CTOs & Unified Communications Systems Evolving
The role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in an organization can be a complex one. The individual holding this position in a business must get used to wearing many hats. And the hats are always changing, just like how CTOs must manage the ever-changing world of technology and the convergence of its many facets. Let’s examine the role of today’s CTO and the way in which the evolution of Unified Communications (UC) has transformed it.
Technology Management Positions Defined
In technology-focused organizations, the CIO and CTO can be the same level positions, with the CIO (Chief Information Officer) focused on the information technology infrastructure and the CTO focused on the core company and other supporting technologies. It used to be that CIOs/CTOs simply managed the day-to-day business processes or the deployment of new applications and equipment. But nowadays, a CIO is likely to solve organizational problems by acquiring and adapting existing IT technologies, whereas a CTO principally oversees development of new technologies.
For larger companies retaining both positions, the CTO may be focused on technology that is related to products being sold to customers or clients, while a CIO is a more internally-focused position, working on the technology required for running the company and maintaining the software platforms necessary for any new applications. Accordingly, a CTO is more likely to be integrally involved with formulating intellectual property (IP) strategies and developing proprietary technologies.
Additionally, the role of network manager has been expanded over the years, with those employees taking on a broader role in terms of both technology and communications support. And with the rapid evolution of IP-related technologies, new positions such as Chief Information Security Officer have been created, which weren’t even in existence 10 years ago.
Furthermore, employees in traditional voice communications positions are now responsible for user collaboration, e-commerce, and even Unified Communications. Today’s IT managers and CTOs, specifically, are now dealing with a wider array of business processes. They prove their value to the company by possessing a thorough knowledge and understanding of all business processes and systems and the way in which the data and communications infrastructure converges. The successful CTO of 2015 must balance an articulated vision with their daily administrative tasks.
Business Roles and Responsibilities for today’s CTO
The CTO role consists of two primary parts: the C-part (focused on strategy and the way that technology will serve the business); and, the second part, which is the VP of Engineering bucket (development and maintenance portion) that focuses on keeping all technological projects up and running at all times. Moreover, the two main facets of the CTO role can be broken down even further:
The Chief part of the position consists of:
- A deep understanding of the underlying goals of the business and the current processes in place from top to bottom
- Contributing to the strategy instead of simply accepting it from the CEO and other C-level executives
- Assessing risk and opportunity
- A solid core design for the computing infrastructure, coupled with invention and refinement
The VP of Engineering part of the position involves:
- Organizing and synchronizing requirements for the strategy and design of corporate technology through product management
- Managing teams
- Properly allocating staff and other resources
- Keeping all projects running smoothly and on-time
According to information included in a recent Frost & Sullivan report, the CTO of today is one that has evolved from a traditional IT expert into an innovation expert and service broker. In general, the role of the traditional IT manager and CTO has grown from performing single IT tasks to implementing and managing information and communication technology (ICT) strategies. These strategies are then applied to improve processes and employee working environments – all the while taking into account any external factors that may arise.
The key driver for this evolution is the convergence of information and communications technologies.
The role of the CTO concerning Unified Communications
Current CTOs are making use of technology to manage and improve efficiencies across the organization and are becoming true leaders in the enterprise. Now, the entire C-suite must work together to form an appropriate ICT strategy, with supporting budgets, to maximize the value derived from the rapid evolution of communications and technology convergence.
In a recent interview posted in PCWorld with Polycom CTO, Joseph Burton provided his CTO perspective on the trend toward Unified Communications. “The enterprise unified communications market is growing very, very rapidly. It’s going to be a $14 billion-plus industry by 2015. I really think what we hear from our future-leaning enterprise customers is, it’s not the new communications capabilities that they really want. They’re looking for things that will accelerate core business processes.” Burton mentions that the real key for CTOs and their companies – in regards to delivering effective unified communications – “is to anticipate the needs of the people on the call, to understand the context of the call, and help (users to) make better, smarter…decisions.”
The #1 question CTOs must ask is: where are we losing business productivity? If the company is being forced to use multiple applications in order to collaborate, then it’s time to reevaluate options for convergence and look at adding UC tools for the business that allow employees to instantaneously communicate – such as chat/IM and presence information – for improved productivity across the company.
UC now enables conversations to run across myriad devices, 24/7/365. The 9-to-5 workday has become obsolete, and with BYOD, CTOs and their staff must manage a variety of devices spread across many different platforms. Collaborative setups may run across virtual platforms stemming from home or remote offices, often spreading to different points on the globe. Moreover, CTOs also recognize that IT recruitment no longer simply involves drawing employees to your locale, but includes seeking out the best talent globally, across oceans and other borders.
In summary, continual changes in technology are driving communications toward a more mobile model, through cloud-based solutions, mobile devices, and Unified Communications platforms. The CTO of today must consider this trend when planning for the communications and technologies development and infrastructure of tomorrow. And to assist with this plan, there’s no better decision a CTO can make than by partnering with an industry leader in UC, West IP Communications.