Defining a technology roadmap for your company is your main task as Chief Technology Officer.
In order to do this, you must determine the priority of ongoing projects and project requests. Factors that help in this process include identifying return on investment (ROI), technology resource allocation, interdisciplinary guidance, and management approval. Once you have these key factors down, it will become more streamlined for you to build out roadmaps for the near future and beyond.
Be a Master of Prioritization: Know the Important Aspects of a Project
To emphasize the key points in determining project priority, we will use one main example to illustrate them. You are the CTO of an advertising agency. To showcase your company’s video work for clients, you want to invest in a video hosting platform service. The following are important factors to consider before and during the process of purchasing this product.
- What is the ROI for this project? Is the time and money spent to implement worth it?
What also goes along with this point is the anticipation of bugs, changes or customizations to projects. For example, the video hosting platform does not include social media integration. The company does, though, provide custom coding for the integration by their own developers. The initial contract for the platform has a base price. This custom coding would require an addendum to the contract or a separate statement of work. Should there be an allowance determined at the beginning of the project for anticipated extra costs, so it could be easily reported to others? What if the customization doesn’t work properly, and that extra money will be needed to cover the cost of bugs?
- How many members of your team are needed to implement this project? Will this be an interdisciplinary project, in which other departments are involved?
A video hosting platform is set up as a separate entity with it’s own portal to log into. It’s typically hosted on the cloud, so major IT resources aren’t necessary in its implementation. You do need to think about migration, though. If your clients’ videos are hosted on YouTube or elsewhere, you need to have a dedicated employee or consultant move all videos over to this new platform. Who would have the bandwidth to be able to do so? Will this take away from other, more pressing projects that are taking place?
- Is a project or service having immediate implications that are affecting business? Could this be detrimental and need your support to mediate if something were to go wrong?
While a video hosting platform that is served on AWS, for example, might not run into too many issues in regards to downtime or failover, keeping in mind that the service may go down is important. Also, if the platform uses a content delivery network (CDN), there could be caching issues, where videos may not play or refresh. If a video gets thousands, or even millions of views, you should have a readiness plan in place if something goes wrong. How detrimental is it to the business if the platform goes down? Do you know what to do if a client calls when they can’t see their video?
- Are there projects where your expertise is needed more, or are there projects that would be best handled by the expertise your employees have?
As a CTO of an advertising agency, you might not have a large IT department, let alone even have one at all. You are the point person for all things technology. The implementation plan will be on your end. Once the video hosting platform is in place, you will need the expertise of account and analytics managers to keep the flow of videos and information steady for clients. Are these other departments ready to take on this type of work?
With these factors in mind, you will be able to better classify and prioritize any project that comes your way. While doing this lays a major foundation to work off of, you still may not have control of every aspect of project planning. This includes getting the approval from those that work above you.
Be a Master of Prioritization: Know Who You’re Working For
If you are reporting to a higher management, it’s best to remember company hierarchy. While requests from upper management may not seem as important as something else your team is working on, you need to remember who you’re working for. You should always show a can-do attitude, but in an effective and informed way, when presented with project requests. Discuss timeline and implications with them. If it’s a smaller task, see how quickly it could get done by your team. If it’s a larger project, see how it fits in your roadmap, and if needed, reorganize timelines of other projects that will get pushed out.
Taking the video platform example, the CEO of your company may ask to have it implemented with all client videos hosted on there in one week. There is a proven timeline that you’ve scoped out which will make that deadline impossible. The technological aspects must be conveyed to the CEO to explain why a one week timeline won’t work. It is, though, important to focus your energy on the project, since it’s given high priority. There could also be ways to speed up the timeline you’ve formalized, such as hiring consultants to manage migration grunt work.
Being a master of prioritization is not difficult, but it does require a lot of focus, understanding and attention to detail. As a CTO, this is one of your top responsibilities. The company depends on you to keep the cycle of technology fresh and relevant, so that other aspects of the business can flourish.
Please feel free to read part one of the series which talks about Secrets Of A Successful CTO: #1 – Be Well Informed, and part 3 of the series that covers Secrets Of A Successful CTO: #3 – Understand Your Employees.