Sunday, December 03, 2006

5 Patterns of the CTO

Research into company practices indicates that there are 5 different patterns of the CTO position.

I have been contacted a number of times by people trying to understand what it means to be a CTO at their company. The role that they are trying to define always seems to be different from the material they find on the web or in the bookstore on the CTO position. Welcome to the confusion! We all experience this when we come into the position. There is no real single defined responsibilities for the CTO. But at least 5 unique patterns are emerging.

  • Genius. This is often one of the founders of the company who is a wizard at the core technology that launched their product or service.

  • Director. For bigger companies, the CTO is not usually a "doer", but a director of what needs to be done. He/she may be very technical, but spends their time managing product development or research labs.

  • Executive. In large companies the CTO may be a member of the executive staff and spend their time on strategic directions for the company. The focus is not on creating technologies, but on creating strategy.

  • Advocate. This person is focused on the experience of the customer with the product or service. This is a hands-on, in the trenches person.

  • Administrator. This person is interested in scheduling the efficient deployment of the product and looking for the best licensing deals for vendor products.

  • Void. Many companies have a CTO void. This is when no one holds the title AND no other title is handling the strategic future of technology in the company's products. Given the current state of the world, this is a dangerous place to be, even if your company just makes T-shirts.

For a complete description of the 5 patterns: "5 Patterns of the CTO"


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