Search Live Jobs

CTO Focus for 2024

3 CTOs share their focus for 2024


Article posted by Lisa Holmes

​Persistent economic pressures, scrutinised budgets, potential cost savings, cloud adoption, sustainable operations, the advent of AI, increasing regulations and new tooling; Just a few of the hot topics a CTO will be keeping their eye on. Yet with all the talk, we thought it would be valuable to hear from today’s industry leaders, to understand what truly matters and what their focus is for 2024 and how they plan to ensure success.

​We sat down with CTOs, Dan Pass, Pete Marsden and Kristian Merritt. Read what they had to say:

Pete Marsden, CTO

1) Control package software sprawl.

I’ve worked in companies that have grown rapidly and large scale ones, grown organically or through M&A. Very few had a thorough grip on all their SW contracts.

Most understand the top 20% of contracts and costs but it’s all too easy to end up with a long tail of software that could be mission critical but often we forget why and when we bought it. Once it’s there, this long tail rarely gets addressed. It’s too hard and the individual benefits too small to address each one. But the overall costs and problems build up over time.

I’d recommend getting control of this as early as possible with some simple rules that may be unpopular initially, but the organisation will thank you in the long run.

  • No software should be purchased by any part of the company other than Tech, working with Finance & Procurement.

  • Don’t give in to people wanting their special, preferred software if you have something already that covers 80% of the functionality required. Often those people will leave the company at some point and their replacement likes another package altogether!

  • Make sure someone is responsible for ongoingly reviewing the usage, licenses and ongoing features of the packages you have. Keep looking for opportunities to simplify and save costs.

2) Pay attention to people

We often focus on changing tech but the thing that changes the most is our people. Yes, people come and go, but an individual’s needs, desires, issues, confidence, health, motivations and relationships are also constantly changing.

Add to this, the fact that what’s needed from people by our business shifts daily means we need to spend as much time if not more, architecting and designing our people as we do our systems and solutions.

If we’re honest, we rarely do enough of this.

Spend regular, weekly time with your direct reports individually and as a team to discuss how they are personally; how the team is working and anything that could be improved. Get close to your wider teams so there’s an honest flow of communication right through the team. This is something I believe you have to do personally. Don’t leave it to a comms team or person. You set the tone and culture for your team and how tech is perceived internally and externally.

Think carefully about what people capabilities you insource and outsource. A lot of the time we’ll have strong beliefs about what we should keep close and what we can give to a third party. But things change as businesses develop and industries adapt. Something that was competitive advantage in the past may now be a commodity and vice versa.

Consider diversity carefully. Diverse teams drive better results. In the UK there are many wider issues that over-index tech with white, male introverts. It takes conscious action to address this to develop and maintain strong diverse teams.

3) Stakeholder Engagement

Keep close to your CEO and key stakeholders. As technologists, we’re not always the best at communicating and maintaining relationships. Remember that most CxOs have a deep seated fear or technology: they know it’s vital, they know when it’s not working but often lack the knowledge and tools to discuss and challenge CTOs. This is especially true when things aren’t going well and I think is at the heart of why the average tenure of a CTO is little better than that of Premiership football managers!

  • Speak regularly with all key stakeholders and use language they understand. Make it safe for them to engage with you and demystify tech for them.

  • Get to understand what’s really important to them and use their language to describe how your tech helps or hinders their objectives. Use metrics that are meaningful to them and their goals, not tech ones that are easy for you to measure but meaningless to your business colleagues

4) Don’t get religious about development methodologies

I’ve heard so many people saying Agile = Good, Waterfall = Bad. There’s no good and bad methodologies, just good and bad selection of tools for the project being addressed. Sometimes when specific functionality needs to be delivered by a set date, a waterfall approach can be just what’s needed. That doesn’t mean we have to follow strict Prince or that we can’t combine Scrum approaches within a time/scope driven project. They key thing is to define what’s needed at the outset and choose the right tools from our toolbag to get the best results.

5) Be humble and try to enjoy ride.

Being a CTO is a tough gig and often a thankless task. If you’re not having fun and getting down, you can always move on, but the grass is rarely greener. At least weekly, take time alone to think honestly if you’re enjoying your work and if not, what can you do improve things where you are. If you’re in great form and always looking to make yourself better and happier it will have an infectious impact on those around you.

Continue Reading: Dan Pass - Relationships, Resilience and Optimisation >