As CTO, you need to have a strong handle on business objectives relating to your apps (for example, what is best for the company), but also a strong handle on the users of your app (for example, what is best for the customers). You are the representative of technology to business stakeholders, and must help them understand what is possible. In addition, you are the representative of business and user needs to developers.
- One of the biggest mistakes young startups make is hiring a CTO based solely on their technical programming abilities. While sometimes CTOs do write code, really their main focus is on crafting a product that fits the market, is useable and hopefully addictive, and gets built well and on time. You hear a lot of talk about "the product." We tend to call the website and apps that come out of a technically oriented business the product because in many cases it is. Companies like Facebook, Uber, and Yelp are based entirely on their websites and mobile apps.
However, when you talk about companies like Amazon.com and our example food delivery company, one might think that the product is what we ship. And that certainly is a product of our organization, but for the sake of discussion when we talk about the product in relation to product management, we're talking about the apps that we create. How you manage the product will depend on the size and structure of your organization. In smaller startups, the CTO is also the product manager by necessity. As the company scales the CTO will generally provide higher level input, product vision and road-mapping, while hiring and managing product managers who will be responsible for a specific application, their execution, and optimization.
Some organizations have a chief product officer. I think this is more a result of having a more technical, or development oriented CTO. I don't think it's wrong, but I do think it's better if the CTO can oversee the product because it's a more natural fit. Eventually in enterprises, the CTO will want to director or VP to oversee the product so they can move on into setting higher level objectives, evangelizing, and focusing on the long-term product future. But, I think in most small to medium businesses it's best if the CTO can oversee the product.
As such, one of the most important things you will do as CTO is manage the vision of your company's product. So, let's dive in and see what that'll entail.
- Hiring a great team
- Enhancing team communications
- Creating a product roadmap
- Capturing and using data and analytics
- Identifying key performance indicators
- Choosing which platform to use
- Managing the product life cycle (PLC)
- Taking feedback
- Public speaking
- Running efficient meetings
- Marketing and launching products
- Growing and scaling
- Managing crises