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The Evolving Role of the Chief Technology Officer

by Samantha Searle  |  November 25, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

Are you a newly appointed CTO? Have you recently promoted someone into a CTO role? Or perhaps hired someone externally to be accountable for overseeing the use of technology in your organization? At Gartner, we’re seeing the CTO role evolve in response to the demands of digital business. Digital business transformation is requiring more organizations to place a stronger focus on innovation and emerging technologies. To succeed at becoming a digital business means becoming a technology company. To become a technology company requires a technology visionary. Someone with a vision of how new technologies can transform the business model. In many cases, that technology visionary in a CTO.

CTOs are spending more time driving technology innovation

Gartner’s CTO survey revealed some intriguing insights into how the role of the CTO is currently changing. One key takeaway was that CTOs are spending of their time on technology innovation:

  • 59% of respondents said their CTO leads a technology innovation program as a main focus of their role
  • 57% of respondents revealed their CTO controls a dedicated emerging technology budget
  • 36% of respondents indicated that their CTO leads an investment fund for tech startups within their organization
  • 47% of respondents stated that part of their CTO’s role is dedicated to the modernization of core technology infrastructure as part of driving technology innovation.

However, this didn’t mean that responsibilities for daily IT operations have gone away. Most respondents indicated that they are juggling between operational needs with new digital initiatives.

Our survey also explored reporting structures. 42% of respondents said their CTO reports to the CEO, while 27% said their CTO reports to the CIO. 39% of respondents also reported that their CTO is a peer of the CIO. We are seeing reporting structures where both the CTO and CIO report to the CEO becoming more common, rather than the CTO reporting to the CIO.

The Focus of the CTO Varies But Can Complement the CIO Role

In the age of digital business, the workload for IT leaders is continually expanding. It makes sense for CTOs and CIO to work together to ensure that both technology and the IT organization are enablers, not barriers, to digital business transformation. The CTO role still remains a multi-faceted and complex one. The figure below shows the main areas in which we see CTOs focusing on to deliver value to their organization. The extent to which they focus on these areas does vary significantly. In my next blog post, I’ll present the four most common CTO personas that Gartner has identified in end-user organizations and explain how you can use them to understand how the CTO role is changing.

The main areas of focus of the CTO role

If you are a CTO reading this, or work with CTOs, I would love to hear your point of view. What is the main focus of the CTO role and how is it changing? Who do you report to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and I look forward to reading and responding to them!

In the meantime, if you can’t wait for the next blog post, here are some recent articles that share more of our current CTO research:

Smarter with Gartner: Understand the Four Common CTO Personas

The CIO role, from IT Operator to Business Strategist 

Why some CIOs are CTO too

Evolution of the CTO

If you’re a Gartner client, you can read more in “Research Roundup for CTO Insights: How to Succeed as CTO

Additional Resources

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Category: cio-leadership-culture-and-people  cio-role-evolution  digital  digital-business  digital-disruption-and-innovation  disruption  driving-digital-business-transformation-for-industry-leadership  enterprise-architecture-and-technology-innovation-leaders  front-end-innovation-management  infrastructure-and-operations-leaders  leading-the-next-generation-workforce-supply-chain  research-and-development  technology  technology-innovation  

Tags: chief-technology-officer  cio  cto  digital  disruption  emerging-technology  innovation  it-leaders  it-operations  leadership  tech-innovation  technology  

Samantha Searle
Research Analyst
5 years with Gartner
5 years IT industry

Samantha Searle is a research analyst in the Business Process Management team, focusing on process governance and getting started in BPM. Previously, she worked as a research specialist for Gartner's Best Practices Council…Read Full Bio

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