CTIOs need skills beyond tech, TM Forum warns

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CTIOs need to think about marketing and strategy as much as they do network and IT, a new report from TM Forum has claimed.

The report, coinciding with its Digital Transformation Asia event in Kuala Lumpur, said the demands of successful digital transformation meant it was "essential" that an operator needs one leader to take charge of both network and IT parts of the business.

Catherine Haslam, Senior Analyst, TM Forum, said: “A decade ago, the demarcation between the CTO and CIO roles was clear and obvious: The CTO was responsible for the technical delivery and operation of the network, while the CIO’s domain was to provide the IT systems used by staff and customer-facing systems.

“Today, the reality for CSPs is that demand for capacity and data usage are growing far more quickly than revenue is rising. Yet, no matter how dramatic, efficiency gains alone are not enough. Networks must also support new services and capabilities in an agile, flexible and dynamic way. These capabilities are best enabled by IT.”

The report said an operator's digital transformation success hinges upon the CTIO, whose tasks have evolved beyond those of the CTO and CIO to incorporate more consumer facing and strategic duties.

Haslam added: “A labyrinth of complexity sits behind a simple title change. The differences in skills, tools, timescales, working practices, not to mention culture, is vast. The modern CSP technology leader is a rare breed who crosses many skill-set barriers. Not only merging IT skills and engineering knowledge, but also embracing characteristics more traditionally associated with business leaders, marketing teams and strategy advisors.

"Where once the technology leader was judged by throughput speeds, capacity gains and coverage, today’s CTIO is often rewarded based on meeting business objectives, not technical key performance indicators (KPIs). One technology leader we interviewed even stated that his company measured CTIO success on improvements in customer value.”

The report also highlighted how the vendor/operator relationship needs to evolve to reflect the evolution of networks and ongoing virtualisation projects. 

While operators polled empathised with the challenges vendors are facing, they also expressed frustration at them lagging behind their requirements for virtualisation and DevOps.

Haslam added: “Network evolution and virtualization is complicated. It involves not only changes in behavior from CSPs and its technology leaders, but also in the vendor community.

"Just like CSPs, suppliers must change the way they develop, deliver and charge for products and services.”