These days, every business is in the software business. Even if you don’t make and sell computer programmes, you still use ‘off the shelf’, cloud based software solutions to manage stock, sales information and sensitive data about clients and staff. You can’t afford to be left behind by the next big development in computing that could save you time and money, or be taken in by some convincing but ultimately useless digital snake oil.
Hiring someone at the executive level with responsibility for your technical strategy is a great way to keep pace. A CTO (Chief Technology Officer) If it’s the founder or another executive trying to do this, you’re wasting the energy of someone who’s not a specialist in this area, and taking their time away from working on their actual specialism. They’ll take bad decisions, and won’t be free to make the good decisions your company actually needs!
You need to make sure you get the right CTO for your business: there is no ‘one size fits all’ candidate when you’re hiring, and that’s doubly true for this influential position in your company. Let’s take a look at some of the skills and qualities you’re going to want to look for when you’re hiring your first CTO.
More than most, CTOs need to be enthusiastic about their job. You want someone who’s not going to miss the next big thing because they’re not fully engaged with the news and comment surrounding the software industry.
Ask them where they find their solutions, and how they spend their time: you want someone who’s an enthusiastic member of the computing community, getting insights and recommendations from their peers, and able to bring you solutions that aren’t yet part of the mainstream.
They also need to be aware of the broader picture in which they operate. IT Security is increasingly front page news, and if they aren’t as committed and enthusiastic about that as they are about implementing bold new technology policies you’ll soon find your company in trouble.
Leadership is a vital quality for anyone in this position. They can’t just lean on their executive authority to order people to do as they’re told or use new systems. They need to know how to speak to the needs of different teams, and communicate exactly what the gains are for them and why they spend their time getting up to speed with a new process. Winning hearts and minds is the way to shift companies easily into using new technology. Imposing it from above causes delays, resentment, and could even lead to resignations!