The Role of CTO

It's necessary for every company to understand what it means to be a good technology leader.

A CTO owns technology decisions and direction at his or her company. Technology systems help the core of the business function, serve as the roadmap and/or vision for technology products, and drive the way the company operates internally. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the role of CTO continues to grow in importance.

It’s easy to identify the need for a good CTO, but another thing altogether to find one. Understanding what it means to be a good CTO is important for every organization. Whether you are the CIO, CTO,CSO, or CDO, you own the technology at your company.

CTOs own technology at their companies

It's necessary for every company to understand what it means to be a good technology leader and be able to act on it. It's not uncommon to have a CIO and a CTO in the organization. It all depends on what you value and how your organization is structured.

More companies are now utilizing the role of a CTO, even small businesses and startups. Every business in 2020 is a digital/technology business. You can't avoid it. If you aren't using software now, then you won't be in business in the next few years. When businesses adapt to technology, they need leaders who can execute the vision roadmap and drive a successful initiative.

Misconceptions about the role of CTO

A CTO is the CTO for everyone, not just IT.  

It's about understanding how the business operates as a whole. You have to understand how marketing, sales, HR, and the core business works together so that you are able to deploy an effective technology strategy.

In truth, it's less about technology and more about people.

It's also about bridging the gap between technology and business. You're there to help explain technology in an understandable way for people to understand what technology can do.

Last, CTOs have to understand that they own business enablement. In 2020 business enablement is technology.

CTOs own how and why business is deployed and how it integrates as a whole.

Balancing Engineering and Product

Being a CTO also requires maintaining a balancing act between engineering and product. You know you have a balanced project when engineering didn't win too much. If engineering wins too much, there are no features that ship. If product wins too much, you're heavy on technical debt and it's hard to make changes. When building a balanced organization, where you serve the needs of your customers, you have to make sure engineering can stay up to date is important. It's a balancing act where you're shipping value for your customers and engineering is shipping scalable features for your customers. Beyond that, when you quantify value, it's important to look at the technology gains. The CTO should be balancing engineering and product at all times.

CTOs in Non-Tech/Non-Software Companies

First things first, be a CTO to everyone like we discussed above. You have to understand that technology will never be a priority unless people's jobs will be transformed because of it.

You can help educate people. Most people understand technology enough to use it, CTOs need to help educate and build a culture that emphasizes ambitious technology moves the needle in non-technology firms.

Non-software companies shouldn't try to do these grand technology efforts, but start out with bite-sizePOCs, moving incrementally forward.

What Makes a CTO

There are a number of qualities a good CTO should possess, but in our experience passion for new technology and being an immersive leader who is continuously learning are among the most important.

Being a great technology leader doesn't mean that you have to have “Chief” in your title or lead a massive team of people to victory.

Being a technology leader is someone is passionate about technology, shows up to work every day, and demonstrates what technology can do.

Great CTOs make people passionate about technology.

They build technology warriors. Anyone can be a thought leader if they are willing to take a risk and immerse themselves. Don't hold back. Technology and innovation are everyone's responsibility. Innovation starts with a common interest in creating a better environment. Get people excited about technology and you're going to win!


Build Thoughtful Software
Andrew Wolfe
Written by

Andrew Wolfe

Andrew has an M.S. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech University. But he prides himself over 10 years of experience working in the software industry for well-known companies such as Diebold, Tableau, Explorys, and Onshift. After years in the corporate and startup worlds as well as running his own consulting firm, Andrew realized he had to do more to improve software products and practices. From that, Skiplist was born. Skiplist is the opportunity to focus on thoughtful, quality software and change the software consulting industry.