Five Key Traits Of Great Technology Officers

Diana Walker
March 23, 2018

The Age Of Innovation And The Chief Technology Officer

The digital era has created a plethora of threats, risks, values and opportunities for organizations. However, until recently, there has not been a dedicated position in organizations to truly harness the rise of digital technologies. Enter, the Chief Technology Officer.

Takeaway food stores weren’t looking for GPS technology, enter Menulog. The automobile industry wasn’t looking for an alternative to petrol and diesel, enter Tesla. If your organization isn’t leading the disruption in your industry, there is a high likelihood that your organizational direction will be adjusted against your will by your competitors.

However, you have a choice. Innovate or fall behind. The bad news is, this is easier said than done. The good news is there is something you can do about it. And the weird thing is, not many organizations are doing anything about it at all.

The organizations of today and tomorrow can no longer resist the call of digital technologies. The industry behemoths of the past are struggling to keep up with the digital revolution.

As a result, new companies with innovative ideas and old companies that embraced self-disruption have prospered. The giants of the 20th century are being replaced by organizations championing technology: Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

What these organizations have in common is that they all used technology to disrupt their industry and themselves, allowing them to not only become leaders in existing markets but also to create new ones.

How To Be The Next Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon Or Microsoft

Hire a Chief Technology Officer. This can be done internally or externally. Your recruitment process really depends on your organizational objectives and vision. If you need a Chief Technology Officer that knows your business and its tech inside and out, look within your organization. If your industry has already been disrupted or you need fresh and innovative ideas, hire externally. It really depends on the organization and the environment it operates within.

What To Look For In A Chief Technology Officer


1. Communication

In any role, communication is needed. However, for Chief Technology Officers, it is essential. New technologies, particularly when they are used to disrupt existing organizational norms can be a tough sell. The role is also relatively new compared to other C-suite roles. What this means is that they need to know what they are talking about, and make sure everyone else does as well.

Knowing your role is one thing, being able to communicate it effectively is another. It is imperative that your Chief Technology Officer knows how to communicate to both technical and non-technical people, as well as at varying hierarchical levels.

Effective Chief Technology Officer communication involves understanding every department’s functionality and being able to explain the current and future role that technology will play in it. From board members to general employees, every stakeholder should understand how your Chief Technology Officer's vision is aligned with the organization and the role they play in it.

2. Technical knowledge

Chief Technology Officers often start as software engineers or developers. This means they start their careers by establishing technical skills. While not the most important skill, understanding the role of technology at a micro-level such as coding allows a CTO to truly understand the role of technology at a macro level. Understanding both levels also means that the CTO can make sure his IT team stay on track while being able to justify new and existing technologies effectively to management.

3. A passion for learning

Technology is perpetually evolving. How organizations use technology is perpetually evolving. Your Chief Technology Officer must have a love for learning new things. A healthy appetite for change and the willingness to adapt is essential in this role.

Chief Technology Officers must also be willing to learn about other departments. Sales, finance, marketing and communications are aspects of the organization they are involved in and should be willing to learn more about. They don’t need to become experts in every department’s role, but they do need to see the role they play in that department and should take an interest in how they operate and use technology.

Learning is a journey, not a destination, and your Chief Technology Officer must embrace this.

4.Role adaptation

The role the Chief Technology Officer assumes with other executives is completely different to the role assumed when working with their technical teams.

Digital disruption should be treated as a holistic organizational operation. However, the way every employee understands their role in it is different. When adopting new technology, a Chief Technology Officer must be its champion. Knowing how to talk to every department, team and executive about embracing technology is a must.

For example, within your IT team, the Chief Technology Officer is a leader. Their role is to challenge, inspire and navigate everyone towards the big vision. However, within the executive team, The CTO is a partner to each business aspect. They must promote digital disruption to every executive of the organization, to ensure everyone adapts together.

5.Big-picture mindset

A Chief Technology Officer's ability to adapt to multiple roles means they see the big picture and know how to get there. They must know the technology, the environment it operates in and the people who are going to be using it. They should see technology as an enabler. It’s the main focus, but it doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

The digital era has forced every organization of today to make a choice for tomorrow. Disrupt or be disrupted. Chief Technology Officers are a great enabler for this. When hiring for this role, whether it be external or internal, make sure they are bringing new ideas to the table.

Leading Anything as a Service (XaaS) providers have developed extraordinary software platforms that are now able to scale and expand efficiently alongside your organization. Chief Technology Officers and organizations that take advantage of these new technologies will be the pioneers of tomorrow

The choice is yours. Disrupt or be disrupted.


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