What is a CTO: Ultimate guide to the Chief Technology Officer CTO


Other responsibilities include defining testing strategies, scheduling and assigning tasks among many other things. Another angle to look at the same function is in companies that provide IT-related products and services. When customers have questions or problems, the technical support unit will help solve issues. Digital adoption has become an integral part of any business’s success. New technologies are introduced constantly, and employees must be trained to use them efficiently.

The title first developed at dot-com companies in the 1990s and then expanded to IT departments. The CTO role became popular as the information technology (IT) industry grew, but it is also used in other industries such as e-commerce, healthcare, telecommunications, and government. In 2009, the White House announced the appointment of the country’s very first CTO, an official in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

IC and Manager

The most successful transformations we have seen are the result of CTOs igniting passion and leveraging the efforts of a range of individual talents. In my eyes, the ultimate test of a great CTO is whether they can illustrate how technology helps drive the Enterprise Value of the company they work in. If they can do that effectively then their role should be deemed a success.

  • That said, some companies have an ITSM department whose role is to enforce the best ITSM practices across the IT department.
  • Portability describes how compatible certain computer programming languages are in diverse environments.
  • One way to do this is to create a completely democratic environment.
  • The startup simply provides technical specifications and requirements.
  • In business, the area of product development is encouraging innovation, while building new and developing technology products for customers.

Other responsibilities include ensuring high uptime and security of the application and provide cost-effective and scalable cloud infrastructure. A divisional org structure is a type where each of the divisions controls its resources and operates like a stand-alone company. Each division has its sales team, marketing team, IT team, etc., and does not necessarily have to report to a central executive. Most large organizations adopt this structure based on product, market, and geography. He or she sets quality metrics & standards for quality assurance of the product being built and ensures that those standards are met.

Startup Roles & Responsibilities: Tech Startup Team Structure

CTOs oversee the effectiveness of technology resources within an organization, including everything from phone systems to enterprise software platforms. This kind of CTO will help set up the corporate strategy and fuel technological infrastructure, will analyze target markets, and create business models. Additionally, the CTO will have a close relationship with the CEO and other members of the company’s senior management. This type of CTO may envision how technology will be used within the company while setting the technical strategy for the company.

However, a few new business owners spend too much and run out of cash. So, managing your finances and planning expenses is essential for every startup. Every business has several departments that have to work in coordination to achieve business objectives. Sometimes companies fail to deliver the desired result, which can be because of the failure of one or multiple teams. Great CTOs accept nothing without facts and independent analysis. They are not only good problem solvers and business leaders; they have a high emotional quotient and strong interpersonal skills.

Strategic Thinking

Furthermore, such meetups may aid in the identification of skilled and experienced developers for future collaboration. As a tech leader, the CTO needs to bridge functional abilities and other company’s resources to improve efficiency. Additionally, the Chief Technology Officer makes the collaboration between workers easier and optimizes the company’s inside processes. The importance of this dual-facing aspect of the CTO’s role emerges with particular clarity in conglomerates and multi-business-unit organizations, where cross-cutting topics are at risk of not being recognized.

cto team structure

It is imperative to state here that no perfect organizational structure exists. As your company evolves, you should also tweak your structure and business processes so you can maximize your team of software developers, improve their happiness and productivity. Daniel is a software engineer and co-founder of Trio, a successful startup empowering remote senior software engineers and partnering with companies to solve everyday problems through technology. With over two decades of experience in the industry, Daniel is a dynamic and strategic leader committed to driving growth and positive change.

What Skills Should Startup CTOs Have?

That means CTOs are likely spending a lot of time working in collaboration with others. The chief technology officer has emerged as a key player in the C-suite, as digital transformations become high strategic priorities for so many organizations. Chief Technology Officers are more likely to incorporate new technologies or follow the company’s goal. As a result, a trained and experienced CTO must have a certain set of skills. However, in addition to technical ability, the CTO job responsibilities have to be performed with the help of social skills such as empathy, leadership, and management.

Managing business IT systems such as ERP, finance, and CRM has always been at the core of the  Chief Technology Officer’s role. For decades businesses have depended on enterprise core systems to run and operate their businesses. However, a lot of businesses fail to understand the CTO role, and it is often the least defined role in the C-Suite. The truth is not every startup maximizes its potentiality by adopting a hierarchical structure.

Innovation and R&D

It’s important to note that the length of the meeting should not be the primary focus, but rather the quality of the conversation and the outcomes achieved. The meeting should allow sufficient time to cover the key topics chief technology officer roles on the agenda and provide an opportunity for open and productive communication between the manager and team member. The one-on-one meeting should be focused on the team member’s goals, challenges, and development.

cto team structure

But one thing is for sure, they need to have their finger on the “technological pulse,” and remain aware of new trends and technologies that could disrupt their business. As a result, CEOs and boards often don’t understand or confuse the CTO’s role when they are looking to hire one. Yet, given that a lot of the business’s competitive advantage rests on whoever is hired, they should know what to expect from CTO’s. In a nutshell, the CTO leverages the best and relevant technology to ensure the startup remains competitive. In this article, we demystified the CTO Organizational Structure, unveiled its pros and cons, and revealed the roles and the impact a CTO makes all through the startup’s growth stages.


It seems the CTO title first gained popularity in the late 1990s, around the time the internet was exploding and the world began to grasp how technology was about to fundamentally alter our existence. The CTO often reported to the chief information officer (CIO), which created confusion in IT circles about who did what, exactly. Then, advertise the positions on relevant platforms and networks. Conduct thorough interviews to assess candidates’ technical proficiency and cultural fit.

Difficulties for a CTO when building a software team

Recruit high-performing development teams managed by Trio’s engineering managers. As the organization grows, some teams might become focused on specific technical topics such as those described in the Team Topologies approach. Understanding the purpose of the team will also help inform you who to hire. An IC, short for individual contributor, is someone who is creating the product. This could be a developer writing code, a product manager performing research, a quality assurance analyst running through a test book, or myriad other things. If you have an existing project, you’ll need people with skills in refactoring.

The team that focused on researching and building machine learning models should have a very different make-up. One way to do this is to create a completely democratic environment. Holacracy, a form of Sociocracy, is a framework to manage this. Subsystem teams focus on owning complex technical domains in order to reduce the cognitive load of others. They interact by providing a service; the stream-aligned team is their customer.

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