Firstly, let's understand what a CTO does. In my experience a CTO is often mixed up with a senior developer or VP of Engineering.
In reality a CTO is a C level position, meaning they sit on the senior management team and often will be involved at board level. Here's my definition of a CTO:
1. Provide a strategic approach to the technology and product
2. Manage, build and scale development teams
3. Make decisions that work for now and for the future
4. Ensuring the business can scale
5. Managing the expectations of the senior management and board
6. Participate in defining and running the overall business strategy
7. Participate in fundraising and financing processes
A CTO of a small or early stage startup could also get involved in very hands on activity such as running agile processes, pair programming, code review and even writing production code. Largely even in a small team this can be a distraction. If those are your priorities you probably want a senior developer or software development manager / VP of Engineering.
The reality is that most businesses don't need a full time CTO until they get to a large enough size and even then the role goes through period of extra demand and this is often when I am hired to step in for a fixed period.
Examples of these periods include:
1. Major business transitions, such as transitioning from one business model to another.
2. Product pivots and major innovations
3. Major fundraising activities
4. Bringing a team in-house
5. Outsourcing a team
6. Developing and launching a new product or business line
7. Overseeing the transition of senior management staff
8. Starting a new business from scratch
The flexibility an interim CTO brings is that they can bring in years of experience without the commitment of a permanent role and even on a part time basis.
I have worked as an interim CTO with such regularity as one day a month, one day a week, two-three days a week and full time for fixed periods.
In summary, the interim CTO is a growing and valuable tool in any business where technology is a core component, but of course I am biased!
PS. You can read more about how I approach a new client in this article
Dan Jacobs is a London based interim CTO and product owner