You’re the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, or maybe the Business Manager of a small company, and you want to initiate a technology project. Maybe you want to launch a redesign of your website with a content management system, or maybe you want to have a custom piece of software developed with the hopes of making your business more effective. The only problem is you’re not the most technologically inclined and feel that when you talk to software vendors or web design vendors that they’re speaking a different language. You have a feeling that you’re not going to get what you think you’re paying for.
Don’t become a failure statistic!
What you need is someone to fill the role known in larger organizations as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). The CTO is the C-Level executive whose job is to be the organization’s senior technologist, responsible for overseeing current technology assets, and more important, for developing a technology vision for the organization. Most small businesses and non-profits have little need for this position as a full-time executive, but when you’re talking about an investment in technology, the lack of someone in this role can be detrimental, strategically and monetarily.
The Chief Technology Officer can provide valuable resources before, during and after any technology project. For instance, before a project is even initiated, the CTO would work with the company to determine:
- the strategic goals of the organization and how technology can contribute to them
- the long-term technology planning of the organization
- insight into solutions or technologies used elsewhere that could provide advantages to the organization
- performing needs asssessment and documenting requirements
Once you’ve entered into the project phase, whether that is managing an outside technology vendor or the preliminary discussions, the CTO would assist you in evaluating the different technology options, understand the intricacies involved in each solution, and be able to ascertain whether the solution being proposed best fulfills your needs… not to mention perform the necessary due diligence while the project is in progress.
Can’t afford a full-time CTO? Put a Virtual CTO on retainer!
Our company offers a “Virtual CTO on Retainer” service to businesses and non-profits that can not afford a full-time CTO, but have identified the need in order for the success of their organization’s endeavor. The clients that have hired us for this service came to us after realizing their need one step into the process, but it’s never too late to stop and seek assistance.
A non-profit hired us during a project for a redesign of their website and membership management system. They had written a RFP and received proposals but couldn’t determine whether the proposals they received were the right solutions for them. We helped them evaluate the proposals, write a new RFP, broadcast the RFP to select vendors as well as an open call, establish an evaluation criteria, and review the final proposals.
A startup company hired us after having spent a fairly large amount of money building a system that was no longer supported by the original developer and they were having trouble figuring out the next step for completing their project, getting the project live, and next steps. We helped them take stock of their current system, determine the criteria for potential new firms, and provided guidance on next steps for the growth of their platform.
In all cases our first step is to do three things:
- recuse ourselves from ever providing any other role besides the CTO for the organization
- schedule a long information gathering session to get up to speed
- establish a fixed retainer schedule, whether that is 1 hour a week or 10 hours a week
It is a requirement that we recuse ourselves from providing any service to the organization beyond the CTO role as we need to be able to provide 100% unbiased technology advice. If our advice can be questioned in any way, specifically in the decisions that we recommend for or against a vendor, we’re no longer an effective CTO for the organization.
Integrate technology into your stategic planning
It is important that information is being shared each week, that technology is not being pushed to the periphery. Technology and its place within the organization needs to be an active discussion and a have a consistent role in the organization. While you might not have the budget for hiring a full-time Chief Technology Officer, retaining a company to act as your Virtual CTO can be a valuable resource to turn to in times of tech-need as well as during every day strategic planning.