Harnessing Diverse Expertise for Business Growth
Businesses are dynamic and ever-evolving entities, and for them to sustain and grow, they need to be agile and adaptable. One of the most powerful strategies for organizations to remain competitive is to harness the power of a diverse team of experts.
Mo Hossain is the founder of Data Up and an expert in business data analytics, customer experience management, and technology strategy. As a fractional CTO, Mo is focused on guiding small companies to align their business goals and technology tools. In his 8+ years of technology and business experience, he has worked with some of the largest media, technology, and retail companies in the U.S. and Europe.
Hossain says he often sees C-suites leaders missing out on the diverse knowledge that could be available to their organizations by not partnering with experts in areas of business that differ from what they do.
By assembling a team that has different perspectives, experiences, and skills, a business can benefit from the collective expertise of the group and expand its capabilities. This is especially important when a business is uncertain about what they don’t know, as the team can help them identify new opportunities and solutions that it wouldn’t have been able to find on its own.
Moreover, with the right strategies and processes, organizations can effectively leverage the collective knowledge of their team to drive business growth.
The Challenge Of Figuring Out Who and What You Need
“It’s just too much to know for one person – even me,” Hossain explains. “I know about the technical aspects of things, but I’m not really a CMR. I don’t do the creative stuff. And I wouldn’t know anything about finance. I mean, I do some things for my business, but I don’t have the expertise to say, okay, I’m going to save you $10,000 by doing these tax things or whatever. that’s why it’s really important to have those specific fractional folks that will help guide you through that.”
“A lot of times just figuring out who and what you need to be in place is very important,” Hossain said, “and that’s often what I’ve seen. There will be something like very basic knowledge of SEO or conversion rate optimization missing. But having that knowledge is so helpful because then you can say, I need this person as a CTO.”
More often than not, Hossain says companies need someone like him to guide them through the process of figuring out who and what they need.
“Figuring it out is the biggest thing,” Hossain said. “There are a lot of pieces of knowledge needed in running a business and – as you and I know very well – technology is improving and changing dramatically all the time. What I know today may not be what I need to know next week.”
As a CTO, Hossain says his job is to stay up to date and to make sure he is keeping up with any changes. Not only does he stay on top of the technology, but he also helps his clients through any changes.
“As you can imagine a CEO would have a much harder time making sure they know everything that has to happen in their business on their own.”
It’s a kind of Catch-22. C-suites are missing out on knowledge. But they don’t even know they’re missing out, because they don’t even know they need that knowledge.
In this case, the old adage remains true: You don’t know what you don’t know.
Boardrooms and the C-suites are limited by the people that are in the room with us. Even if you have somebody with competency in marketing or financials or technology, it may not be up to date. If, as a business owner or CEO, you stick to your own space and your own people, you’ll never gain from the exposure to the new and innovative ideas that are out there.
Luckily, many are finding a way to tap into the solution: fractional executives.
Unparalleled Benefit: The Scaled Wins Of A Fractional C-Suite
A fractional executive performs the same general tasks as a full-time c-suite member – but in a part-time capacity and for a fraction of the cost.
They also provide one really important benefit: fresh insights on a regular basis.
Working with someone who’s testing things across various companies, clients, and comfort zones at the same time that they’re working with you can mean all wins are scaled.
Changes that they see work with another client in another industry can be applied to your industry and your business. Lessons gained from one program, strategy, or client, immediately transfer to another, creating a ripple effect of wins.
“Even if I was working with a company as a fractional CTO, it still makes sense for someone else to come in and give their perspective,” Hossain explained. “I have a very heavy analytics background, so everything that I do is very data-driven. But someone else could provide, for example, a creative perspective.”
A Look Under the Hood: The Power Of Audits and Advisors
“I’m not going to say that I’m always right,” Hossain said, “because we don’t always know everything that we need to know – at the moment that we need to know it. The expertise gained from another person coming in – from a different angle – is always interesting.”
According to Hossain, an annual audit, or even one done every couple of years can be useful. Having advisors is another way. In the way that people schedule their annual health checkups, so should business owners proactively plan to have somebody fresh looking at all aspects of their business at least once a year, every year.
This “look under the hood” would involve opening your business to different professionals, perhaps a salesperson, a marketing person, a technology person, an operations person, and a finance person. Turning to a group of diverse experts is one quick way for businesses to find out if they’re functioning in a “healthy” way or if there are some areas of concern.
It’s the best way to find out if there’s something that you should be doing better or differently than you have or in a more unique way. While the cost of an annual audit for a bigger business could be a few thousand dollars, the benefits gained can be worth so much more.
In the best-case scenario, you find out you’re doing everything perfectly, so you can continue on. But the more likely scenario – according to Hassain– is that you’ll probably leave the audit with lists of things that you need to improve or rethink. That’s the power of having different people come in and share their expertise and experiences with your business.
“As CTO, before I start with any e-commerce company, I always do an audit that encompasses the technology side, and touches on some marketing, as well,” Hossain said. “We figure out how the company is doing, what we can do to improve, and how to do it.”
The Role Of The CTO (Chief Technology Officer) in Crafting The E-commerce User Experience
Think about a Main Street shop.
If you owned a typical Main Street shop and someone was coming into your store, you’d probably say “hello.” Then you’d introduce yourself, and let them know that you’re there if they need any help. You’d do your best to make a good first impression.
Then, as they were checking out, you might ask, “How was your experience?” Because you’d want to ensure that they did have a good experience and were satisfied with the service they received in your shop. You want them to come back again.
“But,” Hossain said, “you don’t get to do any of that online.”
In e-commerce, it’s especially important to figure out certain things:
- How did my customer come in to see I have this particular product on my site?
- Did they leave, or did they hang on for a while?
- Did they sign up for an email newsletter or some other way to remain in touch?
Hossain took a bit of an unusual path into fractional work. His previous work experience has been as a sales engineer. As a sales engineer, Hossain’s job was to understand the coding aspect of things – but he realized he also understood the sales aspect.
“I would ask, ‘Okay, what are your pain points? How do we improve this right now?’ Because that’s what a sales engineer does. We talk to the people having pain points, and we figure out a solution from a technological perspective,” Hossain said.
“Now I work with e-commerce companies specifically to help them figure out how to make their processes and systems better. With e-commerce and Shopify companies, there are a lot of different integrations that need to be in place. But there are also a lot of different things that can be improved over time – in terms of customer experience. To do that well, we call the customer.”
As CTO, Hossain believes in stepping outside the bounds of technology to work with both sales and marketing. It’s the best way he knows how to do his job well. Together, they all make sure that everything is working flawlessly as much as possible for the customer.
It’s how they ensure e-commerce customers get as close as possible to the Main Street shop experience.
The Criteria For Hiring A Good CTO Or Fractional CTO
“Most of the time, there isn’t really a need for a full-time CTO because there are things that need to get done, but they are not things that have to be done on a daily basis,” Hossain said. “Some CTOs do a lot of hands-on things, but I like to focus on strategic things and making sure projects are getting done, as they’re supposed to get done, on time. I take a little bit of a different approach, but it works out for my client.”
Whether full-time or fractional, the role of CTO may be only slightly different. So who you’re looking for won’t be very different.
Ultimately, a good CTO or Fractional CTO will have:
- A strong technical background – whether in engineering, coding, or corporate technology. It doesn’t matter exactly how they got it, but this skill is key.
- Project management skills – CTOs and Fractional CTOs often manage a lot of different clients and projects at once, and they need to be able to do it without dropping any of the balls in the air.
- A data-driven approach – A CTO who will drive your business forward is one who approaches their work from an analytics perspective and makes decisions in a data-driven way.
While it’s important to take steps to find the right CTO, Hossain says it’s equally important that business owners take steps to ensure they’re ready to work with a CTO.
“There are scenarios where I’ve literally just told clients, ‘No, I’m not going to work with you. It’s not the right time,’” Hossain said. “Because they don’t fully understand yet the need for a CTO. It’s not about simply fixing problems. It’s about finding the right approach to fixing it. There are things that aren’t going to get fixed tomorrow because time has to be put into developing the right strategy behind those actions.”
The advice remains the same: When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s time to trust the experts.
This article was produced from the interview with Mo Hossain featured on Episode #04 of the “Fractional C-Suite Retreat” podcast, a yorCMO podcast hosted by Joseph Frost, yorCMO co-founder, speaker and founder of The Fractional Professionals Association.
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