CTO stands for Chief Technical Officer, and it would seem that everything is evident here. It is a person responsible for an IT company’s technical processes. However, is it really that simple, and why is this position so in demand and so well paid among companies and startups?
What is the Difference Between CTOs and Architects?
Either way, the CTO performs the role of an architect. One also gets involved in the process of selling a product to a valued customer or in the process of solving a problem with an existing one. However, in addition to the architect’s role, the CTO has many other essential responsibilities.
The СТО’s primary responsibility areas are:
- Engineers in the company: The CTO is responsible for ensuring that engineers’ skills are aligned with company goals, motivated, and fit with company culture. CTOs should also be accountable for providing engineers with growth opportunities. The CTO must be able to set objectives, verify them, and analyze them. Following the market, he must understand which tools suit his company.
- Sales: The СTO is also involved in attracting new customers. He or she is responsible for the timely delivery of the product and effective marketing of the product.
- Strategic planning: for a month, quarter, or year ahead.
- Assistance to other departments: marketing, sales, project managers, recruiters, and HR managers.
A variety of tasks emerge when interacting with other departments. For example, it is necessary to describe technical services for further promotion to customers. On the one hand, anyone could do it. Still, on the other hand, it is necessary to describe the product not only from the engineer’s point of view but also from the customer’s point of view, i.e., in a language that is understandable for them.
In addition to working closely with technical engineers, CTO works closely with sales managers, project managers, and HR managers to help improve the company’s existing processes as much as possible.
In addition, when a company grows, it is the CTO’s job to build a team of architects who will have to handle the volume of sales and requests from existing customers.
As the company grows, the tasks of the CTO may change. For example, in IT, the primary value that the company brings to its customers is software expertise. The problem with software expertise is that it is incredibly complex and increases yearly. The variety of technologies and the speed at which they appear can be seen with the naked eye. The CTO is supposed to steer the company toward development, develop technical expertise, and explain to other (non-technical) departments how to work with existing or new knowledge.
What Other Skills Should a CTO Have?
Due to the broad responsibilities and tasks, a CTO needs more than just engineering and software development skills. One can be a señor in development but remain a junior in other domains.
A CTO must have all the communication, teamwork, and customer relations skills – everything that is not part of software development skills:
- Basic management
- Time management
- Working with people, negotiation skills
- Understanding of sales and customer needs
- Understanding the market and organizational structure of the company
It, by the way, is one of the reasons why there may not always be a person from the company’s engineering team with enough qualities to take the position of a CTO.
When a Company Doesn’t Have Its Own CTO?
Suppose a company does not have its own home-brewed CTO. Instead, it is possible to engage one from the outside. It is called a CTO as a service. If you’re a business owner and hire a CTO, make sure he can build a technical team and trust within it. A CTO turns a workgroup into a team.
Can a Company Exist Without a CTO?
Yes, it can. The company should always have a core of strong key engineers who are the core of the company’s expertise. The CTO is responsible for working with these key engineers, creating and developing the team, thereby strengthening the expertise of the whole company. If a company doesn’t have a CTO, its role and functions can be performed by a group of technical engineers and sometimes by other managers.
The CTO as a service comes into the company to teach employees how to prioritize and schedule many different activities. Therefore, he must say “no” to initiatives that distract from important strategic directions.
The CTO must also correctly manage key company engineers’ time and get involved in recruiting new, strong technicians.
Why Hire a CTO as a Service?
CTOs have a set of skills and abilities that programmers and engineers don’t develop automatically. They need to be developed. CTO defines the work front and direction of the technological part of the company. The person in this position is at the intersection of the interests of the business and the engineering team. He is responsible for ensuring that the product is made on time and to a high standard and meets the market’s requirements.
The position of a СТО is usually held by a person who already has a similar experience and speaks both the language of business and the language of technology. The CTO is the person who sees the whole picture.
The role of the CTO is strongly associated with the stage of a company’s development and the current demands of the CEO or founder of the business. Depending on this, there are different types and roles of a CTO.
CTO as a service comes in 3 types:
- Startup CTO
- A developing company’s CTO
- The CTO of a large company
They have slightly different areas of activity, growth areas, and compensation. Still, they all perform the primary function – the management of the growth and development of the company, solving crises, and planning.
About the author:
Janet Polson is a graduate of George Washington University in International business. She is an unspoken expert in the study of science and philosophy. Janet is also a blogger, author of tech articles and she works as business analyst at Computools.