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Product Management

4 Signs Your Business Needs a CTO

If your business involves technology and you find yourself thinking along any of the following…

  1. Let’s get a developer to do “the tech”
  2. Let’s outsource “the tech”
  3. Let’s get some software off the shelf for “the tech”
  4. Let’s get started and sort out “the tech” once we start growing

…then it is a sign that you should think about having a your business might need a CTO.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong

Murphy

Let’s see what can go wrong with each of the four points.

The Technical Talent

Good technical people in your network that you can rely on is the best thing to have for your business. Otherwise, finding technical talent can be exciting if “looking for co-founder speed-dating” is your thing.
Your next best option is to get guidance from a technical lead who has been there, done that; and will

  • help making early technology decisions that fits your bill;
  • align product features or project scope with schedule and budget.

The Outsourcing Shop

Getting somebody external to build your tech – outsourcing – is a frequently favoured approach. It promises to deliver a bespoke solution, tailored to your needs, often advertised at a low cost. If you have not worked with outsourcing companies before, or if you have not managed product development with a partner before, this could be a bumpy and costly ride.
Delivering a successful project with external partners requires a great deal of preparation and dedication during the execution from your side, including

  • interview, evaluate and select partners, suppliers;
  • oversee delivery from start to finish.

The Off-the-shelf Product

Finding a suitable and affordable off the shelf product, commercial or free open source, is a great way to get started. If you have the luxury of choice, then a thorough, objective analysis of options should reveal the most fitting one.
A single package rarely meets all needs. A new set of challenges will rise from customising it, or from integrating it with additional solutions.
Circumstances could lead to considering building your own tech. It is a decision not to be taken lightly.
Mitigate the risks by getting help for

  • vendor and product selection;
  • buy versus build analysis.

The Postponed Tech

Kicking the tech decision tin can down the proverbial road tends to build up technology debt. It risks future development, innovation and growth by increasing cost, timeline and limiting scope.
Think about tech strategically, make it part of your roadmap to address technology debt.
Addressing tech at the growth stage will throw up more of the same issues described earlier with the added twist of dealing with legacy.
Avoid being limited by tech at this stage by

  • devising strategy and roadmapping early;
  • performing regular technology audits.

Making technology work to create value for your business is often not a trivial task. The runaway costs, scope creeps, schedule overruns together with unnecessary complications and complexity can be overwhelming.

If still not convinced, or cannot commit to getting a CTO on board, perhaps consider working with an interim or part-time CTO.

Early stage technology decisions will have a profound impact on your business for a long time.

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