In today’s businesses with so much dependence and focus on technology and digital, the role of the function keeps growing every year. Today’s CTOs should be recognized for their importance with almost every business decision having an element of IT in it. Therefore, IT CXOs deserve a seat at the decision-makers’ table, instead of being instructed on technology adoption by the business.
To begin with, CTOs need to co-create the business strategy for the company, not merely be a go-to person for delivering what is decided in senior management meetings. A CTO needs to be involved from the beginning and be part of the core committee where business decisions are taken, whether they are strategy level or annual planning. Involving a Technology head in the decisions at a later stage inhibits the proper technology roadmap creation and execution. Today, such involvement is not common practice in most companies. Traditionally, the role of the CTO has been active and sometimes reactive, but that needs to change.
The CTOs also need to develop credibility, track record and business domain knowledge to ensure that other business heads naturally consult him/her for important business decisions. They should minimize the use of technical jargons in conversations and talk the business language which colleagues understand. CTOs should themselves be convinced that business heads are peers and not superior – in terms of position in the organization hierarchy.
I have observed that sometimes CTOs have the perception that they are subservient to business heads, which is something they themselves can change. The business value of the CTO can be created by driving business innovation and changes, demonstrating business advantages delivered using technology, setting realistic expectations and transforming the organization in a manner that has never been done before. CTOs need to take charge of things, use their tech-knowledge and expertise to drive business strategies. They can then establish their value in the leadership stake holders group.
CTOs can very well be the Head of Strategy if he has good domain skills. He already has the requisite technology skills. While every department head has knowledge of mostly their own area, the head of technology has the full knowledge of every vertical, since almost all processes has IT involved in it. The CTO is in an advantageous position of being aware of the different building blocks of solutions deployed and how they relate to each other, and that perspective is not available to the vertical heads. Therefore, a CTO can speak from the position of knowledge – of what needs to be done or certain areas that are not integrated well.
Many of the problems companies face is because of silos that the organization operates in, especially in large organizations. Many have historically been watertight blocks, and now most companies are struggling to bring them together to have a unique and totally integrated view of the company. We need to bring all the teams together, and technology plays a huge role in this integration.
In many organizations, the basic challenge is the duplication of solutions and consequently data in different silos. There is the need to simplify the architecture as much as possible to logically connect the various products and services based offerings, and give the customer a great engagement experience equally and seamlessly in all the physical and electronic channels. The CTO can play the leadership role to break silos, making all this happen and establish credibility in the organization.
Dutta is the Executive Director & Group CTO at CDSL, India’s leading central securities depository (CSD). He has over 36 years of diverse work experience in India and the United States, across multiple industries including Banking, Broking, NBFC, Depository and Insurance among others. Dutta has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. As an industry veteran and thought leader, he is featured frequently as speaker / panel member / jury member in prominent industry forums and events in India and internationally.