What a CTO – Chief Technology Officer does?

cto-duties-1What are the duties of a CTO?

In the course of this article we are going to highlight the relevant duties of this official as it relates to the betterment of the organization.

To grasps fully the duty of the CTO we are going to break it into four main categories and they are as follows:

What is the mission of the CTO? You might ask, well it can be broken down into three axes.

  • Trustworthy long-term strategy,
  • Preaches about the technical viability of the company to others,
  • He inspires other technical crews (i.e. engineers) and the same time help  maintain a cultural stability in the company.

How to measure the CTO performance?

How is the efficiency or performance of a CTO evaluated? We can list three methods of doing and they are given below:

a) Tech Strategy Alignment

In the field of number or mathematics, this method is carried out simply by comparing the ratio at which a company achieves it set goals that are related to the technology trend.

In the light of this Greg Papadopoulos (former CTO of SUN) was quoted as saying:

“It is indeed true that the CTO is not responsible for revenue made each year, however if theirs is massive deviation in this regard- he/she should be shown the door. Likewise in the area of delivery, the CTO is not directly responsible for this, but if theirs is lag in the technical inflection (say in the area of internet), same verdict should follow (he/she should be sacked).”

b) Health of Engineering Culture

This can be done by physical survey methodology of the level of happiness experienced around the productive force of the company. A backdrop is seen if there’s no new genius in the field of engineering is attracted to the company for a considerable period of time.

c) Internal CSAT

CSAT is an acronym for customer satisfaction across and organization in terms of the technicality. In this light, if the organization is not doing well in the area of satisfying customers who patronizes the company, then the company is advice to sack the CTO. This duty is similar to that of the CFO as we shall see later on.

How should a CTO use his time?

There is no hard and fast rule in this respect, however, since the duty performed is not only relegated to within the company only but also outside the companies frame work, the CTO must schedule a time reasonable for both the internal and external responsibilities. Here’s a little suggestion that has been tested and trusted:

a) External: The CTO should allocate 70% his time to representing the company externally.

  • An average (i.e. 35%) of the external time should be used in attending sales and customers
  • While 20% of the external should be dedicated to telling other about the company (i.e. marketing or evangelism)
  • And the remaining 15% should be geared toward developing the partnership strength of the company

b) Internal: 30% of time.

  • Provide better understanding on any information collected from the external environment of the company to the internal workforce.
  • Unites the workforce of the company so as to ensure easy assimilation between the engineering and sales sectors.
  • Provide articulate support in the area of marketing which includes providing as well white papers
  • With this portion of time, the CTO takes care of the engineering culture of the company and the same the level of retaining experts which by extension involves serving as a shepherd.

What the specific duties of the CTO are?

There are specifically five key duties a CTO oversees and they are:

  1. CEO/Strategy
  2. Engineering/Product
  3. Sales
  4. Business Development,
  5. Marketing.

The responsibilities that relates to the duties above are further highlighted below:

a) CEO/Strategy

  • The CTO is responsible for predicting the key technical issues that may be bring about a backlog to the company and then act on them
  • The CTO also proffer suggestion to the CEO (and CFO/COO) on how to achieve better future result in the area of technicality. The best option among the suggestions is then acted upon.
  • The CTO is said earlier on to  be similar to the duty of the CFO in that they both occupy a unique position (sound board members on which the CEO can rely on for neutral views) as (s)he has no direct or significant assets in the company.

b) Engineering/Product

  • As earlier quoted, the CTO is not in charge of the delivery of the company’s goods, but he contributes his quota to the success of that department by working hand in hand with the product & engineering VPs so as to ensure proper functioning of that sector.
  • The CTO in this respect is focused on the long-term strategies of the company and how to achieve them and not the day to day running of the affairs and duties so as to avoid infringing his priorities.
  • Helps in the area of training and bringing in new qualified personnel in the work force of the company (i.e. recruiting)
  • It unarguably true that the CTO must be a solid backbone for the VP of engineering and all times. He should be self-sacrificing and be willing to help in brainstorming.
  • Continually being responsible for the uniqueness of the company when compared with other companies.
  • In fact the CTO is the brain box for the company’s product lines

c) Sales

  • Another delicate responsibility of the CTO is in the area of partnering with sales organization in a bid to ensure effective closure of customer accounts
  • Build strong work relationship with the sales departments and with the individuals who make up the departments
  • Be punctual, regular and the same time participate in meetings relating to the customers complaints so as to boost the confidence on the company.
  • This in fact is the most cautious responsibility of the CTO as it relates to sales; he should k now the right word to use and when to use them. If he is unsure of anything, then it is wise to direct the customer to necessary department handling such.

d) Business Development and Partnerships

  • There’s a saying that goes to say “two is better than one” on this light partnering of the CTO with peers of the organization foster success in the business environment.
  • Monitor the progress of the company in the area of technology, identify and work hard to correct any lapses so as the keep the company in good light.
  • Predict as well the future of the company in the area of handling trends and variations of the market environment which we all know that is unavoidable

e) Marketing

With the word marketing, we already know what this involves- simply selling, promoting, advocating at all time the good will of the company with the greatest level of persuasion and enthusiasm.

The summarize all that have been said, the CTO is by all ramification an invaluable tool to the success of the company and should not be seen as luxury but rather a necessity. Why? The CTO is the evangelizer and the same time the engine of the company which contributes to the overall success of the company in the long run.

Please leave your comments below!

2 thoughts on “What a CTO – Chief Technology Officer does?

Add yours

  1. For me, the CTO is a translation layer between the business and technology; regardless of the stage of the business, the bottom line duty is that of ensuring the business’ objectives can be best achieved through the use of technology. At an early stage, this may involve the creation of technology to fulfil business objectives, but as the business grows, this becomes less important than ensuring that the business has the resources needed to implement the right technical solutions according to its needs. This commonly means transitioning from hands-on development to team leadership, then to strategic thought leadership, but always with the goal of matching the technology to business goals.


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