If a CIO ain’t a CIO these days, then who or what is a CTO? This persona can cause confusion as a buying target because the term is not used uniformly by firms to describe a single category of responsibility. But if the distinguishing focus of a CTO might be summed up in one word, it would be “innovation”. This is seen in their remit: the top measure for CTO success in a Gartner study was “product or service innovation”. It might be IT innovation or technology product innovation. It is also seen in their buying preferences.
The title is used in some end user organizations in place of ‘CIO’. More commonly, it’s an “and” role. The Gartner report How to Demystify the Chief Technology Officer’s Many Personas goes so far as to say: “By 2023, more than 60% of companies will hire or redefine the chief technology officer (CTO) role to accelerate digital transformation initiatives, which is an increase from 28% in 2020.” This report, based on a 2020 study of CTOs in end user firms, identifies four CTO personas:
- the digital business leader accountable for digital business technology strategy
- a business enabler accountable for optimizing tech to support the business
- an IT innovator accountable for technology innovation and transformation in IT
- a COO of IT accountable for daily IT operations.
In contrast, in tech-centric and tech provider firms, it’s also frequently to denote a head of engineering or product.
What do we know about CTOs as buyers of technology?
In our recent Buyer Behavior study, we see that
- CTO respondents were significantly more likely to have been involved in a replacement purchase decision than CIOs (83% versus 65%).
- CTOs were 3 times more likely than CIOs to choose “improve CX” as the primary objective for their largest tech investment.
- The most common top criterion CTOs used to differentiate a tech product is “innovative use of emerging techs” – when looking at their top 3 combined, compatibility reigned. Compare that to CIOs who ranked security tops and for whom performance lead the top 3.
- CTOs were significantly more likely to add products or providers to a short list after creation.
- They were also significantly more likely to have had a security review conducted as part of the buying process.
- CTOs were significantly less likely than CIOs to talk to analysts (24% versus 41% of CIOs) – they are significantly more likely to leverage their professional associations (42% versus 24%).
- They were more than 3 times more likely to find speaking to thought leaders most valuable in making a purchase decision than CIOs.
- Value assessment and business case development material gets used much more often by CTOs making a buying decision.
When do we target CTOs?
CTOs are a target for use cases that involve innovation or transformation with the the organization’s ability to serve its core purpose or its customers better in mind.
We need to take into account whether our ideal customer persona targeted firms are using technology as a core part of their products and services. CTOs in these firms are more likely to have a product remit. However, because of the democratization of tech – they may not necessarily be a fully-fledged tech vendor.
We are exploring these trends in more detail in our “Tech Buying Behavior” key initiative – Gartner clients can subscribe for alerts of new insights.
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