BCS Entrepreneurs ‘CTO-in Residence’

The CTO-in-Residence programme has been developed by the BCS Entrepreneurs Specialist Group as part of our range of services to start-up Incubators and Accelerators. The role is aimed at providing the skills of a professional CTO, to develop and support a product/ solutions/ services capability for start-ups.

A common question is “why do I need a ‘CTO-in-Residence, when I already have a CTO?”. Whilst your existing CTO will be a master of the technologies used in your product, there can also be a benefit in having external, independent thinking from someone at arm’s length to the business, and thus able to bring objectivity. The CTO-in-Residence can bring wide experience of the types of issues the CTO might face, as well as knowledge of, and access to the subject-matter specialists within the BCS Organisation.

Here are examples where the CTO-in-Residence has provided real value to start-ups:

Seeking Knowledge

A CTO-in-Residence was approached by a startup to give input on the challenges they faced in the new GDPR (Regulation (EU) 2016/679), specifically to understand the risk of information privacy within their solution. The discussion led to a number of specific challenging questions that needed to be answered, some affecting reputation, some commercial, and some that might change the startup’s service. The CTO-in-Residence was able to gain access to a deep IT privacy specialist practitioner and BCS member who had worked on such solutions. In a short call this gave definitive answers, and in one area outlined the “nobody knows”, and how they had responded to their clients.

Cost reduction

A startup was concerned at the cost of the existing Big Data application that they had developed. They found that as they were processing more and more of the client’s data, the cost of the platform was eating into any profit.

A review of the architecture, the way the application had been designed, and the selection of the software being used identified immediate cost reductions. Computing-power costs could be drastically reduced, by migrating the application onto a different cloud configuration that was optimised for data throughput. This significantly reduced the computing power, saving money. The CTO-in-Residence then worked with the CTO and the CEO to ensure that the commercial model included key technical factors and ‘technical limits’, to ensure further contracts were profitable.

Industrialising the Architecture (productising and engineering)

In general, startups focus on creating the functionality required that can demonstrate the customer value. This is key to showing their solution and generating sales. As the customer base increases, and the product becomes more valuable to clients, there is a need to provide more engineered solution components. Sometimes the technical team require a CTO-in-Residence to assess, prioritise and put a focus on what is important and what isn’t; someone who isn’t in love with the selected technology and ways of working.

One startup was losing sales, as the product didn’t meet the client’s internal IT requirements. The CTO-in-Residence supported the technical team in identifying specific non-functional development work to meet immediate needs, and produced a roadmap for change and evolution. From their experience of working with a range of clients and enterprise customers, the CTO-in-Residence identified specific challenges clients had for on-boarding, then created an on-boarding plan with self-service tools to support clients, and a service for clients to use to support the integration of the product in their environment, thus further developing the startup’s revenue streams.

Commercialising the product

A startup, having evolved their product through working with a number of companies, approached the CTO-in-Residence about what they should do to commercialise the product.  This took a multi stage approach:

  • The Business Model Canvas was used to help reposition and focus the startup on what was unique and differentiated in the product, what IP there was (and a single patent), and then to identify initial markets.
  • A review of the technology in the competitive landscape sharpened the technology and sales messages for the product; this also identified two lucrative sell through opportunities. 
  • A cost model assessment drove changes from the existing OEM products being used in the overall system design, and also identified some additional tooling that automated on-boarding and administration tasks. This informed the licensing and SaaS commercial model and pricing.
  • Handling client objection, reservations and challenges on product integration can delay sales. The CTO-in-Residence prepared a list of areas to be considered and be part of regular ‘pre-sales’ discussion. This led to a reduction in implementation time from 12 weeks to 4 weeks, as well as subsequent reduction in internal costs for the start-up.

The BCS CTOs-in-Residence have a wealth of pragmatic knowledge and experience. Whilst they cannot be a specialist in all areas, they are able to tap into the broader BCS ecosystem of contacts and people, and thereby provide valuable help to the startup. First there is the network of approved BCS CTOs in Residence, then their access to over 50 BCS Specialist Groups, and finally access to specific individuals in the BCS. So whether the issue is about programming, compliance, reliability of RF frequency data transmission, Big Data analytics, Cybersecurity or IOT, the 71,000 membership offers a bigger pool to answer your question than could any commercial organisation.

If you wish to know more about the BCS CTO-in-Residence Programme please contact Shakeeb Niazi at entrepreneurs@bcs.org