[Blog] Fractional leaders offer credible expertise for a changing world

Everyone talks about "deploying AI." But as always, it's only 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration: Fractionals can make the 99% go better.

[Blog] Fractional leaders offer credible expertise for a changing world

Note: This is the first of an occasional series on fractional work in the service of innovating corporations in time of change.

It takes a different angle on "Credibility" than I normally do and aims at a broader audience of professionals, beyond full-time innovators. But I hope you still find it interesting and relevant.

Fractional work is a new-ish word and evolving way of working that sits somewhere between consultants, outsourcing, temps, interim leaders and other professional services.

One leading Fractional community's definition of the word appears to gain popularity. According to Fractionals United, fractionals are:

🎛️ part-time,

🪴 fully-embedded

🔭 leaders and experts,

♾️ (usually) with no end date.

🎤 They also may represent the company officially.

Fractional leaders exist for most functions in business life and beyond: strategists, operators, marketers, PR professionals, advancement professionals, accountants, and more.

For example, I do my startup work in a fractional role.

Fractionals offer significant expertise in tight "packages."

Here is one use case, to showcase the role and its value.

AI and data alone are not enough

We are getting ever closer to (generative) AI being deployable in most companies: Privacy and legal issues are getting resolved, tools are getting fine-tuned for many functions and use cases, and professionals everywhere are wrapping their heads around what it is and how to use it.

As the models appear to become somewhat commoditized (from the perspective of general business users), the importance of data has emerged. A good AI model can only benefit you if you supply it with good, org-specific data.

Ah, but even those two together–AI and data–won't give you results.

According to research by RevOpp and marketing expert Angela Urbachewski, for example:

  • While 60% of recruiters are looking for candidates with AI skills, most companies still do not have an AI training roadmap and individuals are largely pursuing training/continuing ed on their own
  • 70% of employees say they are using AI for work, but only 1/4 of companies say they are actively implementing it. 

What's missing?

Training for sure, but also roadmaps and implementations. In other words, it's not yet clear what the point is, how AI can add business value, or how we can match it up with our people and operations.

Fractionals can help fit AI to your world

Current teams and leaders at companies everywhere can tackle, much of AI strategy setting and implementation themselves.

But sometimes, especially at smaller (~ SMB) companies, the current teams struggle with making AI work for them, as the research indicates.

This makes sense. The kind of major change that AI represent takes more than "just" functional expertise. It also takes expertise in acting fast and well in ambiguity and uncertainty. In other words, it takes people with strong change and/ or innovation experience too.

And that is what fractional leaders can often offer:

  • Empathy with company leaders for describing and achieving the business purpose that the change must achieve
  • Expertise in a function's work, to know what and how to implement the new way of working
  • Frankly, focus and cost savings vs. standing up an entire team related to the change.

To be clear: Fractional leaders are not a panacea. Whenever people in the business world get too excited about a shiny new concept, they over-use it and mis-use it, and it falls flat.

In particular, fractionals are only one person, working part time. They can only succeed as part of the team, not as prima donnas telling everyone else what to do. It's a humble role for hands-on experts in a space, who want to succeed together.

Shameless plug 😁

Might fractional support be right for you?

If so, let's talk!

I may not be the right person for your needs. But I may well know someone who is.

Related side bar: One of the most beautiful things that I didn't expect about fractional life?

Fractionals have no incentive to BS you. Whatever work we agree together, we, the fractionals, will be personally on the hook to deliver. No ducking. So if we promise something we can't do, we are the ones with an egg on our face.

So it's inherently in fractionals' interest to be honest and work with you to figure out what's needed, whether fractional makes sense for your needs, and whether they, specifically are the right person.

Of course, just like with anything new, there still are bunches of hucksters and snake oil salespeople out there. 🤷‍♂️😠 So the principle of "buyer beware" still applies. But by and large, you should find great people among fractionals ... and maybe even great help for your needs!