As technology changes and evolves, so do the roles that advance it. From accountants to top tech executives, every title has the potential to maximize the value of innovation. But before innovation can make an impact, tech leaders must ensure they are prepared for the "in with the new" approach, embracing the opportunities and cutting away at conservative tendencies.
This task is particularly important for VPs of technology whose duties combine managing and overseeing transformation strategies with leadership and ideation. Ushering progress across the enterprise requires continuous re-evaluation of views on technology and testing of professional skills. Without a side perspective, the latter can be a challenging task. In this article, we'll dive into the top skills for a Vice President of Technology.
What vice president skills does a VP of Technology need?
In general, the role of a Vice President of Technology can be divided into three distinct areas of responsibility: leadership, strategic planning, and product development.
However, with the advance of industry 5.0, everything related to securing sustainability and resilience is now also an integral part of any vice president's skills resume. For that reason, the best way to explore the expanded skill set of a VP of technology would be to break these top skills into components that enrich them.
A VP of technology is first and foremost a leader. They must set objectives, communicate them effectively, map out journeys, and see these journeys through. While standard vice president skills for a resume include such must-haves as communication, thought-leadership, and decisive decision-making, a VP of Information Technology or a VP of technology has some niche-specific requirements:
- Maintaining a culture of innovation
To prepare a responsive and steady foundation for technology adoption, a VP of technology needs to ensure the involved teams and departments are acutely aware of why the change is necessary and how it's going to affect the organization. Doing so requires continuous nurturing of flexible mindsets and preparedness for ongoing improvement—-most adoption projects are often halted by the lack of communication and outdated perception of innovation as a one-time project instead of a journey. The goal of a VP is to prepare employees for a rewarding path of constant learning and growth.
- Managing change cross-enterprise
In addition to inspiring teams for long-term change, a VP of technology needs to head the change, overseeing the large-scale transition to the new technology or even a product delivery method. This skill is vital as it minimizes potential organizational resistance, reduces the period of adaptation, and enables success. Achieving strategic goals requires a VP of technology who can communicate, organize, and visualize potential worst-case scenarios along with the ways of preventing them.
- Overseeing remote team performance
With around 44% of previously full-time employees choosing to work from home, leaders and technology executives are still adjusting to the change and overlooking their approaches to management. For a VP of technology, it means developing a framework of interactions and management of remote development teams, evaluating their performance, and securing transparent progress monitoring. In addition, VPs of technology need to connect and synergize the cooperation between in-house and remote teams.
- Ensuring diversity and inclusion
Companies that enable ethnic and cultural diversity were proven to have a 33% probability of reaching greater profitability in their target industry compared to businesses with more homogeneous structures. Such an improvement is possible because embracing diversity means gaining access to a wider pool of talents and skill sets that had been previously overlooked, revealing new opportunities and high-value professionals. Therefore, a VP of technology needs to know how to engage these talents and build an inclusive culture of communication and knowledge exchange within their teams and departments.
In addition to providing proper leadership in their focus areas, VPs of Technology also have an important role in maintaining communication between other executives, facilitating organizational development, and communicating the future to the C-Suite.
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2) Strategic planning
Building and realizing innovation strategies is among the most important skills of a Vice President of Technology. However, without proper exercise, planning can grow rigid or direction-less in time—which is why it's important for VPs and technology executives to reinforce one of their top skills by following such practices as:
- Forwarding cross-functional collaboration
For new technology or products to be successfully deployed, there has to be strong, back-to-back communication between sales and marketing teams, product management departments, and the C-Suite. This task falls on the VP's shoulders as they build feedback loops and the system of check-ups with other departments, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and there is no room for miscommunication and misunderstanding.
- Updating technical proficiency
Industries don't remain static—they evolve and develop while competitors keep weaponizing themselves with new technologies and tools. For that reason, a VP of technology needs to know more than the capacity of their current tech stack, explore relevant enterprise technology trends, and investigate the options for applying them to company workflow.
- Applying business vision
When VPs of technology and technology executives consider adopting a new technology, they should keep their company's business model and goals in mind. Since a VP of technology is the one to take responsibility for under-delivering innovation or low ROI, the misalignment between business objectives and engineering efforts is a scenario that must be avoided by maintaining a firm balance between what's good for the workflow and what's good for the revenue.
No flexible strategy is possible without considering the routes and paths of growth for the future, and to achieve such a vision, VPs of technology always need to flawlessly combine the technological, business, and human perspectives within their enterprise.
3) Technology acumen
Developing a strategic technology roadmap requires a VP of technology to understand how custom software products are created, complete with potential pitfalls and challenges. Such expertise allows tech executives to stay connected with reality, in concert with engineers and developers—and in control of the technology adoption process. To reinforce their ability to successfully execute product development, a VP of technology needs to hone a set of methodologies and practices:
- Agile and DevOps
While DevOps and Agile are sometimes seen as opposing concepts locked in a "there can be only one" standoff, the truth is they go together quite well. While the Agile philosophy aims to improve development cycles, DevOps focuses on continuous deployment and smooth collaboration with operational teams. With an in-depth understanding of these methodologies, a VP of technology can make them work seamlessly and leverage how they complement each other.
- Data science and AI
With around 60% of companies adopting GenAI tools and 40% planning to further invest in incorporating generative artificial intelligence into their workflow, the message is clear: AI is making waves, and the time for skepticism is over. VPs of technology need to keep up with this latest trend by expanding their data science and AI background and focusing on finding GenAI experts and data scientists who can assist with adopting innovation.
- Quality assurance
In addition to knowing the benchmarks and goals of the development journey, expertise in testing and QA is a definite plus concerning the skills of a vice president in charge of product adoption. A VP of technology who can think analytically, flexibly, and creatively, and participate in testing and quality assurance of a product, has more confidence in whether the end result aligns with the company's goals—and as a result, can build a more predictable growth journey in the end.
- Technical debt management
Poor technical debt management hinders growth and blocks access to new technologies since developers are forced to spend more time fixing issues rather than delivering value. Accordingly, VPs of technology are expected to provide adequate leadership and vision, supplying each development team with the necessary talents, focusing on testing to minimize band-aid fixing, and preventing overreliance on short-term solutions.
A VP of technology is not just a tech-savvy person with proper soft skills. They’re also experts with an intricate understanding of a variety of hard skills. The latter grants them a clear vision of how an upcoming technological change should be handled—-and what gaps must be filled before the main work can begin.
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4) Resilience and sustainability
All VPs and technology executives have one major goal—to reinforce their organizations’ preparedness for force majeure and improve their plan of action, regardless of the uncertainty. The chain of events affecting the world from 2019 to the present made it clear that industries and businesses are paying the price for embracing rigidness and static approaches. Therefore, to avoid existing in a survival mode, companies should prepare for thriving in a resilience mode—and VPs of technology do their part.
In 2023, tech executives have to deal with new data safety and security threats, such as Russia-funded cyber criminals attacking Microsoft and China exploiting AI for hacking and identity theft, according to accusations from Five Eyes intelligence alliance. The relentless growth of dangers coming from the online digital space makes it vital to update cybersecurity guidelines, implement new data protection measures, and constantly educate all employees on the new forms of social engineering and phishing that may cost an entire enterprise its reputation and assets.
- Green engineering
Approximately two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies pursue the goal of reducing their carbon footprint by 2050, while both employees and customers keep up the pressure by voting with their feet and choosing partnerships. Such growing demand for more responsible energy consumption and sustainable policies pushes stakeholders to research new solutions and green engineering opportunities. For VPs of technology and technology executives, it means investigating the potential of innovative technologies in terms of waste reduction and contributing to a safer, healthier climate on a global scale—-without sacrificing profits.
- Vendor management
The relationships between organizations and third-party solution vendors has evolved as well, going from simple vendor-buyer interactions to responsible partnerships built on trust and transparency. Although VPs of technology have always been responsible for evaluating external solutions providers, they need to approach this task more scrupulously, researching the vendor's reputation, culture, and fit with their enterprise.
- Legal awareness and corporate social responsibility
The influx of innovation and disruptive technology is bound to impact regulatory compliance and ethical policies. VPs of technology need to keep this in mind by refreshing and enhancing their awareness of relevant legal requirements and reviewing ethical considerations, especially when operating with AI technology and monitoring blockchain regulatory fields.
Aside from these core resilience must-haves, patience and perseverance remain the ultimate components of building up resilience and making it a foundation for the company's technology framework. No executive is infallible—there are bound to be sudden obstacles and pitfalls. C-Suite and employees expect VPs of Technology not to foresee and avoid all the challenges but to handle them and rebuild the performance momentum.
5) Operational discipline
Operational discipline skills combine problem-solving, commitment to integrity, and ability to question—and they are commonly overlooked whenever someone dissects the modern arsenal of a VP of Technology. However, operational discipline is what makes smooth and uninterrupted synergy between business operations and technology possible—which is why it makes sense to explore its meaning in the context of the VP’s of Technology work.
- Cost management/efficiency
Choosing the right technology for the enterprise means more than investing in the best innovation available. It also includes ensuring the investment is aligned with the company’s long-term budget plans and strategic vision. Therefore, VPs of Technology are often pressured to reduce costs whenever possible. However, the end goal is not just hard cost savings: a VP of Technology must continuously work on ways to secure productive performance for their departments while maintaining high cost efficiency and generating value for the business.
When it comes to setting development standards and corporate policies regarding acceptable use of technology, a VP of Technology is the one who creates and enforces them. Therefore, besides business acumen, a VP of Technology needs a detailed knowledge of company resources and employee needs. In addition, being in charge of compliance and technology use policies requires a forward-thinking approach to calculate potential exploits and prevent them from impacting business operations.
- Hardware/software selection
A VP of Technology should understand the enterprise’s software and hardware needs (depending on the business’ nature, niche, and goals). Additionally, they should align these needs with the business strategy and objectives, which requires a sharp awareness of enterprise processes and department metrics and the ability to mitigate organizational resistance.
Building and managing any technology always comes with support and maintenance, and creating such a support system is among the key responsibilities for a VP of Technology. It means that VPs of Technology are in charge of establishing support infrastructure on every level of interaction with the technology, from integrating ticketing systems to assembling and onboarding multi-level support teams.
Compared to other activities, these responsibilities are the most mundane—and at the same time, the competence of a VP of Technology in that area determines how stable and productive an entire organization is.
These duties are really just “table stakes”. Not fun or interesting, but good hygiene is what allows high-level technologists to focus on their transformative power – adding value through innovation, new opportunities, and realization of the business strategy
VP of Technology skills: how to stay sharp?
The increased quantity and intensity of global and workplace challenges leave VPs of technology with much on their plate. In addition to overcoming rigidity and constantly exploring new opportunities, fatigue is another issue any vice president needs to address before proceeding with professional improvement. Naturally, the feeling of tiredness and burnout should always be handled therapeutically. However, to avoid information fatigue and stay on top of the game, VPs of technology need to stay proactive in their search for leverage:
- Participating in industry events. Attending tech trade shows, hackathons, and meetups can do more than educate VPs of technology on new trends—it allows them to forge new connections by networking with speakers, workshop hosts, and key voices of the industry, providing them with a supply of ideas and partnerships.
- Monitoring industry trends. Reading tech publications (newsletters, blogs, reports) helps VPs of technology quickly learn about the most relevant technology trends and identify directions worth exploring.
- Getting membership in professional organizations. Joining industry associations and groups opens the door to events and insights that shed even more light on innovation, industry trends, and pain points. As a bonus, affiliating with relevant organizations also lets VPs of technology enter training programs and partnerships that can benefit them in the long run.
- Taking an experimental approach to new technologies. There is always a point in investigating innovation, no matter how intimidating the thought of its implementation might be. Before VPs of technology make a decision or select the course of their transformation, they need to be sure that they are choosing the most optimal route—-which can only be achieved by exploring all available options and giving them a try where it’s appropriate.
If you're looking for more professional technology insights and assistance with realizing your strategic vision, let’s chat! As a trusted digital product partner of one of the Big Four leaders, we exercise a matching level of commitment to consulting, building technology roadmaps, and designing and delivering products that fit the VP's of Technology chosen strategy. Our dedication and expertise will enrich your journey with new perspectives and capabilities, helping you maximize the value of each milestone passed and minimize adoption issues.