Challenges Faced by a CTO of a Growing Company & How to Cope with Them

A role of a CTO changes along with a company development. In the beginning, you were probably enormously proud to create a real thing out of that MVP or a prototype, and see its success on the market. But as the company grows, that settled mode of working is no longer enough as new challenges appear on the horizon.

Here at NeuroSYS, we know what it feels like, as we act as CTOs for many of our clients. One thing we learned from that for sure: being a CTO of a growing company means you must never stop learning and adapting to the new environment. With this approach, all the challenges become exciting opportunities, not painful burdens.

CHALLENGE # 1: Keep various interests balanced

When the company starts to grow, lots of new questions arise. Should you implement changes/new features required by clients asap, or focus on the product quality and integrity? Should you be more available for the team, or for the Board of Directors? And so on…

All the stakeholders will demand more and more from you. And you simply cannot satisfy the needs of each and everyone.

Few tips:

  • Learn to say “No” when there is a need for it. Don’t try to please everyone.
  • Prioritise critical needs and try to balance the rest. Create a set of criteria that will help you decide when to say “No”, based on the overall company strategy.
  • Communicate your decisions to the stakeholders properly, so there are less hate and more understanding of what you do.

CHALLENGE # 2: Keep up with tech development without hype

Every CTO should keep an eye on emerging technologies. But when something new appears, how to understand whether you should adopt it or not? Or when the existing system becomes legacy, should you keep it or replace? These questions bother many CTO heads.

Few tips:

  • Stay away from just piling up more technology and jumping on every new fad. Remember it’s not a competition “who has more” or “what sounds fancier”. What you should focus on is an efficient working solution. Adopt new tech when you see a clear value: happier customers, cheaper maintenance, easier to find and retain programmers… Carefully weigh all the factors, benefits and limitations before making a decision.
  • Always think how to capitalize the new technology. And remember (especially when the new technology is not vital to your business), that early adopters are those who have to struggle with new tech childhood problems.
  • When unsure whether to keep the existing code or replace it by using new technologies — check out this blog post.
  • Don’t hesitate to get additional consultation on certain technology adaptation or involve external specialists when working on a proof of concept. Contact us when in doubt ;)

CHALLENGE # 3: Get and retain talents on board

Talent acquisition was and stays the hot topic in IT and not only for recruiters. As the company grows, the CTO needs to expand the team. Eventually, the roles distribution becomes more complicated: you cannot rely on a bunch of superstar developers doing everything anymore. Keep in mind, that eleven Ronaldos will easily lose a football match to average players who play as a team. Skills needs must be properly assessed and covered up: the right tasks must be given to the right developers. Add here a headache connected with retaining people for the full picture…

Few tips:

  • Distribute the roles and handle promotions wisely. Remember, it’s better to have a good engineer rather than try to make a bad manager out of him/her.
  • Focus on creating a positive culture where people do a meaningful job and know the overall goals of their actions.
  • Think of your future human resources needs in advance: establish a cooperation with universities around, arrange a trainee bench.

CHALLENGE # 4: Being a manager vs being a leader

At some point, every CTO needs to get rid of micromanagement and fixing the most complicated lines of code on his/her own for the sake of having time for more important issues. Go strategical, instead of staying tactical. Become a leader, not just a manager.

Few tips:

  • Be ready to entrust your baby to other hands. Forget about coding on your own.
  • Don’t try to keep everything in-house. If a part of the work can be done more effectively (and you wouldn’t need to bother to hire and train someone) if outsourced, don’t cling to doing it yourself.
  • Get a manager(s) if you haven’t yet. This will take off the weight of getting status updates, monitoring the progress, communicating with PMs and things like that from you.
  • Having troubles with delegating tasks, because you think nobody can do it as well as you? Many people have this problem. Try to find a person who can do it almost as good as you. In most cases, it will be perfectly enough for the project and will save plenty of your valuable time. And, if that person outperforms you — congratulation! You have just found another gem in your team.

CHALLENGE # 5: Security

The bigger the business is, the more factors you should consider to ensure the company’s security. Using IoT? Risks get higher. Using Intel chips? Well… be prepared for the spectre security hole. Located in post-USSR or have partners from there? Be ready for Petya or its analogs then… I exaggerate largely, but you get my point.

Few tips:

  • Design a security system that fits the concrete business environment and can be scales as the company grows.
  • Make sure you don’t harm the business strengths (transparency, easy data access, agility) while protecting the company.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed — give us a sign! We’ve recently started sharing our thoughts and any feedback is very appreciated :)

Also if you have any questions or have something to add to this list — let us know in comments below. You can also reach us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cheers!


Originally published at www.neurosys.com.

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