The Role of a Fractional CTO for Non-Technical Co-founders
Accelerating Software and Technology Projects to Market
8 AUGUST 2023
MARKUS VAN AARDT
OUTSOURCING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AGILITY CLOUD COMPUTING SOFTWARE ENGINEERING CAPACITY CAPABILITY
Within startups, non-technical co-founders are often overrun with the challenges associated with building and launching a software or technology product. To take a concept to market without a technical co-founder (or strong technical lead) is sure to be filled with dangers and challenges than initially expected. This is where a fractional Chief Technology Officer (CTO) can make the difference.
Firstly, looking at the role of the non-technical co-founder, they bring a wealth of domain expertise, business acumen and vision to the new business. They often understand the target market, the typical users and the use cases the product should aim to serve. However, when it gets to the design, development, implementation and maintenance of the product, they often have a limited understanding of the intricacies that come with technology. This magnifies the risk of the project and could damage alignment and communication between the co-founder and the engineering team. Without a seasoned technical co-founder, this will remain a minefield for the startup.
In the absence of a technical co-founder, a Fractional Chief Technology Officer (or FCTO) could provide a lifeline to the project. A FCTO serves as bridge between the visionary aspirations of the co-founders and the technical realities of the product. Not only do they possess a comprehensive understanding of the technology required to realise the product, but also appreciate the business context while aligning the two worlds towards achieving the startup vision.
One of the key outputs in engaging an FCTO is their ability to formulate strategies and design the corresponding roadmaps, which will align technology delivery to meet the business objectives. Furthermore, they can assess the feasibility of ideas, recommend suitable technological solutions and outline a phased approach to move from concept to product. The FCTO is also empowered to formalise a well-structured plan to ensure streamlined development effort, optimal resource utilisation and clear communication between the founders and the engineering team.
The FCTO is also experienced to make critical decisions on development frameworks, architecture, scalability and security through their deep understanding of the technical ecosystem. This allows the startup to reduce risk earlier in the process and implement a process to continually manage risk in these areas across the development life cycle. The FCTO essentially guide technology choices to enhance the project efficiency and reduce the risk of failure and setbacks.
Since time is one of the most important resources to startups, a FCTO can accelerate timelines through implementing and managing the best process to suit the company, product and team. In some cases, the FCTO even take on the responsibilities often associated with project managers and scrum masters. The FCTO remains a key in communicating across the business/engineering divide.
Another benefit introduced by the FCTO is access to their industry network of engineers, suppliers, experts and potential partners that may be required to deliver the project quicker, or to address technical challenges the project may face. Joining this with their management approach, the FCTO cultivates a culture of accountability and excellence, which results in a more efficient development process.
Before the product reaches its target market, the FCTO also takes responsibility to define, structure and enable the operational capacity required to support the product in the wild.
In conclusion, the FCTO is instrumental to bridge the gap between non-technical founders and their engineering teams. As a strategic technical partner to your project, an FCTO has the ability and experience to improve your startup’s chances of success.
And then there’s the added bonus of not having to dilute shareholding in your new company since the FCTO is a consultant working on contracting basis for your startup.
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