The Pillars of Purview of the Successful CTO/CIO

So, as we’ve now discussed, you, the CTO or CIO, brought in to oversee the technology areas of your company, are paradoxically not really there predominantly for technology. Even if you like to think of yourself as a technogeek (and most of us do, frankly), if you want to be effective in the overall role of this chief information technology officer, you’ll need to broaden your approach. Then what is your purview as CTO/CIO?

Call it marketecture if you want, but I’ve found it useful to separate my role into five major areas, all of which happen to begin with P. I call these the 5 Pillars of Purview, and they represent, for CTO/CIO responsibilities in general, a model or framework that I’ll be referring back to in this blog.

  • People Career path, evaluations, coaching, hiring, firing, compensation, public relations to the rest of the company, communicating, motivating, rewarding
  • Process How are projects spawned and prioritized and appropriate resources allocated? Is the way that you “bake” and release software clearly understood and fully under control? How is your quality assurance? What do your internal users think?
  • Product How are you progressing your company’s products or services? What’s around the corner that you’ll need to deal with?
  • Projects Which projects are on track? Which are lagging? Why, and what can you do?
  • Performance How are your systems performing? Response time? Bugginess? Stability? How do you know? [Read more…]

The title issue: CTO vs CIO, and why it’s the wrong question

CTO has got to be one of the most overloaded (to use a development geek term) titles around. Depending on the industry, the company, and the individual in the position, the Chief Technology Officer may have entirely different responsibilities and purview from other similarly named positions. And what in heaven’s name is a CIO anymore? In many companies, the CTO title seems to have supplanted what ten or twenty years ago would have been referred to as the CIO, which sadly tends to spoil the old joke that CIO stood for “Career Is Over.”

As an article in ComputerWorld pointed out, “ask what a CTO does, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses. In some companies, the CTO heads research and development. In other companies, the CTO is just like a CIO. In still others, the CIO reports to the CTO. And there are also CTOs who work in IT departments and report to the CIO.”

I’m going to reveal my bias here up front: it doesn’t matter, really, what you call the position. The important part is to recognize two conflicting truths: technology is all-important in many leading and bleeding-edge companies today; technology itself, however, cannot be the sole, or even the main, focus and purview of the senior technology executive. [Read more…]

Introduction and goals

Joining some 89 million of my fellow netizens, I’m starting a blog. But there will be no pictures of my dog here. Instead, this one will concern itself with what I’m calling “Intensely practical lessons learned in the CTO/CIO trenches.”

Despite my considerable and immutable youth (I assure you that this is true), I’ve had a 25-year career in information technology, serving as a senior executive at Internet companies for the last ten or so of those years. I’m a strange combination, I think sometimes: a CTO who rose up through the ranks of software development, then got “religion” on project management and operational issues, and who maintains an extremely strong interest in and affinity for business issues, particularly those revolving around customers. I’m also a bit of an amateur “internet sociologist”, fascinated by what makes such companies succeed and fail, rise and fall. This admixture will make for some odd, but I hope interesting, topic choices at times.

I searched around the blogosphere (perhaps rightly one of the top most hated words on the internet), looking for something similar to the kind of blog I envisioned, and frankly, I couldn’t find it. Listed at the bottom of this post are links to some of the CTO/CIO blogs I did find, and I welcome people’s comments that point me to useful blogs that I might have missed.

One thing I’ve learned as an executive is the value of stating one’s goals at the outset, so here are mine for this blog: [Read more…]