CTO/CPO or CTPO
Oh, fancy titles. Here in tech and product, you can have multiple big heads. But nowadays most important ones outside of the enterprise level are CTOs and CPOs.
The general conception is CPO is responsible for product ie: what and why; CTO is responsible for simply “how”. But isn't tris really too simplistic?
We are also seeing new trends such as CTOs reporting to CPOs. But how to decide which one is the best approach?
The decision-making should be simplified. First of all, let’s take a look at your product type and company size. If you are rather small (around a total of 30–40), your founders are driving the vision; well you may not need any C-title at all. Because those fancy titles can easily become meaningless. Instead, keep lead positions in place. Once investors approach you, you can either:
a) get someone from outside who would fit and give trust to those investors
b) promote internally
it is also about having options during the growth stage. Titles given too early will high likely create internal problems.
So, you are growing now. You passed a certain threshold. Scaling up is your main issue. At this phase, most organizations go through people cycles. Meaning; they need structures, procedures to keep things moving forward, strong interfaces for communication. Your former CPO and CTO might be great at building things, but now they also have to step up. How? Well, coaching is an option. You can help them grow. What if you need urgent needs? You can bring externals, that is another option. Finally, of course, bringing those roles with certain knowledge is the key.
Alright, we still have separate titles. What know? At certain stages, companies reach a level of maturity. Product and tech are stable. At this stage, the borders might become a bit blurry about who does what. If your company is organizationally not divided in a good way in terms of responsibilities (which is most often the case), you may not be getting a good value out of your C-Levels.
Why? So, you need product discovery, you need customer input, you need a roadmap, and so on. Over time, the product tends to direct tech. Because as said, tech is stable. “Just continue doing whatever you are doing and implement what we want”. If you are not developing a real tech product (just a few companies do that nowadays), this is the most common case.
Here comes the CTPO. Someone knows both worlds, can understand technical lingo as well as still drive the product vision. Downside? Not direct specialization in both worlds. Still, if you have managed to create strong profiles, this won’t be an issue. Because what is needed is strong leadership. This way, you prevent a possible power fight in between roles. You prevent one team from feeling less important than another (of course not just with this change) and your teams don't have to deal with two different perspectives (if they are not aligned of course).
Over time, you can review this decision and decide to separate the roles again. There is not one single truth out there.