A decade or more ago, Marc Andreessen stated that “Software was eating the world.” Others went on to posit that eventually, every company would be a software company. You really don’t have to look any further than the automation experiments being run by McDonald's restaurants to begin to understand this statement. McDonald’s, a purveyor of fast food, now has an IT department that is deploying experiments into the restaurants faster than new menu items are added.
As software expands its reach in organizations and organizations depend more and more on software for their business, it becomes imperative that companies own the development of the new software as a core competency.
Sure, you can farm out the creation of a new kiosk ordering platform as an experiment, but when it becomes a mission critical part of your business, you had better be ready to take over both the management and maintenance and future development.
All of this means that at some point, almost every organization of any size is going to have a software development team. A dev team means you need a management arm that is capable of not only managing the people, but keeping the vision of the department aligned with the vision of the company. In short, at some point, every company will eventually need a Chief Technology Officer.
Assuming your company is now at the point where you recognize that software is a mission critical part of your overall business strategy, the question now turns to hiring someone to own it. Before you make that decision as a business owner or CEO, ask yourself if you are ready for a full-time CTO or if you can start with a part-time CTO.
What is a CTO?
A CTO has several distinct and important roles to play. While all of them are vital to the success of the company, no role is more important than that of a vision keeper. A CTO is the one person that understands the company’s vision and the role that technology will play in that vision.
Managing all things technical
The CTO is responsible for managing all the technical people in the company. There shouldn’t be any exceptions. If they are to keep the vision, then they have to own the departments that are responsible for executing that vision.
When you start looking for a CTO, one of the major skills you need to look for after you’ve established competency is big thinking. Even small companies need someone who can look out into the future and see technology coming down the pipe that could play a part in the company’s future.
Own the vision
You need to make sure that any person you consider for the role of CTO understands the company’s vision and the part that technology will play in getting the company there. Not only should they understand it, but they need to own it. They need to understand that it is their responsibility to get the company there.
Be the technology face
Finally, any potential CTO candidate needs to be prepared to be the external-facing technologies for the company. When anyone (vendors, investors, reports, etc.) wants to talk about anything technology-related to the company, the CTO is the person they will talk to.
How to tell that you need a full-time CTO
Now that we understand what a CTO does, the next question that a company owner or CEO has to ask themselves is: “Are we ready for a CTO?” There is no three point formula that can give you the answer to that question. The only way to answer that question is to take stock of where you are as a company and where you want to go.
Set aside the question of “Can we afford a CTO?” for the moment, and think it through. Does the corporate vision require you to rely on technology of any kind? If the answer to that one question is “YES”, then honestly, you at least need to consider the possibility that you need a CTO.
Why consider a part-time CTO?
Different companies are at different life-stages. If you’re at the point that you’re able to recognize the value that a CTO will deliver to your company, but not to the point that you can justify the expense of a CTO, it’s better to have someone you can lean on even part-time than trying to fill the role yourself. It is not impossible, but it is difficult for a founder or CEO to hold the vision of the company and the role that technology will play in that vision. It is possible if you are a technical person, but even then, splitting your time between these two distinct roles–head of the company and owner of the technology vision–is difficult. The company would be better served with someone who focuses on the technology, even if it isn’t a full-time role.
How to find a part-time CTO
Many companies find themselves at the point that they need a CTO before they have the resources to afford one. The best solution is to find someone who is willing to step in and fill the role part-time until the company is ready to make a full-time commitment.
The problem then becomes: How do you find someone who meets your needs and is willing to serve part-time? That's where the real challenge lies. Like hiring any technical person, you need to either be able to vet them yourself or have a trusted partner who’s capable of vetting them for you. You need to contact Gun.io.
At Gun.io, we have an entire team of people that currently and previously have served in roles ranging from director to developer. They are capable of assessing a candidate’s skills and matching them up with the right company.
You might wonder why I know so much about being a part-time CTO–it’s because I am currently serving a company in this role, and I am a Gun.io gunslinger.
Contact us today, and let us help you find the person who can maintain your company’s vision and apply technology to help you execute on that vision. Let us help you find your CTO.