What is a CTO and what do they do?

CEO, CIO, CSO, C3PO…

An ever-increasing number of C-suite roles are currently filling the executive floor. Each title is merely a three- or four-letter abbreviation. And for those not in the know, this vagueness can create confusion around the duties and benefits of the role in question.

One such example is the CTO.

So, what is a CTO, and what do they do?


What is a CTO?

CTO is short for chief technology officer. This is the highest technology-focused position within a company.

A chief technology officer is the C-suite executive in charge of the organisation’s technical needs. This means they oversee the current technology in use, create policies regarding technology, and make the decisions about technology upgrades.

The CTO will most often work with the CIO (chief information officer), and the CSO (chief science officer). So much so, that in smaller companies these roles often overlap.

Either way, a CTO is the technology lead – the highest technical authority – within an organisation.


What are the responsibilities of a CTO?

So, we know that a chief technology officer oversees everything to do with the technology of an organisation. But what, exactly, does that entail?

The meat of a CTO’s duties is all about the management and optimisation of a company’s tech stack. They ensure that the suite of software, apps, services, hardware, systems, integrations (and so on) best support the company’s goals. They will look to ensure tech investments are used to their fullest. That is, without wasted tools or potential.

And this covers a host of duties. As an executive, a CTO will have a large range of responsibilities to fulfil. For example:

•         Monitor the tech industry

A CTO will need to spend time looking out for promising trends and identifying opportunities for technological growth. They’ll be charged with weighing up new technologies and managing hype cycles, to ensure that the right tools and practices are pursued.

In short, the chief technology officer will research, outline, and recommend the most effective tech systems in support of company goals.

•         Assist with fixing IT-related issues

This will particularly include those issues that require executive decisions that may cause disruption or company-wide change.

•         Support and manage the IT team

The daily use and maintenance of the organisation’s technology will fall to the IT team. The management of that IT team, however, will fall to the CTO. The IT team will be able to rely on the CTO for support with difficult fixes or high-level needs. In turn, they can focus on the daily upkeep, use, and support of tools and infrastructure.

•         Communicate technology strategies

The CTO is responsible for devising the company technology strategies. For example, which tools to use, the intricacies of the infrastructure, and so on. But it is also their responsibility to be able to effectively communicate these strategies to stakeholders, managers, investors, partners, and employees.

•         Oversee the tech infrastructure of the company

A CTO will make sure there aren’t data siloes. They’ll support integration efforts. They’ll encourage tech-based change as needed.


TL;DR: What is a CTO?

So, what is a CTO? It’s someone on the executive level that ensures the technological infrastructure and tools available are a good use of resource. They streamline the technology, and the teams around it, to help drive the organisation toward meeting its goals.

Every decision a CTO will make will be in service of the short- and long-term goals of the organisation.


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