The CTO's Balancing Act: Nifty Toys and ROI Can Mix, After All

David Tan

The typical CTO is in a very precarious situation. You see, the CTO generally comes from a technology background. These are the folks that built their first computer when they were 12 and needed to always have the latest and greatest toys.

Unlike a CIO, who more often than not has a business background, the CTO is all about the technology. This tends to make life difficult for the CTO who has to work hand-in-hand with the CIO and almost always answers to the CFO. So how can you make this work?

Too often the CTO will focus on the bells and whistles of the platform and overlook more obvious business benefits. Sure the newest Intel processor is lightning fast, and Windows 7 is a great operating system, but is it really worth the time and cost to change a standard, certify new applications and move the organization in a new direction?
To co-exist in this world, a CTO needs to learn how to strike the balance between the gadgets and the bottom line. This is when a CTO has to put on a sales hat and pitch the business benefits of a solution. CEO's love to hear about the ROI and the improvements to workflow and process that will be achieved. Your CEO doesn't care if the business is running on the latest and greatest platforms, but if you can show a 9 month ROI and a 20 percent improvement to operational efficiency, trust me, you'll get the budget.

Let me give you one real-world example. I had a client in the hospitality industry with 60 locations. They had an archaic video surveillance system. We talked about a new solution, with a $2 million price tag. After much back and forth, the client signed off. In less than 7 months, they saved more than the cost of the system in reduced employee theft. We were able to use a cool technological solution that proved to be a smart business decision.  Next time there is a problem, they will trust my advice not only about the technology, but from a business perspective.

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