The CTO Revelation
Redefining responsibility, accelerating discovery

The CTO Revelation

Redefining responsibility, accelerating discovery



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From digital to virtual, overnight

More and more, today’s technology leaders are discovering their own heightened importance within the C-suite. Already at the center of modern society, technology’s influence has been further elevated by pandemic-accelerated innovations. Organization leaders rely on experts in tech strategy, architecture, and operations now more than ever, giving Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) amplified authority and responsibility that will only grow in the years ahead.

That the CTO has become one of the most strategic roles within an organization may come as a revelation for some, yet this positioning has been years in the making. CTOs are aligned to lead a new “Virtual Enterprise” model that is emerging, fueled by a fresh post-digital approach to business opportunity.

In Q2 and Q3 2021, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed 5,000 C-suite technology leaders, including both Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs). A select group of executives was contacted for in-depth qualitative interviews, revealing insights about their on-the-ground experience leading organizations throughout a period of exceptional disruption. With respondents spanning 29 industries and 45 locations worldwide, this study marks our first significant look at the evolving influence and responsibilities of the CTO role.

The CTO Revelation
Redefining responsibility, accelerating discovery


Bookmark this report

From digital to virtual, overnight

More and more, today’s technology leaders are discovering their own heightened importance within the C-suite. Already at the center of modern society, technology’s influence has been further elevated by pandemic-accelerated innovations. Organization leaders rely on experts in tech strategy, architecture, and operations now more than ever, giving Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) amplified authority and responsibility that will only grow in the years ahead.

That the CTO has become one of the most strategic roles within an organization may come as a revelation for some, yet this positioning has been years in the making. CTOs are aligned to lead a new “Virtual Enterprise” model that is emerging, fueled by a fresh post-digital approach to business opportunity.

In Q2 and Q3 2021, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed 5,000 C-suite technology leaders, including both Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs). A select group of executives was contacted for in-depth qualitative interviews, revealing insights about their on-the-ground experience leading organizations throughout a period of exceptional disruption. With respondents spanning 29 industries and 45 locations worldwide, this study marks our first significant look at the evolving influence and responsibilities of the CTO role.

The CTO Revelation
Redefining responsibility, accelerating discovery

“When everything becomes digital, technology becomes the core business and the CTO becomes as key as the CEO.”

— Moises Nascimento, CTO, Banco Itaú

The expanding influence of CTOs

As enterprises redefine themselves for survival in a post-pandemic marketplace, the spotlight shifts to technology executives and the organizations they lead. “Technology strategy is intertwined with business strategy,” says Randeep Sekhon, CTO of India-based telecom conglomerate Airtel. Dr. Mark Maybury, CTO of US consumer-goods manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker, observes, “For the first time in our species, technology can help us with exponential growth enabled by advanced sensors, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence.”

In this inaugural IBM CTO study, we see the tech leadership role increasingly split between the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the CTO, with the CTO role being relatively new in the C-suite. The ascent of the CTO is radically influencing a stronger sense of responsibility around technology decisions, the speed of innovation, and discovery of new solutions. CTOs are also increasingly promoting a philosophy of co-creation and partnerships driven by common values and open standards.

Explore key insights from global CTOs

01

A rapid
ascent

See how technology leaders are championing a more strategic vision of technology.

Read

02

The best of
both worlds

Learn how tech leaders are advancing business outcomes and working with CIO colleagues to deliver value.

Read

03

Finding
focus

Explore the 3 discrete CTO mandates and what defines success for each of them.

Read
01A rapid ascent

The responsibility for a better future

As technology has permeated virtually every business function within today’s organizations, the role of technology leaders has evolved dramatically in complexity, stature, and impact. CEOs agree. When we recently asked 3,000 CEOs to identify the C-suite executives most critical to their organizational success, CTOs and CIOs jointly ranked in the top 3 behind CFOs and COOs. Among CEOs at the top 20% of organizations based on financial performance, technology leaders were second only to CFOs.

40%

of CTOs indicated they now report directly to the CEO.

67%

of CTOs said they report directly into the C-suite versus a business unit or geography leader.

29%

of CTOs expect their next role to be a CEO.

Today’s CTOs are charged with transforming technology into a strategic asset and articulating a focused vision for its role—whether through enabling platforms, propelling innovation, or defining responsible and sustainable design patterns and architectural principles. They are well positioned to steer initiatives in a world where the technology function is core to every interaction and every business process.

Perspective: Sustainable opportunities

How the C-suite is addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time.

Learn more