In previous posts (here and here), I talked about some of the technical roles a startup might need as one of the aspects that need to be considered in the decision to hire a CTO.

However, there are other considerations that need to be looked at in addition to just roles:

• How complex is the application that will be built? How long will it take to build it?
• What will the going-forward support needs be?
• What are the concepts or plans for adding features and functionality to the application?
• What technical needs will your customers and/or partners need?
• Do you need someone experienced to fill the CTO role as part of your investment raising efforts?

Let’s talk about each of these first:

How complex is the application that will be built? How long will it take to build it?

If you are planning for just a simple app that won’t require a lot of on-going improvements or enhancements then you probably don’t need a CTO. However, if the application is complex, is based on cutting edge technology, will take a big team and a lot of time to build and knowledge gained during the development process will be needed for adding enhancements, then you will probably need a CTO. The more complex the application, the more you will need a CTO. Not only to help with the 80/20 rule, or defining the “MVP” box, but also as the person who will be deciding how all of the 10 previously discussed roles will be filled. As the complexity increases, so does the required specialization of the team members. Knowing what needs to be done, finding the right people for those roles and managing their work requires deep experience and an extensive skill set.

What will the going-forward support needs be?

How is your application going to be monitored? What is the complexity of the underlying infrastructure? How are issues going to be resolved when they arise? Who is going to answer questions when there are problems? The inevitable fact is that there will be problems. Maybe with your application in a way a user interacts with it in an unforeseen manner. Maybe there will be a problem with the hardware your server is hosted on (one of my AWS servers recently failed and I needed to migrate to a new server for example). Maybe your site gets hacked. Maybe even your hosting provider has an issue, similar to AWS’ issue in early March. The question then is, who are you going to for the answers to your questions and resolving the issues? Your application could be a simple WordPress site and you have a managed hosting provider such as WPEngine. From them you could get pretty much all the support you need. However, in most cases, your application is going to be more complex and a support plan needs to be well-conceived and staffed in some manner.

What are the concepts or plans for adding features and functionality to the application?

Did you release all of the functionality you ever plan for with the initial release? If you developed an MVP or used the 80/20 rule then you didn’t. When do you plan to start adding in what wasn’t initially released? How do you plan to fix issues that end-users have a way of finding that testing didn’t? Again, is your application complex? How will initial development knowledge be transferred if there is a gap in time between initial development and feature additions? In many cases, that knowledge transfer is performed by the CTO.
What technical needs will your customers and/or partners need?
Will someone need to discuss technical issues, such as integration, with your customers and/or partners? Does that person need to be at a senior level or can a developer do that? I’ve been on numerous ‘sales’ calls so I know the importance of this in certain organizations. Again, this is just another aspect to consider.

Do you need someone experienced to fill the CTO role as part of your investment raising efforts?

If you are looking for investment capital, you may need to show investors that you have a strong and experienced team, particularly if the concept is tech heavy. In this case, you will more than likely need a CTO.

Obviously, this is a complex topic.

In my next post I’ll try to wrap it all up.

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