CTO-as-a-Service and When It Makes Sense To Use It

CTO as a service for startups in UK

Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a new startup, a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a vital member of your team. But hiring one is expensive and can take months.

So, what do you do? Do you put your project on hold? Keep moving forward and risk making bad decisions?

If you’re a startup with a senior developer onboard, it’ll be sufficient to lead a tech team and make critical decisions. However, when you start to scale, both startups and established businesses need a CTO to spearhead projects and make strategic decisions backed by experience and vision.

What Are the CTO’s Key Responsibilities?

A CTO leads the technical team and the R&D team. They’ll determine the company’s short-term and long-term goals and judiciously leverage available resources.

CTOs also solve common issues within the startup space. For example, you have a great idea for an app but don’t have a clue about its implementation. Or you have a bootstrap mobile app but now you need a redesign to scale. Or you need a senior tech leader to help meet with investors, discuss the technical road maps, and so on.

If you hire a permanent CTO (six months or more down the road), you will have to tie them down to a long-term contract, pay high wages, and maybe even give up some equity. 

But what if you could just pay for what you use?

That’s where CTO-as-a-Service (CaaS) comes in. While not widespread, some organisations (like Evolve) offer this same service to help budding startups and scaleups achieve their goals.

The role and responsibilities of CaaS in startups and SMBs are as follows:

  • Build software architecture
  • Build a development team (in-house, extended or hybrid)
  • Create a clear roadmap that helps negate costly deviations
  • Decide on a proper tech stack for the project
  • Design and optimise the workflows
  • Align tech needs to a robust corporate strategy (related to infrastructure, budgets, business goals, and more)
  • Fill the tech skills gap as needed
  • Mentor the team and encourage them to upskill and reskill
  • Solve technical challenges

The above is a general overview of a virtual CTO’s key responsibilities. Whatever else you add to the list is usually industry-specific. For example, if it’s an mHealth app, your CTO will work closely with the legal and security teams to ensure compliance.

What Are the Key Benefits of Using CTO-as-a-Service?

When you don’t have a tech-savvy co-founder and don’t have the money to hire a full-time CTO, CaaS is the best option. The same applies when you have the same people doing multiple jobs within the company (for example, working as a product owner and a developer). 

When you hire a virtual CTO, you get help with troubleshooting issues, make decisions on the tech stack, and help bring ideas to fruition. They play the role of a technical consultant who’s focused on technology-driven challenges. They’ll have the vision, roadmap, and timelines that are well within your budget.

A virtual CTO helps development teams achieve the following objectives:

  • Develop a robust business plan with estimated timelines and costs
  • Decide whether to outsource the project and build an in-house team
  • Develop a foundation that enables seamless scaling 
  • Establish quality standards for the application architectures, coding conventions, documentation requirements, and QA processes
  • Help solve ongoing problems during the development lifecycle
  • Share their thoughts and advice on tech-related issues
  • Suggest a tech stack and a development platform

When companies embrace the CaaS model, they get the real value of hiring a CTO while eliminating the long-term costs that follow a permanent hire.

The key benefits of CaaS are as follows:

  • Achieve enhanced performance and business growth
  • Connect your startup to much-needed resources and extensive professional networks
  • Deliver instant value through experience, cost-effectively
  • Engage and keep investors happy with long-term technical and financial planning
  • Help develop leaders within the organization
  • Help evolve and transform the business in line with market trends
  • Mitigate operational risks with a robust risk mitigation strategy

At Evolve, our experience with CaaS happened by chance. It all kicked off when the world’s first SaaS-based Rebate Management Platform, e-bate, engaged us to build a development team. At the time, the startup was struggling to hire qualified developers locally in the UK and needed a CaaS type of service to help solve it.

In this scenario, our CEO, Colette Wyatt (who was Evolve’s CTO at the time), took on the role of a virtual CTO and got to work. She helped built a strong distributed team of developers across the UK, Spain, and Ukraine who handled the complexities surrounding a digital rebates solution.

Under Wyatt’s leadership, the development team built an MVP within eight months to attract additional funding to go to market. A few months later, they won their first major customer and implemented the robust solution within just 16 weeks. Today, the extended development team put together by Wyatt still works with e-bate on product development and scale-up.

Also read: How Much Does It Cost to Build an MVP in 2021?

What Should You Look for in a CTO-as-a-Service?

Whether it’s part-time or permanent and in-house, your CTO is the face of technology in your company.

Besides extensive technical knowledge and proven leadership skills, your CTO must also possess the following abilities:

Communication Skills

Excellent communication skills support good leadership. Your part-time CTO should clearly express their ideas, vision, business strategies, and goal. They must communicate in a manner that’s easily digestible to both technical and non-technical audiences.

Decision-Making Skills

As a tech-leader, they’ll make important decisions regarding the tech stack, resource allocation, outsourcing specific tasks, and choosing the right partnerships.

Mentoring Skill 

CaaS is there to get your project off the ground. Your virtual CTO must mentor and help the team grow for the long-term. They will groom someone within the company to take over the role once they’re long gone.

Strategic Thinking Skills

One of the main reasons to hire a CTO is to benefit from their ability to forecast the business’s future needs. Whether it’s short-, medium- or long-term goals, your virtual CTO will lead the team in the right direction.

Time Management Skills

Getting your finished product or MVP done in time requires excellent time management skills. Your part-time CTO is responsible for implementing useful time management tools and set reasonable tasks and deadlines for the whole development team.

Most CTOs start their professional lives as software engineers. This makes it crucial to ascertain if they have had enough experience leading teams that positively impact the organisation. It’ll also help if they have a proven track record working in extended or augmented development environments. 

As we move forward in the new normal, we can expect more organisations to embrace the “as-a-service” model. So, you can expect to see more options like CaaS and other similar offerings.

Do you need a CTO-as-a-Service to take your software development to the next level without a substantial initial investment in hiring a full-time CTO or finding a technical co-founder? Get in touch with us today to discuss how Evolve can help!

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