The Role of the CTO in a Growing Organization


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The position of Chief Technology Officer is relatively new to corporate leadership and very little has been published on the role, responsibilities, and relationships of this position. Like many of the traditional leadership positions, the skills necessary to execute this position vary depending on the growth stage that the company is entering. In this paper we discuss the manner in which the role of the CTO changes as a company grows from a start-up to an industry dominating position.

Published in: Business, Technology

The Role of the CTO in a Growing Organization

  1. 1. The Role of the CTO in a Growing Organization Roger Smith US Army PEO STRI [email_address] Approved for Public Release. Security and OPSEC Review Completed: No Issues. Infrastructure Executive Council Corporate Executive Board 1 February 2008
  2. 2. CTO Practitioner Caveats <ul><li>Perspective is influenced by personal activities and history in the CTO position </li></ul><ul><li>Constant information exchange with other CTOs leads to a practice-based perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ To capture participants in their own terms one must learn their categories for rendering explicable and coherent the flux of raw reality.” (Lofland, 1971) </li></ul></ul>Lofland, J. (1971). Analyzing social settings . Belmont, CA: Wodsworth; as quoted in Qualitative research and evaluation methods , by M. Patton, 2002.
  3. 3. Organization CTOs Studied
  4. 4. Chief Technology Officer <ul><li>Definitions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ A CTO’s job is to worry about technology in the future – because when the future's here you won't have the time.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The CTO’s key tasks are not those of lab director writ large but, rather, of a technical businessperson deeply involved in shaping and implementing overall corporate strategy.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>W.W. Lewis, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Origins of the CTO </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Business accountability for the Director of R&D. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. John Seely Brown, Xerox PARC </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Executive post for tech wizard in a start-up company. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Steve Wozniak, Apple Computer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Innovation champion in a large company. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Peter Bridenbaugh, ALCOA </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. CTO vs. CIO <ul><li>Technology Applied to Company Products and Services </li></ul><ul><li>Manage Scientists & Innovators </li></ul><ul><li>Stimulate Creation of New Products </li></ul><ul><li>Position Company for Long-term Advantage </li></ul><ul><li>IT Applied to Internal Operations </li></ul><ul><li>Manage IT and Admin Personnel </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce Costs of Internal Transactions </li></ul><ul><li>Improve Short-term Performance </li></ul><ul><li>Company’s Technology is IT </li></ul><ul><li>Competitive Advantage Comes from IT Services </li></ul>CTO CIO Overlap
  6. 6. US Army Simulation & Training PRODUCTS CONTRACTS ADMIN <ul><li>CTO Relationships </li></ul><ul><li>and Resources: </li></ul><ul><li>O6/GS15 Managers </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering Dept </li></ul><ul><li>CIO Shop </li></ul><ul><li>R&D Labs </li></ul><ul><li>Army Science Board </li></ul><ul><li>University Labs </li></ul><ul><li>Industry Research Orgs </li></ul>
  7. 7. CTO Activities <ul><li>Identify the Future power of new technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Spread Technology within the business unit </li></ul><ul><li>Create New Opportunity by applying technical expertise to new projects </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-Pollinate and Leverage technology across the organization </li></ul><ul><li>Build Community of technologists through vision, mission, relationships, communication, partnership, friendship </li></ul>
  8. 8. 5 Patterns of the CTO Smith, R. (Nov-Dec 2007). “What CTOs Do?”. Research-Technology Management , 50(6). Genius Founder/Creator Product Innovation Director Scientist/Researcher Innovation Mgmt Executive Engineer/Scientist Strategic Management Administrator Manager/Accountant Efficient Deployment Advocate Service/User Customer Features Void No CTO No New Technology
  9. 9. CTO Responsibilities Smith, R. (Nov-Dec 2007). “What CTOs Do?”. Research-Technology Management , 50(6). Companies that could benefit from a technology leader, but who do not understand how such a position could be applied. Void Focused on the applications of technology to improve the experience of the customer. Leverage technology to create a competitive advantage for the company through its relationship with customers. Advocate Strategic leader working with company executives to identify important technical trends in the future and how these will impact the company and the industry. Executive Manager of corporate research projects and investments. Handles the business aspects of a portfolio of different technologies that the company is pursuing. Director Guardian or watchdog over the organization’s selection and use of vendor technologies. Expertise with technologies is used to accurately evaluate vendor proposals and claims for their products. Administrator Personally involved in the creation of new technology and its application to company products and services. Uses personal technical talent to direct and motivate the technical staff. Genius Duties and Activities Pattern
  10. 10. Pattern Examples <ul><li>Genius: Sergey Brin, Google </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Turn a great idea into a great product </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Director: Rita Schnipke, Blue Ridge Numerics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PC-based CFD Software </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Executive: Dawn Merrickson, Defense Information Systems Agency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Standardize Computer Systems, Explore New Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Administrator: Melody Mayberry-Stewart, City of Cleveland </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Improve City Services using IT & Comms Equipment </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Advocate: Rob Carter, Federal Express </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Customer’s Experience of FedEx Services </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Void: Most Companies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No Technology Creation, Consume Vendor Technologies </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. GE’s Scott Donnelly <ul><li>Senior VP for Global Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Power Turbines, Imaging Systems, Locomotives, Engines, Security Systems, Materials </li></ul><ul><li>Defined Mission: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliver Breakthrough Technology (R&D) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leverage Core Technologies in Multiple Businesses (Energy, Medicine, Water, Engines, Security) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drive Technology Across the Business (Lighting) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Infusing New Technology Value in Acquisitions (Financial Services) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop and Protect Intellectual Property (Mature Research Products) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. CTOs Across Organization Phase Genius Envision, Create, & Champion the new opportunity Emergence Stabilization Expansion Dominance Administrator Optimize, Organize, & Staff for growth Administrator Manage product innovation Director Build research organization and target technologies Advocate Focus on competitive advantage of customer experience Executive Strategic innovation, research, and competitive position Organization Phase Director Focus research organization on future positioning
  13. 13. References <ul><li>Smith, R. (Nov-Dec 2007). “What CTOs Do”. Research Technology Management , 50(6). </li></ul><ul><li>Smith, R. (July-Aug, 2003). “The Chief Technology Officer: Strategic Responsibilities and Relationships”. Research Technology Management , 46(4). </li></ul><ul><li>Christensen, C. (1997). The Innovators Dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail . Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Medcof, J. and Yousofpourfard, H. (May 2006). “The Chief Technology Officer and organizational power and influence”. Proceedings of the 2006 IAMOT Conference . </li></ul><ul><li>Adler, P. and Ferdows, K. (Spring 1990). “The Chief Technology Officer”. California Management Review . </li></ul><ul><li>Aspatore Editors. (2000). Inside the Minds of Chief Technology Officers . New York: Aspatore Books. </li></ul>