Mantle of the CTO in organisation functionality

Organisations constantly need an executive who can provide a more explicit opinion, views, and research regarding the adoption of new technology. And, this is where the CTO’s come to the rescue.

Cathy Bessant, the CTO of Bank of America, says that the influence of CTO on the technology systems that surround the service industries is high. Better engagement with vendors and employees in asserting new technologies for organisations benefit is one of the most critical chief technology officer responsibilities,  on Straight Talk, a thought leadership platform for senior technology leaders.

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Even after having such an important role in the business hierarchy, if you pose people a question regarding the Chief Technology Officer’s Responsibility, you will get a mixed bag of answers. Most of the time confused with the CIO – the Chief Information Officer. The simplest answer to the question of the difference between CIO and CTO is that the CTO creates and sells technology to the customers while the CIO manages technical infrastructure for business operations.

The mantle of CTO differs from organisation to organisation. A CTO is a sort of like the Chameleon that adapts to the situation, says Utah CTO Dave Fletcher. Every organisation has a different way of running business operations, and they need someone smart enough to utilise new technologies to add business value to their enterprise. To delve deeper into the mantle of the CTO in a business functionality, one can categorise role of CTO’s based on these four models.

Infrastructure manager

The increasing complexities in the IT infrastructure demand enterprises to allocate responsibilities of the CIO to a CTO. The CTO takes on the responsibility of running operations and infrastructure of IT: like network operations, data centre operations, maintenance and development of applications, securities and other functions. In this model, the CTO reports to the CIO who is the senior executive in the company, reporting to the president or the CEO.

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The person taking on the role of a CTO must have a keen sense of operating new technology, ability to lead a large organisation. The technology executives can be split into two parts in this model; the CTO manages day-t0-day operations, and the CIO handles the executive responsibilities.

Operational manager

The CTO determines how to implement technology to enhance business value. He is also responsible for real-time integration and administration of the technology. In order to successfully design and implement a business strategy, the CTO should have an excellent combination of both technical and business skills.

To leverage the business strategies the CTO must balance technology innovation and the necessary business requirements. In this model, the CTO directly reports to the CEO or the president. A person with strong technology vision and practical ability to convert ideas into reality should only assume the role of CTO.

Efficient strategist

The CTO should be a Big Thinker and spend her/his time in the evaluation of utilising technology to internal business solutions. CTO responsibilities often include competitive analysis, technology assessment, architecture standards of IT, planning and partnering.

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In this model, the CTO works more as influencer than a line manager. It can be a CTO who comes from outside and influences the senior executives with abilities to accomplish business goals. Typically speaking this CTO has ample room for broadening strategic horizons, long-term innovations and envisioning future paths for the enterprise.

User end technologist

The CTO uses her/his efforts on utilising technology to provide exemplary services to external clients or end users. CTO must be focused on external trends and have the willingness to embrace various innovations out and inside of the enterprise.

In this model, the CTOs main role is to develop a strategy for the enterprise by identifying, locating and experimenting with potentially disruptive techs. He/she is responsible for the exploitation of key technologies that are shared across the front line of the organisation to its customers. Being a key advisor to senior executives like CEO and COO, CTO plays a major role in making major change decisions of the company. One can say the major concern of the CTO is to assess and project the impact of technologies on the enterprise and its customers.


From architectural decisions to technical evangelism, the influence of a smart CTO is important. Eric Rees, the author of The Lean Startup and an Ex-CTO, states that a mark of an exceptional CTO is that they never say a task is impossible. Instead, they work on finding options to do the work in most effective and valuable way to the business. If as a CEO you want to change a product for serving a new customer segment, then you need an executive who can lay out all possible technological approaches to the new proposed business.

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