Technology has been progressing at an accelerating rate. It has barely been a century since we were having debates about cars not being able to replace horse carts. Now, in 2019 we already cars that can park themselves.
To keep up with these innovations, businesses need leaders that can not only envision these changes but also make strategies for organizations to implement. As the speed of technological advancement is exponential in nature, tech-leaders are increasingly occupying central positions in businesses.
The Rise In The Importance Of Tech Leaders
Back in the 50s and 60s, numerous corporations established research facilities with the goal of collecting best tech minds (mostly scientists) under a roof to work on technological advancements. The first companies to invest in these centers were giant manufacturing firms like GE, Allied-Signal, and Alcoa. These R&D facilities were under corporate control that was mostly run by VPs.
It wasn’t until the 80s when companies started to have a dedicated CTO run such facilities. These CTOs had different roles to play than the scientists that worked there in the decades prior. Tech had already started to play a central part in products and services. They had to extrapolate the technical capabilities to make strategic business decisions. However, these CTOs had minuscule jobs when put in a business perspective.
When the Internet companies arrived in the 90s was when the CTOs as we know it now started to exist. Most of these companies were an end-user organization that required tech leaders to innovate with the rapidly changing world. It was essentially Gold Rush and the speed of adaptation was essentially the only factor saving a company from failure.
The challenge of digital innovation was unique in its ways. It wasn’t only a technological problem for the leadership, it was an organizational one too. The CTOs had to envision how new technology in the market would disrupt the internal processes of the company and how to always have a competitive edge. Tech, by its very nature, makes processes efficient. These increased efficiencies are imperative for successful businesses.
Businesses are not the only one who has seen the importance of tech leaders, the common population seems to be smitten by them too. Take an example of Elon Musk. Although the US SEC, traditional investors, and establishment media have an evident disdain for him, he is the darling of the internet. Steve Wozniak is another example. Tech leaders and visionaries are the new heroes of the world.
However, CTOs have to separate marketing rhetoric from technical facts, and identifying profitable applications for those technologies can make a significant difference in the company’s competitive future. The CTO also adds value to the company by participating in government, academic, and industry groups in a manner that is good for the marketing of both their organizational and personal brands.
As we progress to the next decade, the speed of technological advancements will keep on accelerating. Businesses and technologies will become inseparable. Tech leaders will be more involved in the executive process.