Fractional CTO.
Fractional services are sometimes referred to as pay-as-you-go, on-demand, Something-as-a-Service (CTO-as-a-Service for example), or virtual.
Fractional services provide businesses with the flexibility to access expertise without the commitment of full-time employment.
The services are usually part-time and provided as an on-going service to one or more clients during a given period. An example is 1 hour each month as an advisor with one client, 1 hour each day for strategic guidance a second, and 4 hours each day for team leading with a third.
Fractional providers are often executives and senior leaders. Many have experience spanning decades in their specialised fields such as CMOs, CFOs, CTOs, and other senior leaders.
There is often some confusion about the difference between fractional, interim, and other forms of engagement. The following table provides a nice summary, courtesy of https://www.fractionalsunited.com/.
Actional versus actionable
Actional rhymes nicely with fractional, more importantly, those two words have a different meaning.
The word actionable implies information; this means information that can be acted upon. In contrast, actional takes this concept further by emphasizing active engagement with action.
The following is a short example, from my fractional CTO perspective:
- Actionable approach: Passive engagement to provide information and insights. The client receives valuable information for them to make informed decisions about their technology roadmap, technical resource allocation, and product development prioritisation for example.
- Actional approach: Active engagement with cross-departmental collaboration to create and implement a technical strategy. This may include streamlining the end-to-end value stream through business and engineering, leading team(s), coaching best practice, and integrating feedback into development.
Note that actionable does not imply no impact or negativity, it is simply a less intense level of engagement such as 1 or 2 hours each month in an advisory role.
Most fractional leaders, however, provide a higher level of engagement. A typical example is 2-4 hours each day. This is where a highly experienced fractional leader can provide ongoing strategic advice, foster collaboration, coach teams, and manage initiatives for the greatest impact.
Why do leaders become fractional?
Experienced leaders choose a fractional career for a variety of reasons, driven by a range of desires, such as:
- Work-life balance: the ability to create a schedule that balances personal commitments and preferences with professional responsibilities.
- Diverse challenges: the opportunity to engage with a variety of challenges and problem domains for dynamic and interesting work.
- Entrepreneurial spirit: the excitement and challenge of establishing their own small business providing fractional services.
- Giving back: a strong desire to give back to the community and share their expertise with those in need.
Are fractional leaders always the answer?
Fractional leaders bring a wealth of experience to any business they work with, and engagements with them can continue, though often in reducing levels, for 12-18 months or longer. However, there are some disadvantages to be aware of.
The advantages of fractional leaders
- Cost: dependent on the engagement level, there may be cost savings compared to a full-time counterpart when salary, holidays, and other benefits are considered in full.
- Expertise: a wealth of experience in both their specialized field and senior leadership to provide specialized knowledge and unique insights.
- Flexibility: the possibility exists for a business to adjust the level of engagement with a fractional leader to suit their current needs in a dynamic market.
- Objectivity: as an external entity, a fractional leader can provide objective perspectives and insights without influence from internal bias.
- Risk: since fractional leaders are not employees, businesses have less long-term commitment with the ability to end an agreement if expectations are not met.
The disadvantages of fractional leaders
- Availability: experienced fractional leaders may have multiple concurrent commitments that could make scheduling a challenge.
- Continuity: fractional leaders often help to recruit and coach their full-time counterpart, this may cause a break or disruption in leadership during the transition.
- Focus: fractional leaders may be brought in to solve a single specific issue and, in such cases, they need to focus on short-term gains rather than long-term strategic solutions.
- Integration: due to the part-time engagement, it can be challenging for fractional leaders to integrate with company culture and build trust with full-time employees.
Fractional leaders are an invaluable asset for companies navigating dynamic challenges. They bring experience, objectivity, and drive to create impactful solutions.
While they may not always be the right choice, they can offer cost-effective, flexible solutions that empower businesses during all stages of their growth in the ever-changing business landscape.