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The four competencies of the CTO

Is the CTO a technologist or a business leader? Does technology provide a strategic advantage to your company? Is the technology investment about back office infrastructure and ERP or is it balanced with market facing investments?

Using some of the materials in the CIO Edge and some of the Egon Zehnder materials I’ve seen, here is my take on the four competencies of the CTO.  The first three of these are what I consider threshold competencies, the fourth I see as the differentiator.

1. Team Leadership

2. Delivering Results

3. Strategic Orientation

4. Influencing and Collaboration

I’ll link to some separate posts about each of these, but in the meantime here is a summary of what each of these competencies mean to me.

Team Leadership – Engaging, motivating and supporting the team is most important. Managing the skills, qualifications and capabilities is a challenge in the fast changing technology landscape. What makes technology team leadership different then other functions? Two items come to mind: 1) effective collaboration within the team, with other business functions, and with customers and 2) the connection to the success of the business through strategy, delivery and participation.

Delivering results – No function is effective if it can not deliver the needed results. There are many parts to this competency ranging from effective ‘portfolio management’ and prioritization of investments (the ‘what’ in delivering results) to project management methodology (I’m a proponent of ‘Agile’ which provides earlier indication of items being on track or not) to financial management and appropriate budget coordination. Also, streamlined technology choices or effective leveraging of standards will reduce complexity and improve time to market. And making sure the needed skills are applied requires the right balance between staff, consultants, contractors and outsourcers.

Strategic Orientation – In most businesses the technology capability and strategy should have a significant impact on the business strategy, and this is often not understood. As I discuss in my post about the business potential in the ‘nexus’ enabled market, the business strategy needs to consider technologies that create fundamental shifts in a market, enable new products or services, and data & analytic capabilities that likely will impact a business at its core. Secondarily, there is the technology strategy that needs to be responsive to this, and prioritizes a balance in investments in effective platforms to enable new products and services with being efficient for the existing operation.

Influencing and Collaboration – The differentiator. Assuming the other three competencies create the strategic influence and alignment, delivers results  with a well motivated and capable team, how does influencing and collaboration come into play? It is all about the success of the business, with the other parts of the business, the suppliers, and other market participants being an integral part to this success. As the CIO edge book analyzes the 7 leadership skills you need to drive results, this is the “Forging winning relationships – up, down, and especially sideways” that creates an environment of collective success.

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