Each company, depending on its growth and situation, can have a very varied structure. In this article we will focus on analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of those small or growing companies that unify the role of the CTO with that of the CPO. It will also be of interest to those companies that have a CTO and are thinking of hiring a CPO.
What are the advantages of unifying both roles? Let’s take a look.
First: What is a CTO and what is a CPO?
Although most of our readers are already familiar with these concepts, it is worth introducing them a bit. Without going too deep: just to clarify what we’re talking about. When we refer to a CTO, Chief Technology Officer, he or she is in charge of developing, implementing and maintaining a company’s software solutions.
On the other hand, the CPO, Chief Product Officer, is in charge of the products and services offered by the company. This is a newer role than that of CTO due to the rise, in recent years, of areas such as UX or product strategy, which are essential for a company to achieve success.
If we mix them, we can say that the CTO is in charge of “How” and the CPO is in charge of “Why”. But the key is that both roles aim to launch products that work for customers and in a competitive marketplace as a whole.
How can the two roles be combined?
A CTO who is also a CPO will have to be very good, first of all, in the technical area. On the other hand, he or she will have to have a market and product vision. From his or her unified point of view, he or she will be in charge of key decisions, such as product strategy and the associated technology strategy. We could define them as a CPTO.
Advantages of combining the CTO with the CPO
Next, we will review the main advantages of having both roles unified in a single person.
- Unified responsibility: Having a single person in charge of the “why” and the “how” allows unifying responsibility and the performance and execution of tasks in a single figure, thus improving work optimization. Especially in the initial moments when decisions have to be made and the product has to be specified.
- Unified product culture: Another clear advantage is that, with a single figure in both verticals, we will have a more concrete and solid vision of the product (insofar as a single person will be responsible for devising it for the market and creating it on the technological side).
- Unified reporting: in turn, all OKRs can be unified in a single figure, avoiding the ups and downs that usually involve having a separate CTO and CPO.
- Unified budget: Most companies work in separate work groups according to disciplines. The fact of unifying CTO and CPO allows the same person to manage an integral budget, avoiding unnecessary expenses.
- Power tensions are avoided: It is often said that some companies are more focused on product and others more focused on technology. Any tension of this type, and the difficulties in decision making, will be greatly reduced with a unified figure.
It may seem silly, but another clear advantage is that two salaries are unified into one.
Cons of unifying the CTO and the CPO
Now let’s look at the disadvantages of combining the two roles:
- Too much overhead: If a single person is in charge of product strategy and implementation, he or she will have to manage a much larger group of people and deal with a much larger number of problems. It will be important that this person knows how to prioritize what is important at any given moment without giving too much weight to one of the two departments.- The time factor: Derived from the fact of covering too much, the time factor will be a clear contraindication. There will be many issues to deal with and, even if it is centralized, there may come a time when it will not be enough. Especially as the company grows.
- Strong management” is diluted: Logically, a role occupied in being both CTO and CPO will not be able to stick 100% to either aspect. Surely, an employee of this nature will have many cross-skills, but will not be a specialist in any of them (or even more of a specialist in one role than in the other, which is not good when it comes to distributing work and making decisions).
- Will require particular skills: first, it will be preferable to have a CTO + CPO more inclined to product than to technology, since the product and its idea are the main element of the company. The ideal is to have a person with a lot of experience in the product area but perfectly capable of working and discussing technical problems (without the need to be an absolute specialist).
As we can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to combining the roles of CTO and CPO. Each company will have to work out exactly where it stands. If you are a small, product-oriented company, this unification may make more sense than for a very technological or larger company.
So, before making the decision, examine your organization chart and take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of its structure. Depending on how, it can be very cost-effective to unify CTO and CPO. But, depending on how, it may be better to have two separate profiles.
The logical thing to do is to maintain a unified role in the early stages of the company, and then split it. But this may not always be the case, as we have said, if the company is very strong in the technological aspect of the product.