A chief technology officer (CTO) is a jack of all trades in the technical aspect of a software development project. Depending on the project’s scale, a head of technology takes responsibility for different tasks, and their complexity varies. What remains the same is the CTO’s impact on the project’s outcome.

Every project, whether in a startup or an international enterprise, needs a CTO, even if this role is played by a senior software engineer with excellent organizational skills. However, not every team includes this position by default.

For example, a startup may not be able to afford hiring such a professional. A middle-size company can tend to rely on the CEO while solving technical issues.

Someday, you may find out that you need an experienced CTO right now, but hiring a professional will take months. In this case, consider such a solution as CTOaaS (CTO as a service). Chances are you’ll introduce your team to a new tech leader within days without spending effort on hiring. 

Continue to read to learn why CTOaaS is beneficial, in what cases it’s the optimal solution, and how to find a reliable service provider for your project.

Who Is a CTO?

A CTO is one of the most versatile professionals in a software development team (among other tech jobs) because a tech leader can operate on different levels of management and execution. As the IBM report “The CTO Revelation” states, tech chiefs describe themselves as “organizational and ecosystem integrators”.

CTO’s Tasks and Responsibilities

A chief technology officer is a C-suite executive, as it’s easy to guess from the position’s title. In an enterprise-level software company, the technical director primarily focuses on developing the technological aspects of the strategic business plan and coordinating the team. In contrast, in a startup, the head of technology not only supervises the entire development team but also handles some hands-on tasks, such as coding.

As you can see, the role of a CTO changes considerably depending on the scale of a company and project. Moreover, in two different teams of the same scale, even if these teams represent the same industry, two CTOs will perform different tasks – preliminary because each company has its own unique set of challenges, business objectives, and organizational cultures that shape the specific responsibilities and focus areas of their CTOs. However, some tasks, common for tech leaders, can be distinguished to outline the role of the position in general. These tasks or functions are as follows:

  • strategic planning – taking part in business strategy development, creating and aligning technology approaches with the company’s long-term goals;
  • fostering innovation – ensuring that innovations are applied to the company’s business processes to achieve set goals;
  • development process management – providing conditions for meeting deadlines, achieving deliverables, and effective collaboration among team members;
  • project infrastructure building – implementing and upgrading the project infrastructure;
  • risk management – identifying potential risks and ensuring their mitigation;
  • communication with stakeholders and investors – conveying technology strategies to stakeholders and pitching ideas to investors.

Let’s sum up  the CTO role in software development. In a typical project, the CTO is responsible for overseeing the integration of new technologies, ensuring that the development processes align with the broader business strategy, and driving technological innovation.

Key CTO’s Skills

As it’s clearly seen from the technical engineer’s responsibilities, the position requires different kinds of expertise. Tech skills, such as knowledge of programming languages, frameworks, and tools, proficiency in database management, and experience in project management and software development methodologies, are essential. These skills in the CTO’s resume are usually available by default. According to The Global CTO Survey 2021 Report, 70% of the tech executives are former software engineers.

Soft skills are also in demand when we consider the skillset of a tech leader who supervises the processes of software development in general and is able to handle the operational tasks. These are excellent communication and interpersonal skills, strategic planning, critical thinking, and time management.

What Is CTO as a Service?

As you’ve seen from the description of a technical leader’s role provided above, there is hardly any technical task in which a tech leader isn’t involved either as a manager or as a performer, depending on the project scale. There are several models of collaboration with a technical expert, and CTO as a service is one of them. Let’s clarify what the crux of providing a technical manager’s expertise as a comprehensive service is, and what the advantages of this form of collaboration are.

The Key Peculiarities of CTO as a Service

To understand the peculiarities, we should learn what forms of collaboration we compare. Tech leadership as a service has the following alternatives:

  • an in-house CTO – a tech leader who is a part of a development team, a professional hired on a full-time basis (a full-time CTO);
  • a part-time CTO – a professional who is still hired on a constant basis but dedicates to a company the fixed amount of time;
  • a contract CTO – a tech expert who works as a freelancer during the set period of time;
  • a tech consultant – a person who provides on-demand advisory services, i.e., gives advice when a company applies for a tech professional’s assistance in solving a particular problem or a series of problems; this type of tech manager isn’t a part of a team but rather an independent professional who is often involved in providing one-time CTO services.

It may seem that the listed solutions cover all companies’ needs in tech expertise and consulting. However, all of them have their downsides. To hire a full-time tech leader, a project needs considerable budgets. A contract CTO isn’t an impeccable alternative as well, since such a professional could be less involved in business processes than it’s desirable. 

Other alternatives aren’t ideal either. It’s hard to expect that a part-time CTO will provide as much dedication to the project’s performance as a team member who is immersed in a routine and is completely eager to contribute to the company’s mission. The same can be said about a tech consultant who treats their task as solving a peculiar issue and hardly feels deeply responsible for achieving long-term business goals.

The Key Advantages of CTO as a Service

That’s the point where we see the benefits of CTO as a service (CaaS) clearly. When you hire a CTO who is a bearer of technical functions as a complete set of services, you get an expert who is involved in business processes completely and is responsible for the outcome. What is more beneficial is that the amount of time and expertise that the CTO dedicates to your project aligns perfectly with your project’s needs. Moreover, you don’t need to invest your effort and money in hiring a tech expert on a full-time basis.  

Let’s summarize the benefits of hiring a CTO as a provider of a comprehensive suite of services:

  • Adaptability. CTOaaS can adapt to the specific needs of a project or company, offering tailored expertise. An expert is fully involved in the particular company’s development process.
  • Flexibility. You can use the tech leader’s expertise when you need it, whether you’re at the discovery or scaling-up stage of the project.
  • Cost-effectiveness. You avoid the high costs associated with hiring a full-time executive. (The average rate for a CTO in the USA reaches $197,531 per year.)
  • Broad expertise. An expert offers a wide range of technical knowledge and experience, often more diverse than a single in-house CTO.

CTO as a service emerges as a versatile and economical solution, especially for companies needing high-level technical leadership without the commitment and expense of a full-time hire. It combines the advantages of expertise, flexibility, and strategic focus, making it an attractive option for businesses aiming to navigate the complex technological landscape efficiently.

When You Need a CTO as a Service

As we’ve mentioned before, the head of technology is involved in all processes related to technology strategy, implementation, and management within the organization. The question is when you need to address the required expertise as a service. After all, you can hire a specialist on a different basis, for example, by taking a specialist on staff, outsourcing tasks to a freelancer, or addressing offshore CTO services. So why CaaS?

The Use Cases for Which CaaS Works Best

There are plenty of use cases when employing an executive technology leader as a service provider makes more sense compared to other alternatives. To consider these use cases in the most concise way, let’s relate them to development project stages and look at the CTO’s role in the contexts of each stage:

  • Discovery phase. The main question which a discovery stage gives an answer is about the product’s feasibility and viability. A tech chief contributes to the vision of the app’s perspectives.
  • Building a minimum viable product (MVP). A CTO guides technical strategy, ensures MVP’s feasibility, and leads the development team.
  • Project update. A technology director is responsible for keeping a project up-to-date with innovations and maintaining the high level of performance in an evolving technology environment.

There are other milestones in the project’s life cycle when you may need technical leadership in the form of CTO as a service. They are as follows:

  • startup pitch – a CTO helps prepare a pitch and convey your startup idea to investors;
  • technical audit – a tech leader runs the project’s assessment and finds opportunities for improvement;
  • talent acquisition – a technology leadership officer takes part in hiring a team for software development and usually assists with reaching out to the best candidates.

To wrap up, it’s worth noting that you may need a CTO’s assistance in a variety of cases when your in-house expertise isn’t enough and it doesn’t make sense to establish a full-time CTO consulting. Hiring a tech leader in the form of a comprehensive service is both effective and cost-efficient.

Models of Collaboration for CTOaaS

While the type of service we’re considering in this article ensures flexibility in terms of cost, there are several models of hiring and payment related to CTO as a service that make it even more flexible. Here are the models of collaboration with a tech leader as a provider of a comprehensive service you can apply to fulfill your business needs:

  • Part-time CTO services. It’s up to you to decide how much time you want a tech consultant to dedicate to your tasks. You can start with, let’s say, twenty hours a week; it’s optimal for the early stages of project development. As your project scales up, this amount of time will increase.
  • Project CTO. In this model, a tech leader curates the particular project, from the discovery phase to project deployment and maintenance.
  • Fractional or interim CTO services. It’s your choice if you need advice on a particular issue. For example, you want to build an e-commerce platform or migrate an application to Microsoft Azure, yet your internal CTO services provider doesn’t have enough experience to handle the task safely.

In conclusion, the most suitable choice of CTO services should be tailored to the specific needs and challenges of your project for optimal results.

Final Thoughts

The choice of an appropriate CTO service is crucial to efficient navigation of the complexities of software development.

CTOaaS, in particular, stands out for its adaptability, offering tailored expertise, flexibility, and cost-efficiency, making it a highly practical option for businesses seeking high-level technical leadership.

Ultimately, the decision to opt for a particular CTO service should be carefully aligned with your project’s specific requirements and organizational goals, ensuring that your technical strategy not only addresses immediate needs but also propels your business towards long-term innovation and success.