Why the Chief Technology Officer has become so critical to the Success of Corporates?

The Transformation of the Role of the CTOs since the 1990s and to the Present Digital Age

Until a decade or so, the CTO or the Chief Technology Officer used to be someone who was by name an executive position, but, in reality, was secondary to other execs including the finance and administration persons.

Indeed, it can be said that until the advent of the Digital Age, there were very few corporates who even had a position of the CTO, let alone, having them on the Board of Directors.

For all practical purposes, the Tech and the Admin roles were merged and the person who headed this combined role used to be a peripheral figure among the ranks of the senior execs.

However, all that changed in recent years, especially after the Y2K scare and the tech boom of the early 1990s.

These events changed the perception with which Technology was viewed in corporates in so far as to having a dedicated CTO and that too someone who was invited to be a guest member of the board.

As the first two decades of the New Millennium draw to a close, it is now abundantly clear that the CTO is here to stay.

As Technology Becomes a Source of Competitive Advantage, the CTO is all important

So, what has changed in the last few decades for the CTO to have become critical to the success of the corporates?

While it is easy to correlate the increasing importance of the CTO to the advent of the Digital Age wherein we just cannot live without technology, it must also be noted that technology has become a source of competitive advantage for corporates and businesses.

Indeed, from being a position that oversees the rollout of hardware and phases of software deployments, the CTO is now a key strategic thinker and an advisor to the CEO or the Chief Executive Officer on matters pertaining to the overall strategic direction that the corporate and the businesses must take.

In other words, what this means is that the increasing criticality and importance of the CTO stems from the changing tides in the business landscape wherein corporates have to necessarily be on top of the Tech game.

Indeed, it goes without saying that now the CTO is almost as important or even more as the CEO in even manufacturing firms since tech has began to play a key role in the success of such firms. Therefore, this explains why the CTO is indispensable.

The CTO Has Come a Long Way from Being Peripheral to Being Central to Corporates

Having said that, it is also the case that the role of the CTO often overlaps with that of the CEO and the Director of Strategy as all these focus areas often are like concentric circles that converge with the tech niche as the central source of competitive advantage.

This is the reason why in some corporates, the CEO has the additional responsibility of tech strategy as then there would be no need for additional roles and there is also more clarity on who has to do what.

In addition, many businesses and corporates are now hiring CEOs who have had a major background in tech on their resumes as this would help them strategise better.

Moreover, it pays to have senior leadership who are not only tech savvy but also tech visionary who they can make optimum use of technology to guide their enterprises.

All said and done, it is clear that with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the CTO and the CEO have to become one and the same.

Indeed, the role of the CTO has undergone a revolutionary transformation and the CTO has come a long way since the days when they were secondary roles.

The Pandemic, Embracing Agile and Fourth Industrial Revolution and the CTO

Another key reason why the CTO is critical to the success of firms is that the ongoing Covid Pandemic has made technology the lifeline of the businesses.

Indeed, it would not be an understatement to say that tech came to the rescue of businesses and corporates during the lockdowns the ensuing Work from Home arrangements.

Moreover, the pandemic has ushered in the Digital Age even for those firms that were above the tech fray and hence, we envisage an ever more important role for the CTOs in the years ahead.

In addition, with the Automation revolution, the CTO would necessarily have to take a call on redundant positions and work with Human Resources and the CEOs to cut jobs or hire and fire at will.

Perhaps the most important reason for the CTOs to become omnipresent would be the embrace of the agile paradigm wherein flex work and modular and self contained and self sufficient teams would mean that traditional hierarchies would give way to tech centric organizational structures.

No wonder that many firms in recent years have begun to hire technologists for the key positions including the CEO roles. We envisage more of such hiring to be the norm.


Last, there is also a danger in overhyping the role of the CTO as technology can be a double edged sword and overreliance on technology without backing the human element can be dangerous.

This is the reason why some firms are looking for technologists with soft skills and value and normative attributes so that in the hunt for the Holy Grail of tech, the focus on people skills is not lost.

All in all, the future would belong to those technologists who can marry their tech knowledge with vision and humane mission and can bring exemplary people skills and values.

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