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What Makes A Great CTO?

December 21, 2017

By: Scott Krawitz, CEO of People Driven Solutions International and Charley Morrow, Co-Founder of TA-DA Advisors

Companies large and small seem to fall into two categories these days: a) those who harness technology for growth and b) those who have not. Many have technology plans, but lack implementation. Others are implementing technology with lots of collateral damage. Some organizations even hold their nose and accept collateral damage as “growing pains.”

Smart organizations know how to balance change, technology, growth and the core business. When it is balanced right, there is often a savvy Chief Technology Officer (CTO) making things happen.

Today’s successful CTOs are required to be change insurgents – whether the change is adapting internal business agility or changing the go-to-market approach to optimize the customer journey, leading change is a sizeable portion of the CTO’s job.

In the rush to get the key technical leadership and insights, organizations often promote technical experts to be CTOs. At the highest levels of the organization these tech-savvy experts have potential for great leverage. They might help the company with its core technology, artificial intelligence, digital transformation or any number of strategic shifts.

However, the job is not just a technical one. Often a dark side emerges, and dysfunctional leadership/cultural can prevent successful strategic or technological adaptation. Failure of CTOs are more likely to surround unrecognized business risk, inadequate emotional intelligence and other non-technological areas. Like everyone in the C-suite, the CTO has leadership duties beyond the scope of their specific responsibilities.  The best technological solutions affect broader business processes—CTO influence beyond technology can significantly impact success. How others are engaged matters.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” Stewart Brand

what makes a great cto

What Makes A Great CTO?

We have found that the best CTOs are not only technically savvy, but also strategic, interpersonally skilled, intellectually agile/creative, and evolved managers. If there is a tradeoff, consider balancing towards vision, strategy, and leadership. To stay abreast of the details of technology (AI, blockchains, SAS, ect.) chief technologists can hire consultants and engineers. But you cannot outsource technology’s fit with competitive advantage or building teams that enable secure, reliable infrastructure.  Consider this list:

Qualities Of A Good CTO

top qualities of a cto


In the best case there is someone in your organization or network that understands your technology and embodies these capabilities.  But, these individuals are in high demand. Developing CTOs is best undertaken with individuals who are facile at technology and have the right disposition towards personal and professional growth.  We recommend sourcing someone who has a general understanding of the technology, a general business understanding, as well as an intellectual curiosity and commitment to collaborating/connecting with others. Relationships and empathy for customers and their needs is critical. The details of your organization and leadership can be learned with good coaching. Successful CTOs have access to technical experts to support delivery.


Fractional CTO Services

Technology done right is a strategic differentiator and profit center.  Is your technology leadership driving or inhibiting corporate growth/greatness? Our fractional CTO services provide access to a Chief Technology Officer whose expertise can support vendor selection and management, technology strategy and implementation. A fractional CTO can cost about 25% less than a full-time CTO. Contact us today to learn more at 855.NOW.PDSI (855.669.7374) or info@peopledriven.com

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