What is a Fractional CISO and Do I Need One?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Being in growth mode as a business is usually considered a great thing, right? Maybe your capacity has increased, or you landed a huge new client, and your revenue is about to take off. But while these positive changes are welcome to the small-to-medium-sized business owner, there’s another increase that needs to stay top of mind: risk.

“When you’re in growth mode, risk goes up substantially,” says Jamie Wolbeck, Vice President of Technical Operations at SUCCESS Computer Consulting. “When an organization that is going through growth, they usually don’t pay much attention to security or good security practice.”

It also means that while you might suddenly need more security advice and guidance than ever before, you might not be in a position to invest the upwards of $200k it could cost to hire the right type of permanent, in-house IT expertise. 

Enter the Fractional CISO, or Chief Information Security Officer, from SUCCESS.

“This is an extremely rare role to be able to hire for. It’s hard to find the talent and it tends to be pretty expensive,” Wolbeck says. “What SUCCESS is able to offer with this role is that for organizations that have particular high compliance needs, regardless of size, we can give them a representative to help guide them through that compliance journey.” 

Often compliance winds up in the lap of an unlikely department, like finance or HR; even if you already have an in-house IT person or team, it’s highly improbable that they’re so well-rounded that they can cover every one of your IT needs, especially when it comes to cybersecurity.

“It’s impossible to assume any IT person or even small team can account for all the needs of a business. It’s why these Fractionals exist,” explains Brent Morris, Vice President of Business Development at SUCCESS. “It’s because we know you might not have the expertise, and even if you do, that person likely needs guidance and mentorship from an organization that’s been cultivating this for almost a decade, like SUCCESS.”

While a Fractional IT director is more focused on an organization’s infrastructure, cybersecurity is the Fractional CISO’s bread and butter. 

“Some organizations don’t have visibility into areas where they need to be protected, whether it’s vendor partners or just general good cybersecurity process, practice, and procedure, so they’re a high-risk organization and they don’t even realize it,” Wolbeck says. “This role—especially combined with our other services—can greatly accelerate where your business is at, to get to safer ground, and move then move beyond that.” 

There are many reasons you might be ready for a Fractional CISO. Sometimes it’s reactive, the need to respond to a breach; other times it might be because you’re experiencing growth, and therefore seeing a steep uptick in risk. Wolbeck says that often clients see the need for a Fractional CISO when they take on a new large client or vendor partner whose compliance and security documentation needs have far outpaced their own, or their ability to show proof of such processes and procedures. 

Additionally, the Fractional CISO is meant to have a seat at the executive’s table. 

“This is an executive role, so the Fractional CISO meets with the executive team and provides advice on what needs to happen and what security investment needs to occur, given a business’s risk profile,” Morris explains. 

SUCCESS believes cybersecurity is a journey, and the Fractional CISO service can help you begin that journey by assessing your current cybersecurity situation, and then giving high-level guidance and advice to your executive team, scaling your security practices to meet your growing needs, and better positioning you to take on those higher-level opportunities that might have otherwise passed you by. Plus—a Fractional CISO can give you peace of mind, knowing your cybersecurity journey is being led by a certified expert.

“We talk a lot about hope vs know—you hope that security is being addressed, but a Fractional CISO can help you know it,” Morris says.