The 4 different types of CTO

Whilst the nature of the role often varies greatly from company to company, four broad categories of CTO have been identified by Access Alto.

1. Infrastructure commander

• Charged with overseeing the data, security, maintenance and network for a company.

• Implements the business’s technical strategy, but doesn’t set it.

• Manages the overall technology roadmap of the business.

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• Likely to be recruited into an established company, rather than part of a startup.

2. Technology visionary

• Conceptualises how technology is to be used in the company.

• Sets the technical strategy for the company to enable it to achieve its goals.

• Seeks out the current and future technology that will drive the company’s success.

• Likely to have been with the company since its inception.

3. Customer champion

• Operates as the conduit between customers and the business itself.

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• Responsible for customer relations, understanding the target market and influencing the delivery of IT projects accordingly.

• Drives technology to deliver customer excellence in UI and UX.

• The customer champion is common within tech companies with a software focus.

4. Big thinker

• Stretches the boundaries of how technology is used within the business and is encouraged to operate ambitiously.

• Plays a leading part in setting the corporate strategy and driving overall technological infrastructure.

• Creates business models, contributes to new technology, analyses target markets.

• Has a close relationship with the CEO and senior management team within the organisation.

The digital economy showed twice the rate of growth of the wider economy in 2016, and the number of technical jobs has followed suit. With such a dynamic, high-growth sector, it is little wonder that the tasks covered by CTOs in today’s workplace are so varied.

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“Responsibilities of an individual’s role are largely defined by the point at which they joined the organisation,” explained Andy Brown, divisional director for Access Alto.

“CTOs that have been in place since a company’s inception may find their role more diverse and all-encompassing, whereas those appointed into a more mature organisation tend to inherit a more defined set of responsibilities, relevant to their specific industry.”

With some developments within IT changing the technological landscape in a matter of months, Access Alto has also highlighted the need for professionals within the sector to keep on top of key trends, and has identified those it deems likely to have an impact on the role of the CTO.

These include the increasing importance of business analytics, necessitating a heavier reliance on specialist software to provide top down views of a business, with the most successful systems incorporating machine learning.

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“An increasing number of specialisms and complexities within the technological sphere will push the role towards general knowledge of the broader IT sector and away from specifics,” added Andy. “Instead, the emphasis will be on recruiting appropriately skilled team members to introduce the detailed, in-depth expertise required.

“CTOs will play a crucial role in protecting a company’s networks and data from malicious attacks, facing more exposure to, and culpability for, breaches of data security. With cyber offences now accounting for almost half of all crime in the country, more responsibility in this field is likely to be placed on a CTO than ever before. It is therefore vital to have a firm grasp on organisational security.”


See Access Alto’s infographic on the four categories of CTO here

Related: The CTO role of today will evolve into the CEO role of tomorrow

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...