In any organization, a CTO has to wear multiple thinking hats to steer product development, build cybersecurity defenses, navigate uncertainty and drive growth with strategic planning. The role of the CTO becomes even more prominent in engineering product growth to achieve the organization's short- and long-term goals.
The following sections describe how a CTO plays an essential role in driving product growth and navigates the uncertainties and risks associated.
The technological and business landscapes are ever-changing, with innovations in one sector or industry having a broader impact on the overall ecosystem in which an organization operates. For example, AI and machine learning breakthroughs have affected how consumers experience personalization and find information.
Furthermore, in today’s business landscape, if one company improves the experience and value delivery for consumers, other companies in that sector will face the pressure to deliver similar to retain consumers.
This phenomenon is particularly evident in the e-commerce and banking sectors. It does not matter if a company delivers online orders on the same day; consumers expect the same level of service in other areas of their everyday life. Similarly, it does not matter if an unprofitable neobank opens bank accounts for customers instantly; customers expect the same level of convenience from other full-fledged banks.
Emerging and some incumbent players in almost all sectors are disrupting the business ecosystem and affecting consumer expectations. This requires the CTO to think and plan to create guiding policies and frameworks with a supportive culture to enable the organization to disrupt and reinvent itself continuously to withstand technological evolution and meet ever-growing consumer expectations.
While visionary thinking helps an organization foresee possibilities and understand how technologies can help achieve business goals, strategic planning is necessary to sustainably achieve the visionary business and operating models set forth.
Strategic planning helps organizations focus on their strength and build transformation levers that help achieve competitive advantage and gain proprietary insights into product development and service delivery. While strategic planning is not a function limited to the CTO, they should collaborate with senior leaders and help them envision how technological improvements, minimizing technical debt, and incorporating cutting-edge research can help the organization stay ahead of consumer expectations and become a trailblazer in their respective industry.
Technological Risk Management
It is a complex risk management domain concerning the security and performance of core business systems and integrations. In general, upgrading and revamping systems architecture and underlying technologies are essential. This, however, attracts additional costs and time, which business leaders can easily perceive as non-priorities and unnecessary cost burdens.
The CTO should lay out a data-driven business story about how these upgrades can deliver performance and business advantages in the short and long term. This helps the CTO collaboratively convince business leaders how this affects future product growth and supports customer retention.
For example, at LoginRadius, APIs are a core component of our customer identity and access management (CIAM) platform. Although the programming language behind our current APIs has performed to our customer expectations, we explored a new opportunity with a different program that we felt would deliver even higher performance. This ensured that our customers and business partners could deliver superior experiences to their consumers.
Engineering Growth Levers
“All happy companies are different, and all unhappy companies are alike in that they fail to escape the sameness that is competition.” -Peter Thiel
A great example is how two companies built around Git—GitHub and GitLab—have embraced different growth levers and are successful in their own ways. Although these two companies are not mutually exclusive in what they do, they position themselves and develop features according to the growth levers they believe. While GitHub embraced open source software and community as its growth lever, GitLab embraced DevOps.
The CTO can immensely contribute to engineering such growth levers. As today's companies don’t fail due to technical limitations but lack of adoption, the CTO’s role is no longer limited to the core technical aspects of the business but also to helping and growing the product with technical insights and strategies that fuel adoption and growth.
Behind every successful product, there are multiple teams consisting of talented individuals collaborating intricately. In today’s landscape, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire qualified, highly skilled individuals. And it is even more challenging to engage and retain them.
Talented individuals do not just want to make a good living out of their work but also seek fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment, and work on challenging technical projects. The CTO can help build talent engagement programs to help teams and individuals work on exciting projects and learn new technical skills.
The CTO can even develop career paths to reward, promote and retain talent and show them a way forward that engages, creates meaning, and creates a sense of purpose and belonging to stay with the organization for the long haul. Furthermore, the CTO should collaborate with the HR department to design and improve processes across the hire-to-retire cycle that deliver a superior on-job experience.
The line between technology and business is blurring faster than ever with overlapping priorities and interdependencies. The CTO, being at the forefront of technology, is well-positioned to help the organization achieve business goals and contribute to product growth and consumer adoption.
Originally Published in Forbes