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What is a the mission of a CTO
Oct 8, 2016
5 minutes read

1. What is the CTO Mission?

The Mission for the CTO can be summarized across three axes:

1.1. Fiduciary for Long-Term Technical Strategy:

  • The CTO must effectively hold, develop, articulate, and continually evolve the company’s strategic technical direction.
  • The CTO is responsible for utilizing the appropriate technology in highly-competitive environment.
  • The CTO balances between business and technology to formulate strategy and vision for the entire company.

1.2. Technical Evangelist

  • The CTO must inspire commitment to the employees towards the long-term vision of the company
  • The CTO must be a trusted advisor who is able to gain loyalty and credibility of customers, partners and professional community

1.3. Spiritual Leader for the engineers and maintainer of the technical culture:

  • The CTO must rally the engineering organization towards the long-term technical goals of the company.
  • The CTO must be able to inspire new employees to join the engineering organization and must help in the identification of such talents.
  • The CTO must help set and maintain the technical culture to make sure the company can retain and attract top performers.

2. How to measure the CTO performance?

A CTO makes valuable contributions to your company, but when it comes to measuring your Chief Technology Officer’s performance, you can’t rely on the usual indicators. CTOs don’t develop new products every quarter or report on revenue, so their contribution to your company is not easily quantifiable. Therefore, it is important to know what qualitative indicators you should use. There are the 3 major key indicators. By assessing these, you are going to get a clear picture of your company’s CTO performance level. This indicators should be evaluated permanently.

2.1. Tech Strategy Alignment:

One of the main ways you can tell whether your CTO is keeping up with his/her position is by looking at how well your tech strategy lines up with your business strategy. Technical strategy should be an effective support for your overall business model, so if it is not, your CTO leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, if it meshes well and helps move your company forward you know who to thank.

2.2. Health of Engineering Culture:

Your Chief Technology Officer is expected to help recruit and retain top talent. This is can by creating a innovative and friendly working environment. In addition, your engineers need to have vision, and your CTO is the one who is going to provide them with it. The VP of Engineering should also be satisfied with the CTO’s contributions.

2.3. Employees’ Satisfaction:

Other departments within your company rely on the Chief Technology Officer in terms of tech-related issues and initiatives. If they feel that the CTO is providing valuable input and being generally helpful, then performance is good. Otherwise, there are some improvments to be made.

3. CTO’s time management?

There is no perfect answer for this one, but you need to allocate time to the engineering team and to your business team. The CTO will not be able to provide a good technical vision without being aware of business needs, and vice versa. The balance between technical and business parts should be business-driven.

3.1. Business: 40% of time

  • Sales/customers
  • Marketing/Evangelism/Analysts
  • Business Developmet/Partners

3.2. Technical: 60% of time

  • Digest info collected from the business then distribute within technical teams.
  • Continuously promote communication between engineering, product & business to ensure that the mission is clear, especially for new initiatives.
  • Support the marketing team with collateral/white-papers that articulates the company’s vision.
  • Stay on top of engineering culture, processes, and retention.
  • To guide the Intellectual Property portfolio.

4. What are the CTO’s specific responsibilities for each organization within the company?

There are five main constituents that the CTO serves:

  • CEO/Strategy
  • Engineering/Product
  • Sales
  • Business Development
  • Marketing

There is a list of the key responsibilities below.

4.1. CEO/Strategy

  • Predict and stay ahead of any technical inflection points that might significantly affect the company.
  • Advise the CEO (and CFO/COO) in the long-term technical strategy of the company.
  • Provide the CEO with a set of technical solutions to decide what is the best option.
  • Be a sound board for the CEO by providing an unbiaised view to pursue company’s long-term interests.

4.2. Engineering/Product

  • The CTO isn’t responsible for the day-2-day tactical delivery, nevertheless he/she should work closely with the VPs of Products & Engineering to make sure the overall development direction is well aligned with the company’s technical vision.
  • The CTO should influence the prioritization of resources across large strategic technical bets.
  • One of the key challenges for the CTO is how to encourage people, projects and ideas without being involved in Product/Engineering management.
  • VP of Engineering and CTO should work as partners, in order to solve challenges that the technical team is facing.
  • Help with the recruiting/retention efforts.
  • On a going bases encourage communication between departments.
  • Ensure alignment of the technical organization and, when necessary, be a technical arbitrator.
  • Foster innovation by organizing hackathons.
  • Serve as a master architect across product lines.

4.3. Sales

  • Partner with the sales department to effectively satisfy customer needs.
  • Support the sales team by building strong relationships with peers at strategic customer accounts.
  • Participate in customer meetings to articulate the long-term technology road map hence strengthening the customer’s loyalty.

4.4. Business Development and Partnerships

  • Support business development team in strategic partner engagements and maintain good relationship with peers.
  • Provide technical due diligence of partners’ technologies and acquisition targets to make sure they properly fit within the company.
  • The CTO should keep track of all the technology startups in the same market.
  • Represent the company in the technical associations with partners (E.g. conferences, forums, etc).
  • Predict if a new partner technology would have significant impact on the long-term roadmap for the company.
  • Predict long-term competitive trends.

4.5. Marketing

  • Serve as a public face of technology for the company.
  • Evangelize the company vision through conferences, speaking engagements, and press/media/analyst activities.
  • Maintain good relationship with designated key industry analysts.
  • Support marketing team in building a large active community around the company’s products.
  • Social engagement in marketing through twitter, blog posts, articles/whitepapers, etc.

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