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In the fast-paced tech industry, it’s no surprise that the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is continually evolving. Your job might look very different to a CTO in another company – but the ideas you need to embrace to reach the top are remarkably similar, says Andy Brown, divisional director at cloud technology specialist Access Alto.
Compare the daily activities of a CTO at a start-up to their counterpart at a global corporation and you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s actually the same role.
In a fledgling business, where job descriptions are more fluid anyway, the CTO typically takes a more hands-on approach. Responsible for setting out the company’s technology strategy, this person makes crucial decisions on what software should be deployed, where data is stored and what security measures are needed. Since they have a blank canvas on which to work, they can also set the benchmark for business success.
At an established firm, where the technologies and processes are already in place, the CTO implements existing strategies rather than devising them from scratch. Yes, they will take the lead when implementing new software – but they usually have a roadmap to follow. Unlike their colleagues in start-ups, they work as part of a wider team, with knowledge shared among more people.
While no two CTOs are the same, they can be grouped together according to their shared characteristics. Loosely defined, they fall into the following four categories:
In charge of IT infrastructure, you’ll see this CTO at an established firm as opposed to a start-up. Their work usually involves implementing the business’ existing technical strategy, managing the technology blueprint and leading their team on all aspects of implementation, as well as data security, maintenance and network oversight.
Unlike the Infrastructure Commander, the Technology Visionary can be found in emerging businesses, which draw on the CTO’s skills to conceptualise how technology will be used within the company. This can include systems for supporting operations and driving customer and product success. When setting out the strategy, the CTO is not only looking at what works today, but also how future technology can be aligned to business goals.
In some cases, a CTO is the conduit between a company and its customers, responsible for maintaining relations, understanding the target market and influencing IT projects in a way that meets their needs. You’ll normally see a Customer Champion in tech companies, particularly software providers, but the term can equally apply to any CTO who uses technology to deliver customer excellence and strong UI (user interface) and UX…