The role of the CTO has been one of stress, too many promises that were often unable to be met, and a stepping on the toes of other C-level positions. Originally viewed as a management role with technology being necessary but secondary, the new CTO is being required to be the technology guru of past, current, and future technologies. With the role of technology increasing in every aspect of business, the CTO has been forced to accept not only input but direct action from other members of the management team. This overlapping of roles has led to an identity crisis for CTOs looking to re-establish their boundaries and better define what is in their scope of capabilities.
Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the CTO’s role is, what they do, and how success will be determined. Talking to different individuals will yield many different ideas of what the CTO should be doing. This can lead to confusion, anger, and abysmal failure without anyone being fully aware of what happened.
The Role of the CTO Must Be Defined. It is critical to define the CTO role and what the expectations are. If the CEO and CFO have a different idea of what the CTO is expected to do, the individual will be unsuccessful. Having a common definition allows each member of the team to be on the same page with the same expectations.
Authority Must be Clear. The authority of the CTO is an area that often leads to issues. The CTO is expected to be accountable for decisions; however, they often lack the authority to make major technology decisions. Does the CTO decide single-handedly on technology? Are they the decision-maker for software? Do they simply make suggestions with a vote being the final deciding factor? The C-levels must be clear on what the CTO is allowed to do on their own.
Success Factors Must be Known. As in all positions, a set criteria of success must be clear and upfront. Criteria for the CTO can be confusing. For the CFO and CEO, often financial factors and growth are key factors. For the CTO, other criteria must be used. A strong first task for the CTO is to allow them to start a performance expectation that is then edited with the rest of the C-level suite. Having upfront criteria will avoid surprises as differing expectation clash.