A CTO's perspective
A contemporary technology management perspective.
Most people understand the meaning of technology to be ‘things’ such as mobile phones, websites, apps, computers, to name a few. These are not technology per se, rather they are the outcomes of technologies applied to solve a particular problem.
For example, a mobile phone (an outcome) satisfies the need for receiving and making calls while away from a desk for delivering a better customer service.
To drill a little further, technology is actually scientific knowledge applied to overcome a practical problem. So it is the scientific knowledge applied to harness radio waves, create each component to act in a specific way, and put together in a palm sized, easy to use, device, that allows us to make and receive calls on the move.
So managing scientific knowledge for overcoming problems is vital. Here are a few examples of the importance of technology management.
1. Problems: There are so many problems to be solved, they cannot all be addressed. Some sort of selection criteria and process needs to exist which requires the skills of a technology manager. For example, medical problems could be more important to overcome than waste disposal.
2. Money: Organisation have an annual budget for applying scientific knowledge to resolve problems. Those problems that are too expensive, or there is no outside funding available, cannot be undertaken. For example, government may offer additional funding for resolving certain medical issues but not for developing wind turbines for domestic use.
3. Time: Not all problems can be focused on at one time. There isn't the time or budget for it so there must be some scientific selection process and criteria. The organisation may also need time to develop the additional capabilities before being able to solve the problem. Developing a solution to a problem may take too long where the market no longer requires it. These are all skills of a technology manager.
4. Profit: Some projects, regardless of how useful the problem is that is being solved, simply will not be profitable either because there will be too few buyers of the end product, it will be too expensive to develop, or it will go to market too late.
5. Ethics: Scientists are professionals who are accountable for their actions, behaviours, and solutions created for solving problems. For example, there is a big divide between countries, regions, and societal groups in levels of e-skills, and access to technologies. It is the scientist responsibility to not make the gap bigger when finding solutions to problems.
6. Competitive advantage: Of greatest importance is managing technologies for competitive advantage. By staying up to date with emerging technologies a technology manager, or CTO, can identify new opportunities aligned with the organisations goals ahead of the competition, implement the new opportunity, and generate significant income for the organisation before anyone else goes to market with something similar. For example, Apple identified consumers desire to share music files and to have their music player wherever they went, even at the risk of virus infections and poor quality audio. Apple developed the IPod to solve all of those problems, made it cheap enough for everyone to purchase, small to carry around, and easy to use.
Overall, technology management is about formulating effective, strong strategies that drive the company’s competitive advantage, using road maps to show product/service/opportunity development and forecasting its potential, while managing a project portfolio.