There is a lot of semantics and crossover when it comes to part-time executive work. Here’s a simple breakdown.
Interim, acting, project, contract, fractional. The difference between titles can be confusing, but they all point to a specialised type of temporary executive that companies call on when they are going through a transformation, or for a project or a short-term sales push.
Fractional Executive: Fractional has become a more specialised term to describe a long-term engagement not occupying all of the executive’s time. Fractional executives may work with 2-3 companies at once in senior roles and typically are brought in when the company does not need the full-time capacity of an executive. This title is especially popular in management, where companies can get serious firepower for a fraction of the time (and cost). The popularity of fractional executives is increasing as early-stage companies realize they can now afford an outstanding executive without having to pay for a full-time executive or pay benefits or other costs associated with full-time permanent hires.
Part-Time Executives: Part-time executive is another label for fractional executives, and executives who specialise in this are typically working with multiple clients at once, but in all cases serving in senior roles with decision-making authority (not the same as consulting!)
Interim Executive: Interim executives typically work with a business for 1 month to 2 years. This title can cover a lot of project types, but in most cases, the company needs some kind of change or upgrade. The organisation may have a leadership gap. Maybe they are not sure if they are on the right track, and they need an executive to create an operational roadmap and then execute and implement it to ramp up growth.
Acting Executive: Acting executive is another word for an interim, though typically points to a time frame where an executive is stepping into a role for a short time while the permanent search takes place.
Project Executive: In many cases interims (which still is the catch-all phrase for the specialty), will go into a company on a project basis. The job title doesn’t always matter with a project executive and in many cases, they work alongside an owner or the permanent executive team to accomplish a project or goal. For example, a company could open a new division overseas and bring on a project-based operation executive to set up a manufacturing facility and hire staff. An organisation could be going through a merger, and bring on an interim on a project basis to help with merger integration. A CIO may be hired to complete an ERP implementation, an outsourcing effort, or other technology upgrades. These assignments have very clear deliverables and therefore an end date.
A non-executive director (abbreviated to non-exec, NED, or NXD), independent director, or external director is a member of the board of directors of a company or organisation, but not a member of the executive management team. They are not employees of the company or affiliated with it in any other way and are differentiated from executive directors, who are members of the board who also serve, or previously served, as executive managers of the company (most often as corporate officers). However, they do have the same legal duties, responsibilities, and potential liabilities as their executive counterparts.
Non-executive directors provide independent oversight and serve on committees concerned with sensitive issues such as the pay of the executive directors and other senior managers; they are usually paid a fee for their services but are not regarded as employees.
All directors should be capable of seeing the company and business issues from a broad perspective. Nonetheless, non-executive directors are usually chosen because of their independence and initiative, are of an appropriate caliber, and have particular personal qualities.
It should be about the results
Most importantly, to quote Robert Walters, professionals who specialise in interim/part-time roles are often highly motivated by short periods of intense problem-solving and the variety of an ever-changing professional landscape. They are independent and therefore able to take a fresh look at a company’s problems without needing to please a potential future boss. They don’t do politics, and they are paid to come in, do the job, and get out!