So you just started as a CTO and you feel this mix of being excited and scared. This is a survival guide for you!

We’ve worked with many new CTOs and here we share our observations.

A good book is a good start!

There is a great stack of knowledge in well-picked books. I would strongly advise you to read the book The Project Phoenix to better understand how IT is perceived by different stakeholders in the company. This is a quite good start if you would like to introduce Agile Project Management and DevOps operations. Another is Crossing The Chasm and it gives you better understanding innovative tech products sales process.

Joel Spolsky shares in his book some great ways to cooperate with developers teams and building software better.

Other good books could be Accelerate, which is a survival guide in a software-centric business, and The Mythical Man-Month that provides software engineering wisdom and green CTOs with some of the most common mistakes.

Must reads for the CTO:

Make eCommerce ready for changes with microservices architecture >

Learn your friends and enemies

Your company is probably using some systems already and vendors of these systems can be quite unsure what will happen. We have seen that it’s really not such a good idea to start from a revolution.

If you don’t understand all stakeholder goals, it’s highly possible you will piss off your vendors. Then you can start off on the wrong foot and lose a lot of time just making things right again.

It’s probably a good idea to win some friends at the beginning. Probably, the CMO is a good person to start with as changes in user behavior and adaptation to mobile pushed them to experiment a lot with marketing tools. Try to understand existing projects first. Then you can begin the evolution process :)

Build momentum with quick wins

Learning the ropes always consumes some time. For some, it might look like your “not acting” and you might be perceived as a maintainer, not the innovator that is needed.

Usually, new CTOs are looking for kind of quick-win projects to prove their value to the company and build positive momentum. This is crucial and indeed we see much more success when a CTO is able to contribute value to the company within the first 6 months.

How to choose the right quick win?

A good quick win project adds business value to the company. This could be something related to customer acquisition, increasing customer value over time or customer satisfaction.

By doing so, you will instantly get attention from the CEO and VP of Sales which are usually the most powerful people in the organization.

The right quick win project to kick off with should be quite independent of the company’s existing infrastructure. Otherwise, you will be stuck in a discussion about what should be changed and why. Such a decision process takes a lot of time. As you are new, convincing other directors to your ideas can be hard at this point.

The best quick win project should also be quite independent from the platforms of the current software vendors your company is using.

User Experience is a friend of quick-win projects

When you think about all these factors, you will conclude that the ideal quick win project will be somewhere in the User Experience field. Running a UX audit will help you to spot incorrectly designed areas that block your users. By improving UX, you will increase business KPIs and make a new friend in the process.

But isn’t UX connected with the current platforms like PIM, CMS, eCommerce, Self Service?

Yes … but it doesn’t have to be. You can change this quite quickly with microservices and headless architecture.

Headless approach is your enabler for a quick win project

Introducing the headless approach (decoupling frontend from the backend systems) you will improve UX without interfering with your current systems. Probably, your current vendors will like this approach as they make really good money on the backend and don’t feel super-comfortable with all these frontend innovations.

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They will see this as an opportunity to focus more on their core business and move all these marketing/sales related questions away ;)

By using headless architecture to introduce new ideas on the frontend side, you will not only generate business benefits, you will also amaze the business guys in your organization. Before that, they probably had to wait many long weeks (if not months) to see changes, and now you’re introducing them to a new solution, like a shiny frontend app which is js-based and super easy to modify, in just a few moments.

We saw some new CTOs doing amazing things on the frontend by introducing progressive web apps (PWA) into the company.

With microservices and headless architecture they are able to:

  • be independent of the platforms’ backends and keep backend guys happy (they don’t compete against them)
  • support sales and marketing guys with a new, agile way of doing UX
  • introduce sexy new tools to developers and cooperate with them on these tools
  • bring some agile approach to the company, without changing the existing processes
  • win attention and build positive traction with all

So… instead of fighting with the current systems, choose a path of building on the top of them.

Good luck!

Learn more about the microservices:

5 key advantages of the microservices approach in business
The not-so-headless guide to headless eCommerce
Microservices Architecture for eCommerce
How to rescue eCommerce monolithic architecture with microservices?

Tomasz Karwatka

Supervisory Board Member at Divante. Leading industry voice who believes eCommerce can improve our world. Co-founder of Vue Storefront and Open Loyalty, angel investor, and founder of Tech To The Rescue. CEO at Divante eCommerce Technology Company | LinkedIn | Twitter

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