Last week we looked at how CTO as a Service (CTOaaS) can transform an enterprise, bringing external objectivity and expertise to an organisation that may lack the resource, structure or requirement to support a permanent Chief Technical Officer.
But what benefits can CTOaaS bring specifically to an SME?
The answers are as varied and diverse as small and medium enterprises themselves – so we asked Andrew Beaney, Managing Consultant at Box UK, to shine a light on what great looks like when an SME engages an external Chief Technology Officer.
The outcomes need to be right for the company, the customers and the users
“We never forget why we’ve been engaged in a CTOaaS capacity” says Andrew. “The CTO is there to understand the company’s culture, processes, skillsets, leadership and customers – and not only are we there working with the client to shape the project and agree the outcomes, but to lead the project in a way that wins the hearts and minds of every stakeholder. We need to make sure that, on exit, the technology change is truly embedded end-to-end, and sustainably so. By ‘sustainable’, we mean that it needs to be right for the company, the customers and the users – and that it’s taken everyone ‘there’. So we don’t go into an SME and tell them what to do. We work with them to understand all the dynamics and then take them to where they need to be.”
Leading a project, or a strategy – from new systems to new products or complete digital transformation
“An SME organisation may engage us on a short-term project or a longer-term strategic programme, but our philosophy and approach remains the same regardless of the requirement” emphasises Andrew “for projects which can range from reviewing and stabilising systems or shaping a new product, through to introducing a more agile way of working or driving a complete digital transformation. There can be so many moving parts to a programme – from the environment, processes and market, to the people competencies and the leadership style – so it’s important that the CTO is able to learn and adapt, keeping an open mind to become accepted as the catalyst and trusted as the key driver of the change.”
A CTO needs to be the change you want to be
“In many ways, the importance of CTOaaS to an SME can be much more magnified and the need to ‘get it right’ even more critical, so the CTO needs to quickly understand what’s working well, what needs to improve, and why. That usually means bringing the collective team experiences and everyone’s individual truths together with a kick-off retrospective session, before shaping a vision that will deliver the outcomes needed in the timeline given. Our approach is built on continually measuring impact, taking small iterative steps that inform the project and allow for course-correct. It’s reassuring for our clients that they don’t have to ‘bet the farm’ – and that the change process is mature, reasoned, based on continual feedback from all stakeholders, and above all transparent and inclusive, not leaving any question unasked and not leaving anyone behind.”
Continually measuring impact by taking small steps that constantly inform direction
“We find our approach of continual Measure – Learn – Do works well for any SME in any sector” reflects Andrew, “whether it’s a transport company looking to digitalise a product, a food company looking to move to D2C, a fintech that’s identified the opportunity to disrupt or a company in the energy supply chain that’s looking to future-proof as decarbonisation transforms the market. So whether the project is three, six, nine or eighteen months, the client gets the full benefit of a proven methodology that aligns with the uniqueness of the situation and adapts with the key dynamics as they unfold.”