For the past 15 years, we have been advising fast-growth tech founders to decide as part of the same hiring debate with the same two options:
Should you hire a Chief Product and Technology Officer? Or, should you keep your technology and product functions reporting into separate executives (CTO and CPO)?
In this article, I’ll walk you through the typical scenarios we see from businesses in different stages of growth and the pros of each hiring decision regarding these roles.
First, let’s start with why a new executive typically gets brought onboard
It should be noted that businesses can experience all of the below scenarios simultaneously, but we find one of the three is most pronounced and therefore the priority:
The pros of having separate Chief Technology Officer and Chief Product Officer positions
As an example, a single leader guiding both the technology and product functions may struggle as the business undergoes a re-platforming exercise, due to the accumulation of high levels of technical debt. There’s a lot of pressure from the business to move fast, however re-platforming needs critical resources to enable the business to move faster in the future, but at present adds very little immediate value. The complexity of this situation has led us to advise founders that the separation of roles leads to better outcomes.
The second part of this example is around the cost to the business on getting this exercise wrong. It will be disastrous as such executives are required to bring deep functional expertise in their specific area. The typical background of a Chief Product and Technology Officer is from either the world of technology/engineering or product, so the depth they can go to will be limited.
The pros of having a single executive role having responsibility of product and technology functions
To summarise, if speed is the business’ primary driver, the roles should be combined. If quality is required so that the business can speed up in the future, the roles should be separated.
There are, of course, scenarios in the minority that could be mentioned. However, this would lead this article to be 10x longer to walk through all of them specifically. This is exactly why we advise fast-growth tech founders as part of our workshops and breadth of services; every founder, team, goals and business is different.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help - vist www.thinkandgrowinc.com.
ARTICLE by Anthony Sochan, Co-Founder, 5 March 2024