By Benjamin Wheaton – Tech & Product Specialist
In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, companies grapple with the perpetual challenge of refining their structures to achieve peak efficiency and foster innovation. A notable and unconventional strategic trend gaining momentum is the amalgamation of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Product Officer (CPO) roles into a singular powerhouse – the Chief Technology and Product Officer (CTPO). Unorthodox? Certainly. Compelling? Undoubtedly.
The conventional partition between CTO and CPO often cultivates siloed thinking and disjointed strategies. The clash between the CTO’s pure focus on technology and the CPO’s focus on product strategy highlights the need for a more integrated approach. Enter the CTPO, harmonizing CTO and CPO functions to offer a holistic perspective throughout the entire product lifecycle. This integration is not about diluting expertise but nurturing collaboration, aligning tech initiatives seamlessly with product goals.
Say farewell to communication barriers. In the swift currents of the tech world, the CTPO, fluent in both realms, becomes a bridge, ensuring that technological advancements synchronize effortlessly with product evolution, accelerating time-to-market.
CTPOs are not merely communicators; they are innovators. Shattering traditional silos, it cultivates a culture where cross-functional teams work cohesively, sparking revolutionary ideas at the intersection of tech and product development.
The gains in efficiency can be substantial. With a unified leader at the helm, redundancies diminish, and resources can be more judiciously allocated. This streamlined approach reduces complexity, enhances agility, and empowers companies to adapt swiftly to market demands.
In essence, the CTPO role can provide a strategic advantage for tech companies vying to be at the forefront of innovation. The fusion of CTO and CPO roles furnishes a leader with a comprehensive view, streamlining decision-making, fostering collaboration, and enabling innovation. As technology advances, the CTPO becomes a pivotal enabler for companies seeking a competitive edge in the dynamic tech landscape.
To delve deeper into this trend, I recently engaged in a conversation with Stefan Nordin, the former CTPO of On the Beach. Stefan is someone I have known and respected for some years and was one of the first CTPOs I was aware of.
In 2020, as CTPO during the pandemic, Stefan prioritised cross-department collaboration crucial for remote work challenges. Aligning Product, Software Engineering, and Infrastructure teams under his leadership, streamlined operations allowing for greater focus and rapid adaptation to new ways of working. As CTPO, Stefan cultivated greater operational alignment, freeing the broader C-suite to concentrate on strategic matters. Despite tactical hurdles, he successfully revamped platforms through tight collaboration between tech and product teams which proved effective in navigating the challenges of the pandemic.
Here is a glimpse into Stefan’s insights:
It is All About the People: “Among trends and theories, the unique nature of each company often gets overlooked. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, making it imperative to tailor leadership structures to the distinct nuances of individual organizations. The success of a CTPO role lies in understanding and harmonizing with the people within the roles.”
· Leadership Skills: Essential for inspiring and leading cross-functional teams and managing the delicate friction between Tech and Product, as well as the T&P department and the broader company.
· Communication Skills: A successful CTPO must navigate and represent all departmental interests, communicating effectively with every member of the C-suite without bias.
· Strategic Vision: The ability to craft a vision based on inputs from peers, customer data, industry trends, and other available data, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.
· Experience: A robust background in companies committed to proper product development, regardless of organizational setup, preferably in fast-paced industries. While expertise in technology is valuable, the emphasis is now on a strong technical background being an asset rather than a prerequisite.
Finding and keeping a good CTPO is not without its challenges. Retention becomes more achievable if the company can make the role work, acknowledging the inevitable trade-offs. Balancing the skills needed and compensating with excellent VPs can contribute to a successful fit for the company.
In the startup arena, where resources are often stretched, the founder/CEO frequently takes on the CPO role, infusing their vision, energy, and passion into the product direction. Initially, the CTO plays a pivotal role in team scaling and technology decisions. As the tech department expands, the pivotal question emerges: Stick with a CTPO or opt for a CTO & CPO duo?
Two pivotal factors influence this decision — the calibre of the CTPO and the capabilities of the team under the CTPO, often referred to as VPs. Their ability to oversee software, infrastructure, data, and product areas, with CTPO support, and stepping into C-level roles if the CTPO departs, is paramount. This decision should be centred around the people in these roles, not just their titles.
The size of the senior management team plays a significant role in deciding whether the CEO can effectively manage a CTO, CPO, and potentially other C-level roles, or if a dedicated CTPO would be more beneficial.
While the decision to hire a CTPO may potentially save costs, it’s not guaranteed. Nordin clarifies that a CTPO setup might require a more experienced layer of VPs, leading to a shift in costs rather than a reduction.
Despite the recent trend leaning towards the CTPO role— the right choice ultimately depends on the unique circumstances of each organization. While a CTPO can expedite decision-making and bridge the gap between Tech and Product, success necessitates seamless alignment with the rest of the C-suite.
“Don’t get caught up in rigid structures and titles. Hire the best talent you can find and build your organization around them. It’s about creating the right synergy, not pigeonholing individuals or feeling like you have to rigidly stick to established organisational structures.”
🚀 Join the Conversation:
Usually, companies separate the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) role (simplified: customer acquisition) from CCO (Chief Customer Officer) (simplified: customer retention). But in many cases, these areas are difficult to separate in an online business. Is the topic of a combined role, the CMCO, just as valid as the CTPO one? What challenges have you encountered in structuring your leadership team? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below. #CTPO #Leadership #Tech-Leadership