The Role of Chief Technology Officers in 2020
Job has shifted away from technology to the creation of value.
“The whole business of being a CTO has changed,” said Yuvi Kochar, managing director, technology and operations, CAQH, a nonprofit alliance creating shared initiatives to streamline the business of healthcare.
During his keynote address at the AFCEA-GMU C4I and Cyber Center Symposium, the former chief technology officer (CTO) of The Washington Post, discussed how he first became a CTO in 2000 for a small startup in Boston. “My first job was all about building technology and operating it. And that was good enough,” Kochar said.
Over time though, he’s seen the job transform into a more business-centric role. “Technology is taking more and more of a backseat,” he related.
Whether you work in a government or commercial organization, it’s all about creating value. “It’s not about actions like running a server or running an application,” Kochar said. “It’s what can you do with this technology.
Customers expect experiences. They want to feel technology is easy to use and they are used to not needing training anymore to do it. “You turn on your device and it’s pretty obvious how it works,” Kochar said.
He uses Uber as an example. If you have the application downloaded, you can order a car to your doorstep in about two steps. And more importantly, “Uber is not limited to a certain age group,” Kochar stressed.
As technologists, “we are all very challenged in how to create technology in a fashion that is much more accessible,” he said. Technology has become more accessible to every demographic and age group. It’s also become more scalable and inexpensive when built right.
So how can CTOs keep pace? The most important priority for Kochar personally is to understand the business he is in. That means moving out of the back office into the front office.
“I have to get closer to the customer and understand what the customer is facing,” Kochar said.
Though he knows it can be challenging for a technologist to work with people in other domains, “it’s important for us to understand our peers and people we’re working with and what’s making them tick,” Kochar stressed.
Then the idea is to try and develop solutions for them. “Meet them where they are,” Kochar said.
Knowing the customer and knowing the user, including the warfighter, is much more important than it was even a few years ago. It’s also no longer sufficient to have data about a customer in a single database. “It’s much more essential for us to think about data coming together,” Kochar said Having information on where the customer is currently located and what product he/she likes is much more powerful than simply knowing what their address is. “Correlating data is where a lot of value is being created,” he stated.
Most importantly though, Kochar says he’s come to realize what his peers and business customers want most from him is to make a commitment and to keep that commitment. "They are so used to not believing any commitment you make, some people have stopped asking,” he stressed. And that's bad business for technologists everywhere.
For more information on the AFCEA-GMU C4I and Cyber Center Symposium visit www.afcea.org/event/GMU-Home.