This is a forum for discussing all the issues and challenges of today’s CTOs.
Wikipedia definition of CTO
September 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm #140479
I would be interested in what people think of the definition of a Chief Technology Officer in wikipedia cited below. Is it your perception of what a CTO is? What is missing from the definition. It would be great for this community to build one together.
A Chief Technology Officer (or Chief Technical Officer; CTO) is an executive-level position in a company or other entity whose occupant is focused on scientific and technological issues within an organization. The role became prominent with the ascent of the information technology (IT) industry, but has since become prevalent in technology-based industries of all types (e.g. biotechnology, energy, etc.). As a corporate officer position, the CTO typically reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is primarily concerned with long-term and “big picture” issues (while still having deep technical knowledge of the relevant field). Depending on company structure and hierarchy, there may also be positions such as Director of R&D and VP of Engineering whom the CTO interacts with and/or oversees. The CTO also needs a working familiarity with Regulatory (e.g. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, CPSC, as-applicable) and Intellectual Property (IP) issues (e.g. patents, trade secrets, license contracts), and an ability to interface with legal counsel to incorporate those considerations into strategic planning and inter-company negotiations.
September 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm #140481
Martin R. WaszakParticipant
This is an excellent point. There seems to be confusion or difference of opinion about the working definition of CTO used by this community.
At NASA we have (at least) two flavors of CTO. One is the OCIO’s CTO and the other is the Agency’s CTO (with the same structure at the ten NASA field centers). The role of the OCIO-CTO is more about placing greater focus on the adoption/adaption of new technologies and practices to better serve the IT needs of the Agency. It is a relatively new position and I believe was established to address an imbalance between compliance/policy enforcement and the introduction of new capabilities that are necessary to support the Agency’s mission.
The role of the Agency CTO is more akin to the notion described in the Wikipedia definition. It was also recently established with the purpose of addressing an imbalance between near term system design and implementation and longer term technology research and development – especially associated with human exploration systems. The Agency CTO has the responsibility to champion and support longer term research – mainly associated with space technology. But he has also taken on the role of seeking to foster innovation more broadly including both mission and mission support functions.
Clearly, the roles OCIO-CTO and the Agency CTO overlap when new IT capabilities are needed to support or enable the Agency to accomplish its mission now and in the future.
It’s not clear whether this forum should focus more on the OCIO-CTO role or the broader “Corporate” CTO role. But it appears that it’s probably more aligned with the OCIO-CTO.
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