Definition

Chief Transformation Officer (CTO)

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) is an executive role, often in the C-suite, that focuses on bringing about change as well as growth in revenue and profit to an organization. Many large and mid-size companies have added Chief Transformation Officers to their team as rapid-fire developments in technology – along with shifting markets, customer demands, competitive environments and trends in global trade – have spurred the need for continuous transformation and transformational leadership. Chief transformation officers should not be confused with Chief Technology Officers (CTOs).

The role of the CTO

As digital transformation continues to pick up momentum in the corporate world, many of these changes are aimed at improving business infrastructure and customer experience (CX). The CTO often oversees the delivery of products and services and helps optimize business processes, such as selling, marketing, communications, collaboration and innovation. Inspiring employees and serving as role models for the sort of behavior necessary to effect change are also key qualities of an effective Chief Transformation Officer.

Although responsibility and accountability for day-to-day decisions lie with line managers, the CTO oversees the making and executing of these decisions to ensure that the job gets done efficiently. The CTO takes the lead in building synergies by leveraging people, data and infrastructure. In addition to helping teams and their leaders understand what they need to do to bring about specific changes that individual companies require, CTOs need to keep the changes on the radars of top executives.

The CTO must also have the skill and be willing to buck existing processes and attitudes to bring about change and to find ways to reinforce new behaviors. To tackle these problems, CTOs should have deep knowledge of various business situations and challenges confronting the company, as well as high emotional intelligence and well-honed interpersonal skills.

Lastly, the transformation chief should be fully integrated into the executive team and not pushed to the side as part of a “transformation unit.” As a result of the responsibilities they shoulder, CTOs' compensation should be commensurate with their performance.

This was last updated in September 2019

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