Increasing numbers of organisations are appointing a CTO with the role becoming the face of technology in the enterprise in some cases. A CTO's responsibilities can often blur with a CIO. The two roles both use technology to benefit the customer's needs and increase business growth.
According to the 2016 Harvey Nash survey 27% of digital disruption is down to innovations in product delivery. A CTO faces several challenges with technology, looking at how they can sell and deliver digital products to users. CIO UK looks at the problems a CTO faces and how their performance is measured within the organisation. Read more What the difference between a CIO and a CTO?
CTO job role - What is a CTO?
The role of a CTO is measured on how successful the company is doing. The responsibilty requires the CTO to support the business strategy and deliver on technology products. The senior management relies on the IT department, in particular a CTO, to maintain and develop new technologies.
The evolvement of technology has led to an increase in the skills required of the CTO. CTOs now need to show leadership and a greater understanding of the business in order to align themselves with the board.
CTOs are responsible for all aspects of technology within the organisation. The pace of technological change needs the CTO to keep up with digital trends. There needs to be a balance between the business needs and the technology strategy in order for the CTO to increase profit for the company.
Challenges for CTOs: Hiring of talent
Hiring IT talent remains a challenge for CIOs looking to drive transformation, with technology executives responding in the last two editions of the CIO 100 that there was a skills shortage.
Geoff Connell, is the Head of Intormation Management and Technology at Norfolk County Council, said that at his previous role as the IT chief at London boroughs Newham and Havering he had developed a training programme to tackle this and support the local community.
“This year I have continued to build on the long-standing policy that I have developed of embracing young talent,” he said. “As well as work experience and student placements we have taken on unemployed young local residents who have a good attitude and aptitude, but not the experience.”
The range of talent sees the council take on students from who are on gap year from the University of East London as well as five further apprentices. The diversity in the digital team will help to see the ‘opportunities and possible solutions’ in reflecting the Council’s residents, Connell says.
“Engaging more young talent and digital natives in my ICT team to complement the already culturally diverse workforce has helped to ensure services reflect the needs of our customers.”
Of course, Connell is not alone and many businesses are looking to implement training programmes and apprenticeship schemes to develop IT skill sets in order to tackle the skills shortage.
Challenges for CTOs: Digital leadership and customer-centric approach
In order to successfully maintain and develop IT in a modern organisation the CTO needs to show internal and external leadership.
There has been a shift in the business model, from technology and products to exceeding customers' expectations.
The CTO is responsible for delivering technology that promotes new forms of customer engagement. The 2016 Harvey Nash survey revealed 23% of CTO's face challenges in creating new ways to communicate with users and using technology to meet their needs.
The digital landscape is increasing business engagement with 58% of companies now implementing a clear digital vision and strategy, according to Harvey Nash.
The CTO needs to maintain a reliable platform and allow the customers to experience an efficient service. Building a relationship with the users and experiencing the service from the customer's point of view will give a better understanding of how to develop the products.
Businesses and IT departments are aligning themselves with users, in meeting their demands, for a reliable platform.The increasing need for technology has seen user's attention spans decrease with a constant demand for new digital products. One challenge for a CTO is meeting this need. (See also: Why CIOs should operate an apprenticeship scheme.)
Challenges for a CTO: Earning credibility as a CTO
A challenge for the CTO is to gain credibility from the board as a technology leader.
The CTO needs to influence the board in ways which IT can drive success for the company through the delivery of digital products.
The emergence of new technologies has seen the CEO focus on IT projects. The C-suite is now increasing IT budgets by 45%, in wanting projects that will grow business profits rather than save money for the company, according to Harvey Nash.
The C-suite's understanding of the products and services implemented are beneficial for the CTO's role in how their performance can be measured.
CIO 100 member Neil Brooks at AutoData discussed earlier this year how he engages with fellow executives to gain credibility for the CTO role, which he sees as being a business innovator and a contributor to the organisation’s strategy.
He said: “I work closely with other board members to identify the key areas we want to pursue as a business, based on the potential and operational efficiency opportunities, along with the effort to achieve.
“Our strategy is less about digital and more about a business strategy; the digital part is simply the how.”
The CTO can implement a strategy which will look at technology in a larger context. The customer's expectations can be aligned with the business strategy in order to create an efficient service for users. In this way a CTO can develop their own profile.