When you’re staffing up a start-up, you’re working with an exciting blank slate: you have the chance to put together the team you’ve always wanted to make the business you’ve dreamed of a success. It’s important not to be blinded by the possibilities, and make sure your executive team is a highly competent and experienced group who will challenge you as much as they reinforce you – a board of Yes-Men is bad news for your company.
You need to make sure you’re getting the best of your executives, and part of that is understanding what they do, and how they can best be used. With that in mind, today we’re looking at the office of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Who are they? What they do? And do you need one?
What’s a CTO? What do They Do?
Your CTO is not just the head of your IT department, and you shouldn’t be looking for someone who’s merely good at resolving IT issues.
Your CTO is in charge of putting your digital strategy into practice: they work at the sharp end of the IT cliff-face, not resolving problems with forgotten passwords and broken printers, but turning your board’s ideas about how your company should operate into tools that will allow it to hit the targets you decide.
This can mean the role is heavily research based, finding ‘off the shelf’ systems that meet the needs of your business, and pitching them as solutions to the board. A CTO my also design and lead development of IT products both for the business and for its customers, and be the ‘public face’ of the business’ IT side for clients.
This means a CTO doesn’t just need technical know-how: they need management skills, and a sales execs winning public face to make persuasive presentations.
Most importantly, a CTO’s role and responsibilities needs to be set by a CEO who’s informed about the needs of her business – it’s an evolving role and the CEO needs to be personally invested in it to make sure their CTO is deployed where they’re doing the most good.
Do You Need One?
Not all business have the same needs. If you’re very tech focussed, and have both internal needs for IT solutions to manage your workload and projects, as well as presenting an IT product for customers, your board needs as much technical expertise as it can get.
If that’s not the case, it may be wiser to have a single position that roll CTO and CIO together, and along other miscellaneous technology responsibilities. You may even be able to do without a dedicated IT spot on your board. The most important thing is to listen to the needs of your company and staff it appropriately.