CTO Sentinel: How to Track Technology Actions Against Company Objectives

7CTOs founder Etienne de Bruin clarifies what the CTO Sentinel is and how it works. He points out that for many CTOs, it can be hard to communicate progress to the C-suite. Not only does there seem to be a constant urgency to achieve company objectives, but there’s also a general lack of understanding of what it truly takes to achieve those objectives. 

Because it’s the CTO’s job to keep the C-suite informed in a way they can fully understand that’s interesting to learn from, involving discussion or questions and concerns, Etienne built the CTO Sentinel. The CTO Sentinel is a simple way to communicate these complexities to achieve company objectives with technology, experiments, projects, build-outs, and innovations. In addition, it’s a tool to help the C-suite keep watch over how technology is used to achieve company objectives. After all, it’s the CTOs primary function is to translate the company’s objections into action. 

Etienne creates an example to fully showcase the CTO Sentinel’s features. In the example shown in the above video, the sample company has an objective of a 20% increase in the adoption of product X. The CTO leads collaboration to determine which experiments and actions need to be taken to accomplish this objective. The following actions are going to be used as examples to showcase how the CTO Sentinel can help achieve the sample company’s objective:

  • Offering a free tier to product X 
  • Strategies for creating stickiness 
  • Better onboarding tools 

Within the CTO Sentinel, we can label the above action items Action 1 or A1, Action 2 or A2, and Action 3 or A3. The CTO Sentinel then breaks down the responsibilities of the CTO into four sentinels:

Speed: Speed is all about driving delivery through engineering teams and unblocking the organization. 

Stretch: Stretch is about thinking beyond the current capabilities, the current technology, markets, and the team. Stretch challenges the organization to stretch into the future.

Shield:  Shielding is to protect the company’s technology, market positioning, team dynamics, compliance, processes, and intellectual property, as well as threats from the inside and outside. 

Sales: Sales is to grow the business through influence and empathy, providing tooling and cross-functional leadership that empowers the whole organization. 

These four S’s are applied throughout the given example. For instance, within A1 which is to offer a free tier to product X. Let’s say a CTO worked with their team on A1’s Speed Sentinel to do the following:

  • Facilitate value stream mapping between the departments to unblock them from any disagreement.
  • Look at a pricing strategy so we don’t implement the wrong pricing structure.
  • Look at infrastructure as several users may sign up for the free tier while also strategizing on implementing an upgrade path for free users.

Within the example for A1 Stretch, the CTO and their team look to a consultant on pricing with peer organizations that’ll offer free tiers. In addition, the team will need to collaborate with the organization’s CFO and get the right payment gateway experts on board for multinational sign-ups. 

And within the A1 Shield Sentinel, CTOs can convey how they protect their system from runaway sign-ups. Shielding can also disclose how to build redundancy on infrastructure and how to scale effectively. In addition, it can show how to protect their resources if users aren’t paying anything. Lastly, shielding can protect PCI compliance and point out how to sandbox users from premium features while demonstrating how it impacts their soc 2 initiatives. 

And lastly, within A1 Sales, the team will collaborate on the marketing site, the pricing page, and the sign-up page. Again, preparing customers’ success with new workflows, installing new behavior analytics, and implementing a knowledge base to alleviate some of the pressures of the support team.

When all sentinels have clear and actionable goals to achieve, the team can hit the ground running at the beginning of Q1. This is where the CTO Sentinel shines. In the example, Etienne draws a grid with A1, A2, A3 down on the left and draws the four sentinels up top. Then, to show progress, Etienne labels each month and month 1, month 2, and month 3 in each block from the bottom to the top. 

So continuing with Etienne’s initial example within the above video, take a look at the top block in A1 Speed; Etienne shows that month one is highlighted green on the sentinel, which means everything is running smoothly. Next, look at A1 Stretch and A1 Shield; month one is highlighted yellow, which means a few issues can affect progress. Finally, look at A1 Sales; month one is highlighted red, which shows a significant roadblock that will affect the expectations and timeline. 

Etienne’s example brings up some exciting interdependencies that the C-suite might ask about or highlight. For instance, A1 Sales is in the red because the A1 Stretch is yellow, which shows there isn’t the right outside consultants to help with pricing strategies. Or, perhaps A1 Speed is so green that it affects the team’s ability to perform in A3 Speed, and so various actions impact each other, thus creating conversations in the C-suite. In the example used in the video, when blue is present, the CTO considers that action to be complete. It is then, where the entire C-suite understands that the CTO no longer considers that action an active initiative. Each action links back up to the company’s objectives for each quarter. 

As the example in the video above concludes, Etienne demonstrates how the CTO Sentinel presents an overall color for each action item from a broader perspective. This helpful feature will give the C-suite definitive insight into what the CTO believes to be the current state of the company objectives before moving forward to the next quarter. In the given example, six blue boxes indicate six “completed” action items, three green boxes showcase the team is moving along just fine, and three yellow boxes suggest some concerns. In this case, they are all in the same action, which shows the onboarding tools initiative is probably worth another discussion in the C-suite.