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Three ways the CTO role has changed

How to adapt and manage change in 2021

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that business and technology strategies are now entirely entwined. Those who were already digitally mature or well on their way have managed to survive and — even thrive — during the rapid shift to remote working and online services. Whilst the CTO has been front and centre in transformation, there is a renewed focus on the wider business landscape. For many, the CTO role has changed significantly over the past year, and there are clear steps you can take to adapt and evolve in 2021.

Leadership: The change enabler

The CTO has long been at the forefront of innovation and change, leading technology strategy and managing costs and operations. But at the height of the pandemic, we saw those strategies tested and the value of the CTO demonstrated, with many businesses forced to put their disaster preparations to good use. When the demand for large-scale remote working suddenly accelerated and client interactions shifted online overnight, technology extended its reach across all aspects of business. Tasked with embedding resilience and getting tech and systems up to speed, it was the CTO who led the rapid adoption of an organisational mindset and created a roadmap for managing in a remote-first environment.

As a result, we’re now seeing a more empowered CTO role in 2021. Having a CTO directly involved or leading business strategy is now a necessity for any digital, future-focused business. But this does mean greater responsibilities to manage moving forward. Having solidified their role in leading the business through a global crisis, they will now be relied upon to inform and involve IT and other departments in enabling continuous improvement. With many potentially acting in a more public-facing role than before, CTOs will have to communicate their strategy rationale and budget proposals as effectively as possible.

Technology: The future-focused visionary

Now that much of the world’s economy has shifted to remote working as standard, the way other companies, employees, and consumers interact with your business has changed dramatically as well. As a result, we’re seeing an increased emphasis and reliance on technology throughout the supply-chain in nearly all sectors. Many of these practices will be here to stay as we start to return to a more open economy.

Two major changes to keep an eye on are within buyer behaviour and B2B interactions. Now more than ever, buyers are all about collaboration. They want a partner who will work with them to solve problems, not simply hand over information. They’ll want to explore a variety of content that explains what your company does and how you provide value. Easy peer-to-peer exchanges will also be crucial to discussing the big ideas and mapping out the big picture surrounding your solution — and getting all of that online will be key. In 2021, many businesses can expect up to hold up to 80% of your buyer interactions over video or live chat.

Let’s not forget the dramatic change remote working will have on employee procurement and retention. Will the best and brightest want to commute or move area to work for your company? Do you actually need them to? CTOs will have to rethink incentives offered to new and current employees, whether they stay remote or return to the office, and ensure they have everything they need to do their work well.  We’re only just starting to understand the impact of these society-wide changes, and CTOs will need to be watching carefully, ready to adapt.

Operations: The efficiency specialist

With online demand for products and services and remote working at 24/7, the CTO is facing greater pressure to free up resources for innovation and speed up resourcing for faster go-to-market. Building a more efficient supply chain will be vital to managing future demand and they’ll want to investigate whether they’ve allocated resources to the right place at the right time.

Another area to keep front of mind is outsourcing, including partial or total systems coverage, to a third-party expert. Consider using specialist resources to help you innovate and ensure delivery of your core business objectives at the same time, or conversely, take on established processes whilst you focus on innovation.

Build upon your successes

As we look forward to 2021, CTOs can make it their year — their time to show what they can do for the business. If you’re ready to progress and plan for the future, the best way to start is by looking back. Take some time to evaluate your 2020.

Dig in to see if your business strategy has changed dramatically since last year. What are your new priorities? What were they then? What was missing? What objectives were you able to meet? Where did you fail? These are important lessons for honing your strategy for the year ahead.

Next, you’ll want to review your decisions made at the height of the pandemic. Were they the right ones? What was the impact? What would you do differently now? Make sure you take these learnings into your roadmaps for ensuring business continuity.

Finally, recognise the people that have helped you and the business thrive through this period of uncertainty. How can you empower them to put their skills to good use in 2021? Do they need any training or better tools? This will help you keep people at the centre of your 2021 strategy.

As CTO, your role is constantly changing, constantly evolving. As we continue to manage turbulence in this era of uncertainty, the CTO will continue to play a crucial role in ensuring business agility and continuity. To ensure a future-ready business, get detailed, expert insight into the four key areas every CTO must address in 2021 — your people, processes, data and technology. Download the CTO Toolkit today.

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