What Your CTO Should Be Doing!

Glasser provided an interesting and straightforward catalogue of what he saw as the key roles of a CTO of a startup company operating in the high-tech arena.  His list began with ensuring that the company had the best technology to carry out the specific technology-related activities that were required in order for the company to competitive and this meant creating and continuously engaging with the appropriate suppliers and other allies and making sure that the technology requirements for each company project were clearly understood among the members of the teams working on those projects.  In that regard, he noted that “[t]he greatest leverage is when the project is in its earliest phases, when we are deciding on architectures in the context of market requirements and when technology choices are being made”. The second item on his list was creating options for the company—either for existing businesses or launching new businesses—and being heavily involved with other functions, such as business development, in incubating opportunities that are based on exploiting technological breakthroughs.  Glasser’s third activity for the CTO was attending to the health and well-being of the technical community including acting as the public face of technology for the company and making sure that technology optimization is taken into account in all decisions and activities throughout the organization.  Finally, the CTO needs to be involved in the formulation and execution of the company’s overall business strategies given that Silicon Valley companies are competing by forging technical excellence in the products and in the processes used to create those products. 

Glasser’s ideas were similar to those described by Ries a few years earlier when he argued that “[t] CTO's primary job is to make sure the company's technology strategy serves its business strategy” and then suggested that the effective CTO need to be adept at several specific skills including platform selection and technical design; seeing the “big picture”; providing options; finding ways to “get 80% of the benefit for 20% of the cost; growing technical leaders; and owning the development methodology.


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