The key to CTO success: Appreciate the technology

As Avanade’s CTO, Mark Corley works with customers across a range of disciplines, from planning to full technology implementations.

What makes his role unique is that he’s constantly looking at the CTO role from an external perspective, applying his learnings and knowledge to his customers so that they understand and can select the best technologies to meet their business needs.

Appreciate the technology

It is important for CTOs to have a good understanding of the businesses and industries they work with, while considering what is needed from both a business and IT perspective.

“Specifically, the IT need must support the business — the technology strategy must be thought about in terms of how to help the business meet its overall objectives, whether that is better understanding data to inform new services/products, creating efficiencies to save money or helping the business out-compete their competition,” explains Corley.

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“Having said that, in order to succeed as a CTO, one needs to appreciate technology — you have to really understand what is hype, what is high value and the competitive landscape. You must be constantly learning and evolving in order to be effective in the role,” he says.

“In terms of success, in my view, it’s also important to be a ‘problem-solver’. These days a business problem almost always has a technology element in the solution. But to succeed in solving these problems, the CTO must be able to step back from the technology and understand the business need – this is massively important to the success of the larger business.”

The ingrain challenge

Implementing technology is the easy part. But, “ingraining it into the way a business works or changing the way a business operates is challenging,” says Corley.

Organisations — especially more established ones — are made up of lots of people with different opinions, different points-of-views and different agendas.

This means that CTO’s can’t think just think with a technology mindset, “they must put people at the centre of their approach and consider how people will interact with the technology to solve problems and benefit the business,” he continues.

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The shift to business

As we have heard from many CTOs, the role of Chief Technology Officer will shift, “although cyclically”, towards the business. Their role will become central to the success of a business.

“Many tech companies include the CTO as part of their core leadership team. And, as businesses become increasingly reliant on technology, traditionally ‘non-technology’ businesses will demand more of an active role from their CTO,” concludes Corley.

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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...

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