The Role of a Chief Modernization Officer: The Yin to Your CTO’s Yang

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

Modernization has become a hot-button topic across the tech and business landscape. With ongoing advancements in cloud technology and the seemingly unlimited potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies, many organizations are eager to digitally transform and modernize their operations and software applications. In fact, 80% of IT decision-makers say their companies plan to have modernized more than half of their custom applications before the end of 2022.

With a significant push toward infrastructure modernization, many organizations have hired Chief Modernization Officers (CMOs) to help navigate the complexities of this undertaking. But many still question the need for a CMO when they already have a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in house. While most C-suite level positions are clearly defined, the CMO and CTO’s roles and responsibilities are uniquely intertwined and often confused as being the same — but this is not the case. For companies looking to modernize their infrastructure, it is important to recognize the differences between a CTO and CMO and understand what each position brings to the table and why both are essential to achieve true modernization.

Defining the roles of CTOs and CMOs Starts with defining modernization 

The CTO and CMO positions are often confused because the word modernization has different meanings for different people. To many business leaders, modernization is about driving evolution and the creation of new business models by implementing innovative technologies and methodologies to improve operations. This, however, is a better definition for the process of digital transformation and is chiefly what CTOs work to achieve. 

The CTO’s role is to stay at the forefront of emerging technologies and practices and understand how processes can be changed and improved through their implementation. A CTO is focused on creating great experiences and offerings for customers, clients, and partners of an organization, taking a pragmatic approach to improve business outcomes, often leading with a “rip and replace” mentality for underutilized or underperforming technology.

Modernization, on the other hand, is a more internal and holistic process that focuses on understanding and preparing a company’s infrastructure, technology, and products to succeed in a fast-changing, digital world without upending a company’s current operating model. A successful modernization operation is a continuum and CMOs have the expertise and attention to detail to constantly analyze operations, uncover opportunities to optimize, and ensure modernization projects align with business and customer goals. CMOs consider the company’s business operations as a whole, not only evaluating the time and resources needed to achieve a particular modernization project but also how it will affect operations along all departments and whether it is worth the effort. 

Balancing the two to create true modernization

Often, large-scale transformation projects are unsuccessful because organizations fail to recognize that true modernization requires continuous transformation and a wholly pragmatic approach to modernizing tools and processes. While CTOs bring exciting and innovative techniques and tools to the table, CMOs bring the rationality and necessity required for projects to succeed.

In the end, businesses that are successful in their modernization ventures understand that it is not a matter of one or the other when it comes to CMOs and CTOs — but, rather, a balancing of the two. By fusing the creativity and forward-thinking mindset of a CTO together with the pragmatic, strategic approaches of a CMO, companies can stay on the cutting edge of innovation while bringing true modernization to their operations.

To learn how Rocket Software’s suite of technologies can help simplify and streamline your organization’s modernization efforts, visit the Rocket Software modernization page.

Digital Transformation