Which is the vaguest C*O role? Perhaps there is no single answer. Some might say it is CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), others might say it is CSO (Chief Strategy Officer). I believe CTO (Chief Technology Officer) is a strong contender in the game as well. To add clarity to a role like CTO, two questions need to be answered: (1) What are the key responsibilities of a CTO? (2) Given a company context, what is the type of CTO role that would work well? Dr. Roger Smith, a CTO himself, has written two excellent papers that address each of the two questions. Given below is a short summary of each of the papers.
CTO and responsibilities: In this paper titled “The Chief Technology Officer: Strategic responsibilities and relationships” Roger presents following responsibilities of the CTO role:
- Monitoring and assessing new technologies
- Strategic innovation (leveraging technologies for building competitive advantage)
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Marketing and media relations
- Relationships with government, academia, professional organizations
- Build company culture
Apart from the responsibilities, the paper addresses following question: What are the relationships that empower the CTO? These are relationship with: CEO and executive committee, Chief Information Officer, Chief Scientist, R&D laboratories, Sales and marketing. In HR parlance, “developing relationships” is a soft-skill and hence CTO is as much about soft-skills as about hard-skills like technology management. Some may argue, it is much more of the former i.e. soft-skills.
5 Patterns of the CTO: In this paper, Roger presents 5 dominant patterns among CTO roles especially in the
- Genius: The Genius CTO is usually skilled at creating something new, possessing vision and confidence, and exploiting a unique opportunity. E.g. Sergey Brin (Google), Steve Wozniak (Apple).
- Administrator: defends the organization’s budget from overspending on technology products, services and project labor. E.g. CTO of US Air Force Research Laboratory.
- Director: leads research laboratories in creating next generation technology. E.g. Pat Gelsinger, the first CTO of Intel or Nathan Myhrvold an ex-CTO of Microsoft.
- Executive: is the custodian of innovation process in the organization. His primary responsibility is to manage innovation leading to future competitive advantage. E.g. CTOs of companies like GE Healthcare,
, IBM, Cisco. Corning
- Advocate: leverages IT to enhance customer’s experience and interfaces with the company. This responsibility may be with CIO in many organizations. E.g. Rob Carter of FedEx.