The title Chief Technology Officer (CTO) shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking this role starts and ends with technology. This highly demanding position requires people to wear many hats, and have a wide-ranging skill set that isn’t just technically focused – though, of course, it helps.
The job has evolved and adapted to the ever-changing business environment to form a key part of wider organisational strategy and will continue to do so in 2023. Tim Mercer explores further…
Going back 20 years, the biggest companies in the world were those in the gas, oil and manufacturing sectors, where a CTO might have been one of the only people working within the technology department, and from a technical background.
Fast forward to now, and it’s hard to imagine a global business that doesn’t compete on the basis of technology or use it every day to enable staff to do their jobs. This has driven the demand for talent in UK tech to be stronger than ever in 2022, with 8.5M open vacancies in the last year. Who would have thought it back then?
But the CTO – someone responsible for leading the charge when it comes to this business-critical topic – is rarely hired on technical skills alone. In fact, the profession has witnessed such an evolution that CTOs are now integral stakeholders within a number of boardrooms.
So which traits and skills will define a successful CTO, in 2023?
From hiring highly skilled people, to dealing with budgets, CTOs need to be able to handle all internal IT operations. But the role is increasingly outward-facing too. From securing governance accreditations and reassuring clients of their security posture, to driving forward tech roadmaps that align with marketplace needs, the need to collaborate with external stakeholders is also now vast.
Although CTOs don’t sit in the financial department, they need to have a clear understanding of their own budget and the wider business budget – especially when worldwide spending on technology is projected to total $4.6 trillion in 2023, an increase of 5.1% from 2022, according to Gartner. We’re talking about some CTOs being in charge of millions of pounds, so having financial awareness and budget management skills is a must.
The technology landscape is experiencing rapid and continuous changes, so CTOs also need to be able to adapt quickly to ever-evolving circumstances – whether that's enabling an entire workforce to work remotely during the pandemic or trying to deliver on new customer demands. But they don’t have to do this alone.With growing departments and the amount of budget provided to CTOs, it could be comparable to running an SME business. Therefore, one of the most challenging parts of the job is the need to demonstrate the business management skills to lead, collaborate with, and empower a team to do the best they can every day. It’s definitely necessary to be a ‘people person’.
Arguably the most important trait for a CTO in 2023 and beyond is critical strategic thinking and the ability to make decisions based on data-led insight. Technology is an integral part of the wider business strategy, so a CTO's input and involvement are imperative. They need to have the skills to communicate clearly and collaborate with the rest of the senior management team and be able to handle themselves in this challenging role.
The role has changed dramatically over the years and businesses will now be looking for a completely different type of person to oversee the technology department. It’s about being well-rounded, with a dash of management, collaboration, and innovation to fulfil the big boots of a modern-day CTO.
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