Here, in the tropical heat of the high-tech jungle, the chief technology officer is sometimes seen as a simple, primitive title. But that’s a long way from the truth.
In fact, according to analysis by a company called Access Alto, there are four distinct types of CTO, which are:
- the “infrastructure commander”;
- the “technology visionary”;
- the “customer champion”; and
- the “big thinker”.
The natural habitat of the infrastructure commander is more likely to be an established company than a startup, says Access Alto.
They tend to manage the overall technology roadmap of the business, and implement the company’s technical strategy, but don’t always set it themselves.
The infrastructure commander is generally responsible for overseeing the data, security, maintenance and network for a company.
This species of CTO is primarily a builder, often involved with an enterprise since its inception, says Access Alto.
They set the technical strategy and methods to enable the company to achieve its goals.
Always foraging, the technology visionary is constantly searching for future technology that will drive the company’s success.
And they’re not just workhorses, they’re dreamers too, often being the source of ideas, conceptualising how technology is to be used in the company.
As the name suggests, this extraordinary breed of CTO goes out of their way to deliver excellence in the areas of user interfaces and user experiences.
Commonly found in tech companies with a software ecosystem, the customer champion operates as the conduit between customers and the business itself.
The customer champion tends to be responsible for customer relations, understanding the target market and influencing the delivery of IT projects accordingly.
The big thinker
With a title like that, it’s no surprise that this bird-brain CTO is generally to be found flying high and very close to other C-suite executives.
Always surveying the enterprise from a lofty position, the big thinker often stretches the boundaries of how technology is used within the business and is encouraged to operate ambitiously, says Access Alto.
Understandably, the big thinker naturally plays a leading part in setting the corporate strategy and driving overall technological infrastructure.
They also tend to create business models, contribute to new technology, analyse target markets.
Having categorised them into four distinct types, Access Alto adds that the tech sector has grown faster than the wider economy and is very diverse now.
Which means that the evolving enterprise landscape is creating a variety of new tasks in the workplace for all CTOs.
Andy Brown, divisional director for Access Alto, says: “Responsibilities of an individual’s role are largely defined by the point at which they joined the organisation.
“CTOs that have been in place since a company’s inception may find their role more diverse and all-encompassing, whereas those appointed into a more mature organisation tend to inherit a more defined set of responsibilities, relevant to their specific industry.”
Despite the dynamism of the tech sector, however, it’s important to keep up with the key trends, says Access Alto.
The important developments now, says the company, include business analytics, which is increasingly reliant of specialist software, often incorporating machine learning these days.
Also, cyber security, as always, is a top priority.
Brown says: “An increasing number of specialisms and complexities within the technological sphere will push the role towards general knowledge of the broader IT sector and away from specifics.
“Instead, the emphasis will be on recruiting appropriately skilled team members to introduce the detailed, in-depth expertise required.
“CTOs will play a crucial role in protecting a company’s networks and data from malicious attacks, facing more exposure to, and culpability for, breaches of data security.
“With cyber offences now accounting for almost half of all crime in the country, more responsibility in this field is likely to be placed on a CTO than ever before. It is therefore vital to have a firm grasp on organisational security.”
Most of the data for the conclusions were acquired through a survey by Access Alto.