“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” – Albert Einstein
Most of the companies these days are exploring innovative ways in information technology for business growth and are hence adding a role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in their leadership teams. Given the impact of technology on business these days this role seems to be the most promising one considering the future competitive strategy of any organization.
A CTO is responsible for the transformation of capital whether it is intellectual, monetary, or political into technology for the advancement of company’s objectives. There are broadly two possibilities as to why an organization will have a Chief Technology Officer-
- When a company has a central R&D function and they need a person who will ensure better responsiveness to business unit’s requirements and also improved receptiveness from the business.
- When R&D is isolated within the business units, there is a need for someone to ensure overall leadership to maintain company’s technological base which includes the need to scan for technologies that are available outside the company.
However, the size and type of organization play a key role in defining the responsibilities of a CTO. In case of startup companies, the responsibility of a technical leader may starts right from starting up a Wi-Fi router to installing software, networking, making product strategies, building sales process, infrastructure management and the list goes on. A CTO needs to wear multiple hats almost every day of working he not only collaborates with organizations throughout the company but work in the public arena as well.
We have seen startups hiring software engineers or a techie friend to lead their technical organization. The lack of experience and knowledge may be justifiable due to budget constraints. This may work in the short term – but in the long run, may have devastating consequences. To get around this problem – why not hire a fractional CTO or CTO advisory service – which can work with your business, understand the objectives and make recommendations which will have long-term positive effects on your business.
Evolution of CTO
Previously, companies used to have only CIO’s (Chief Information officer) who handled double roles as CIO and CTO. However, with advancement and new technologies coming in, the need to separate the two roles for company’s growth increased. So now many large companies have both a CTO who is responsible for company’s technology (R&D) and a CIO who is more focused on company’s strategic planning.
A CTO’s role is multi-layered as it takes on different attributes based on the organization’s requirements. A CTO would either assess how existing technology can be used or works on developing a new which impacts the company in making its performance better among the competition within the industry. Experts suggest that CTO’s are the ones who are going to be the difference makers as to whether the business will succeed or fail.
Read: CTO as a Service
Here, we have compiled 7 ways in which we think a CTO can be really helpful to a company.
- With increasing complexities in information technology, many companies are looking up to a role of CTO who can manage both infrastructure and operations of IT which include network operations, data center operations, application maintenance & development and other line functions. The CTO, in other words, works as an “infrastructure manager” who ensures that the IT structure of the company operates effectively.
- Nowadays technology is shifting from physical assets to virtual assets such as the Internet of Things, big data, and cloud technology and the focus has increased on integrating applications, data, and processes. Here, the role of a CTO comes into play to ensure that the company stays in the competition as they keep the business abreast with latest cloud technology, analytics, and big data which help in furtherance of company’s goals.
- A CTO’s focus is mostly centered on the product or service that the company provides its customers and makes sure that best technology is used for the customer segment. With today’s customer-focused market the role of a CTO becomes increasingly important not only for the fact that there is a singular focus on the customer is required but also due to reason that there are so many technologies which exist for enhancing any product. CTO’s keep their hand firmly on the pulse of technology and how that new technology will change business.
- CTO’s spend time evaluating how technology can be used internally by the business so as to increase revenues, enable new business models, anticipate competitor’s attempt to use new technology to disrupt his company’s market position. They do competitive analysis, planning and technology assessment for further development and growth of a business. As a “big thinker” of the company a CTO looks for technology advancement at all levels.
- A CTO works as a technology visionary for an organization. He helps in determining how technology can be used to implement the business strategy and subsequently works on integrating and running the technology thus also doubling up the role of an “operations manager”. A CTO with an excellent combination of both business and technical skills can help in successfully designing the functional and technical aspects of the business strategy and build an IT organization to implement its components.
- As a Chief Technology Officer of the company, he/she ensures that the best practices for exploiting technology are shared across the organization e. from the front line to the customers. He also becomes a face for the company’s technical vision by engaging in conferences and media activities and also works with the marketing team to develop strategies.
- CTO can also help the senior management in evaluating different paths to achieve the business goals with his broad knowledge and understanding of how the emerging technologies can affect the company’s business processes.
The reason why CTO’s are becoming more important than ever is that there is a shift in the way on how and what customers want these days and the experience we provide them with our products is what matters. An effective CTO understands the context of technology regarding customer needs, corporate strategy, and the impact on business. He or she not only understands these issues but can communicate them in terms that apply to the concerned in the organization.
The technology is changing at an accelerated rate and to stay ahead in competition CTO can play a pivotal role as he or she understands the needs of business and is able to communicate solutions to both IT and the leadership teams. In a nutshell, the role of a CTO is not just to enable technology but it is the use of that technology which he makes that helps the business to move forward.