What Is A Chief Transformation Officer?

January 19th, 2021 | 7 minute read

A new job title has started circulating recently – Chief Transformation Officer, otherwise known as a CTO. While this has been used for some time in public sector organisations, it is a relatively new term in the private sector, so what is a Chief Transformation Officer? A Chief Transformation Officer is a C-Suite (executive level) role that focusses on bringing about change that drives growth in a business. It is often associated with rapid-fire developments specifically around digital transformation. The role usually encompasses continuous transformation, improvements to business infrastructure and customer experience. A CTO in the transformational sense shouldn’t be confused with a Chief Technology Officer, also know as a CTO.

What Are Some Of The Key Responsibilities Of A CTO?

Although responsibility and accountability for the day-to-day lies with line managers, as with a lot of C-Suite roles the CTO oversees the making and executing of these decisions in some of the following areas:

Improving Customer Experience

In many CTO roles, customer experience (CX) is at the core. Responsibilities like customer journey mapping are at the centre of this. CTO’s will typically be looking at ways that the businesses they work for can engage with their consumer better, make their experience smoother, and generally deliver a better experience.

Business Architecture and Business Modelling

CTO’s typically need to really get underneath the business model and design of the business in order to orchestrate change. This can include internal factors like teams, job roles and priorities, or can include looking at external architecture like competition and market structure.

Agile Working

In order to accelerate transformation and change, CTOs often look at ways to work in a more agile way. This can be true agile working in a project management sense, or it can be simply promoting experimentation, learning and creativity in the company culture.

Communication, Behaviour & Training

The reason change often fails is that it comes from the standpoint of assuming that change can be managed by changing structural or strategic aspects of the business, and that then people will get on board with the change. However, change isn’t sustainable without individual people changing their thinking, beliefs and behaviour. To really drive change you need to change behaviour. To change behaviour you need to understand how individuals are motivated. By understanding people’s behaviour we can understand how people are motivated. Understanding these motivations, we can then motivate and influence people to change their behaviour, resulting in sustained change. The CTO role is often to bridge these gaps, they will look at how change is communicated across the business, what behaviours need to be influenced for change to be sustainable, and normally employ a range of training in order to really embed change in the long term.

Do You Need A Chief Transformation Officer In Your Business?

The answer to this depends on the size and scale of the business change that you’re looking to implement, and the budget you have to do this. Whether or not you recruit someone at C-Suite level it is useful to have some form of resource dedicated to change if you run a business that is scaling and requires consistent change. As a client we recently started working with on their change process said: “I feel like whenever we try to make a simple change, 20 other things happen as a result of that change that we then have to manage”. The really useful thing behind a CTO, or similar, appointment is that they become instrumental in not only driving the change, but become a connector between your business strategy, and the levels of change that need to happen in your business to enable that to happen. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to a new C-Suite level hire, here are some alternatives to recruiting a CTO:

  • Create a leadership change strategy and then have one person manage the day to day actions and activities of that, reporting into the leadership team on progress. If you employ this route it is important to make sure that you gather a lot of thought and opinion from different layers of the business to inform the initial strategy, and then put together really clear processes and scorecards to track progress.
  • Implement a Change Committee. We use this strategy with a lot of our clients when we helping with employing cultural change. By putting together a committee with different people from differing layers and departments within your business, you can really benchmark change incentives to test feedback, then have a group to distribute actions across, often allowing you to gain traction quicker.
  • Utilise external support in the form of a qualified change consultant. The key with this option is to make sure you select a change consultant that integrates into a business over a period of time so they can not only help with strategy but also be part of the implementation and tied to success measurables. This is one reason why we work with most of our clients over at least a 6-12 month period to support them in integrating real, sustained culture change, versus some traditional consultants that just drop into a business for one day at a time and lack the ability to drive really deep change.

If you are a leader looking to better manage change with your team, you might be interested in our free online leadership series ‘Leading Your Team Through Change’ If you are looking at whether a Chief Transformation Officer hire could be right for your business, or are exploring other option for managing and driving change in your business, reach out to us to find out how we work with similar businesses.     


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