Best Practices

The Defining Role of the Chief Transformation Officer

Jonathan Friedman
May 15, 2021
The Defining Role of the Chief Transformation Officer

Any good organization needs a strong leader to inspire and drive innovative change forward. A Chief Transformation Officer ("CTO") is the role to do just that. A CTO can handle anything from large-scale reformation projects within a company to coming up with dozens or even hundreds of initiatives of their own that affect the entire organization. Successful CTOs lead by example and can be instrumental for widespread change throughout a company.

If you're wondering 'what is a Chief Transformation Officer,' then you're setting your organization on the path to great things. A CTO's role can be adapted to suit the company's needs in question, but some shared qualities make a CTO stand out from the crowd.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What is a Chief Transformation Officer?

A Chief Transformation Officer should be independent and look at the organization's structure and inner working objectively. Transformation, such as digital transformation, cannot come from someone who is too closely linked to the company's everyday activities. Only from a distance can they see the possibilities for growth and innovation.

The CTOs main activities are making sure a business or organization will survive for years to come. They will look ahead to the future and see what can be done with their current skills and qualities. They use data and facts to identify where the strengths and weaknesses of an organization are - and then push to take these qualities to the next level.

Although the CTO will delegate tasks to middle management, it is their responsibility to complete tasks. This can be a challenge, especially in more prominent companies, so excellent project management skills are essential.

Change is a natural part of any company, but you need transformation at the heart of what you do to thrive truly. A CTO can take you there, so finding a good one for your organization is the best thing you can do for your business' growth.

Background of a CTO

A Chief Transformation Officer might have a background in upper management, such as a General Manager or a Chief Executive Officer. They should be accustomed to leading and influencing colleagues from all ranks and domains of the company. Additionally, they should be well-used to managing people and not afraid of giving out orders. Taking risks is also part of their day job, so strong risk assessment skills and courage are big pluses. They can't be afraid of throwing out old routines or business patterns that no longer serve the company effectively.

Alternatively, they might have a management consulting background, where people are comfortable with ambiguity and rely on data for decision-making. Additionally, consultants are typically methodological and rely on process to understand the current state and drive execution to the target state.

Day-to-day activities of a CTO

A CTO will spend a large amount of their day working with the people around and beneath them, striving to build a cross-functional team. There is strength in diversification, and a CTO should unify different strengths from various employees to inspire change for the whole company. Again, they should have an objective view: taking the best from multiple departments is the best way to enact successful and innovative transformation.

Strong interpersonal skills are therefore vital for a CTO, but so are organization and communication. A big part of a CTO's day will be tied up in meetings, gathering feedback, data, and analysis from department heads throughout the business. Their coordination skills are their real strength, so they should switch from meeting to meeting with ease.

What makes a Chief Transformation Officer successful?

Although an excellent chief strategy and transformation officer should always bring something unique to the table, some shared winning qualities will help them achieve their goals. The job description of a Chief Transformation Officer will also depend on your company's make-up, so take some time to think about what would best suit your company.

Do you run a company that needs a revamp in financials? Hire someone with an accountancy or economics background. Are you keen to make the most of employee talent? Look for someone with strong interpersonal skills or an HR background. The intricacies of transformation change with the individual, so match your CTO to the task at hand.

Strategic thinking

Strategic planning is vital for any good CTO. They need to be able to manage their strategic initiatives from ideation to implementation. Identifying what kind of changes would foster more growth within the organization isn't enough; the CTO is in charge of how exactly the company will get there. Once they know the path, they can work on putting this into action.

The top quality of a good strategist is turning information into action. Gathering data and statistics about the company needs to transform into actionable ideas, so the CTO needs a mind that can see beyond the numbers. Data can speak volumes about strengths and weaknesses; a CTO needs to translate those statistical messages.

Determination and confidence

Persistence is vital for any good Chief Transformation Officer; they must have the confidence and determination to see their projects through to the end, even in the face of criticism. There is a delicate balance between determination and arrogance, so these qualities should be perfectly balanced with strong interpersonal skills.

If the CTO has a good enough strategy, they need to have the confidence to back it. Their objective status might mean that people in other management roles may object to their new ideas; winning the decision-makers over to their way of thinking is crucial if they're going to put their transformational ideas into action.

Attention to detail

Another one of the necessary Chief Transformation Officer qualifications to look for is a keen attention to detail. They may oversee large-scale transformations, but they should also know that the little things are vitally important. Several small mistakes can lead to the downfall of even the most effective plans, so they should take pride in perfecting the smallest of details.

Enacting the bottom-up changes that CTOs need to achieve daily takes grit and strength. Experience and skill in creating change management processes will go a long way in turning ideas into reality. All the imagination and smart ideas won't help anyone if it doesn't support a healthy action plan.

What obstacles might a Chief Transformation Officer face?

No matter how good the CTO might be, there are always potential obstacles to come up against. What makes a great CTO is what they do to overcome them. Success doesn't often come easy, and transformation means some aspects of an organization will likely need to go to an end. So what might get in the way of the Chief Transformation Officer achieving that? 

Ineffective leadership

Whether that's on behalf of the CTO themself, or the management team around them, ineffectual delegation and control of employees can lead to transformational disaster. No enterprise-wide change can come from just one person; the CTO needs to identify which departments need to tackle what tasks to get the overall task done.

If department heads or other project managers let them down, this can lead to a domino effect that influences the entire project. Bad leadership feeds down through the chain of command, so a Chief Transformation Officer should lead by example. Their strong leadership skills will help to weed out weak links in the company and inspire people through their behavior.

Unsupportive environment

Along the same lines, lack of support from the company at large can also prohibit a CTO from doing their job successfully. If they don't have full access to the resources or data they need or don't have the employees' authority or respect, it can seriously hinder their progress.

This is why interpersonal skills are vital for a strong CTO. They can often be perceived as newcomers who come in to criticize how a business has been run this far; it's their job to smooth over these potential resentments and create a unified team to achieve the company's growth goals. What was once an unsupportive environment can be turned into a cooperative team with suitably nurturing leadership.

Skill shortages

Part of a Chief Transformation Officer's role is identifying what employee skills can be used to boost a company's growth. That can mean using what skills are already there, or it can mean hiring outside talent to curate more in-demand skills. Hiring the right people is a continuous effort, meaning there should be an ongoing connection between HR and the CTO.

If specific skills are in short supply, then a CTO can also put a skills development plan in action. They look to the future, so putting a strategic plan to have the right skills ready for when their dreams come to fruition down the line can be an excellent move for long-term success.

What types of tools do you need for a CTO to succeed?

All of the skills and character traits here make a great CTO, but they also need the right tools available to them to do the job well. Particularly for more extensive operations, having the right software can keep everyone involved in the CTO's various projects on the same track. Automation and accurate software improve efficiency and irons out any communication flaws, saving valuable time and resources.

Project management infrastructure

Successful business transformation comes from a series of perfectly executed projects. Having the right project management tools in place will give any CTO's ideas the room and resources they need to thrive. Build a project plan with full transparency and accountability for everyone involved to reduce the risks of delays or miscommunications.

Project management's mundane admin can now be automated, making room for human minds to do what they do best: innovate and create. Allocate resources in the most effective way possible, letting the software handle the organization, and the employees take action. This is how modern companies utilize technology to their advantage, not by replacing their employees' roles but by augmenting them with smart technology perfectly suited to the job at hand.

Supportive planning

With easy task assignments and clear responsibilities laid out every step of the way, change management software can make or break a successful business transformation. A Chief Transformation Officer might come with strategies and fresh ideas ready to go, but those plans need the right support in every aspect of the planning process to come to fruition. Change management software can do just that.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes inter-departmental collaboration to transform a business. Cooperation and communication need to happen seamlessly, so finding ways to update and report back on real-time tasks is vital for any fast-paced environment. With a strong CTO at its head, the right software can hold all the information that employees and department heads need to introduce growth-focused change at every organization level.

Empower your CTO with software built for business transformation: TrueNxus

TrueNxus understands what is required of a Chief Transformation Officer. Our workspace is built to enable CTOs and your entire organization as a cross-functional team. It has everything that you need to change the way your company operates. TrueNxus is the most pragmatic work management platform for transformation offices.

In any business transformation, you need help with:

Here's a look at some of TrueNxus's features:

1. Multiple views

Personalized views illustration

With any transformation, people require different ways to visualize work across time. Not only that, but each individual specializes in a specific domain, and as such, each thinks about work differently. To ensure successful planning and execution, you need software that provides personalized views that make sense to everyone involved in the change. These views need to be in sync as well.

TrueNxus provides you with the following views:


Plan screenshot

A list is a table that allows you to manage your cross-functional projects easily. You can organize your project work into groups such as workstreams or any logical way to categorize tasks.


Product roadmap or project timeline screenshot

With TrueNxus's Timeline, a Gantt-chart like view, you can visualize your project plans across time. It lets you understand how all of the work fits together. You can make updates to the project plans through an interactive interface.

3. Automated project status reports

Automated project status reports illustration

We understand that each cross-functional team member is busy balancing multiple priorities, from your day-to-day responsibilities to various programs and projects. Therefore, TrueNxus successfully executes monitoring and controlling projects by automatically analyzing the project's health in real-time, giving the Chief Transformation Officer and senior leadership and the team the insights they need to make decisions and move the ball forward.

4. My Work

View all of your work in one place

Another essential thing for everyone involved in a transformation is understanding what you're on the hook for delivering. With TrueNxus, you can view every task and every dependency vital to you, across every project, in one location, ensuring success.

5. Dependencies


Additionally, we know that you don't want to let your colleagues down or be let down. You can ensure the successful delivery of programs and projects through collaboration and documenting task dependencies. By doing so, you can be accountable when others are reliant on you. You can understand dependent tasks, change implications, and adjust course as needed.

6. Automated notifications

Automated workflows - notifications

No matter your role in any digital transformation, you can also successfully execute work by leveraging software to notify when changes occur. With TrueNxus's 20+ out-of-the-box automated notifications, you will have the transparency you need to stay in-the-know.


Cross-functional team collaboration - comments

Additionally, the entire cross-functional team can ensure project plans are successful by collaborating directly in the app. With TrueNxus, you can communicate with colleagues, clients, consultants, and contractors in one place.

8. Project charter

Charter illustration

Lastly, you can leverage OKR and create a project charter. You can ensure the successful execution of projects by documenting and aligning the project's objectives, benefits, and risks from the very beginning. TrueNxus is the only software that has a project charter directly in the app.


If you're keen to make significant changes in your organization, start laying the infrastructure down now. Incorporating the right business transformation software into your firm means you're perfectly primed to bring in dynamic talent, like a new Chief Transformation Officer, and take your business' growth to the next level. Browse the enterprise-standard tools from TrueNxus to see what they could do for your company.

Contact our sales team if you have any remaining questions or if you're ready to empower your Chief Transformation Officer.