Why your print company needs a Chief Technology Officer

4 min read
28/05/21 12:53

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and companies in all sectors have had to work hard to keep up. This is particularly true for the printing industry which has seen innovations in pretty much all areas of a print business, not just in the print specific functions such as estimating, prepress, production and finishing but also the common departments such as sales, marketing and finance.

From our own experience working with our customers, we can see that it’s those companies that really embrace technology and actively seek new opportunities to implement it, that are leading the way in the industry and doing really well.


Yet a study by McKinsey shows that most companies are not geared up for this: “Despite the importance of being aware of new, potentially disruptive technologies and being ready to exploit them, many companies tell us that they are not ready for the major technological shifts already under way—let alone prepared to spot new ones as they emerge.” – McKinsey, 2018.

So what’s the difference between the really innovative printing companies that we work with, and the rest? How do they manage to take advantage of the technological shifts already under way and spot new ones as they emerge? Well, we have noticed one very key difference that seems to set them apart - these companies always seem to have someone in a role most commonly known as the CTO (although we have seen other job titles used to describe this function).

What does a CTO do?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) oversees the implementation and continuous improvement of technology in a business. They don’t necessarily need to have a development background, just an excellent understanding of technology and how to implement it successfully. They sit at senior management level, have a clear understanding of the business and its customers and are strongly aligned with the corporate vision, mission and strategic objectives.

This person will strategically forward-plan to identify new technologies that could help the business deliver its goals and will also work on the continuous improvement of their existing technological workflow.


The difference between having a CTO and not having a CTO

Printing companies that don’t have a CTO tend to implement new technologies when either their old technology fails and they need a replacement, or they see the competition using new technology and want to compete.

We don’t need to point out that this is absolutely not the right way to approach your technological adoption, not if you want to stand out from the crowd and certainly not if you want to attract the younger generation of print buyers.

4 reasons to consider appointing a CTO

  1. Resolve production bottlenecks

    As printing equipment gets faster and smarter, the bottlenecks are moving further downstream into the administrative part of the workflow. Take a look at the below illustration from Heidelberg, which highlights the predicament that printing companies now find themselves in - technological advancements have created so much spare capacity on printing presses, that administrative functions are at breaking point.
    Heidelberg graphThe good news is that you can resolve these problems using technology and automation, but you will need someone technically minded to seek out these bottlenecks and apply the appropriate solutions.

  2. Evolve with changing consumer demands

    The modern print buyer expects you to offer online options for engagement – instant quotes, online ordering, real time order updates and delivery notifications – and thankfully there’s a swathe of technological solutions out there to help you deliver this. You need to have someone responsible for implementing this technology and continually improving the online experience using the latest and greatest innovations on the market.

  3. Sell more than print

    Across the world we’re seeing a collision of different technologies being used across the value chain; it’s now about much more than print. Augmented reality, mobile apps, data analytics, merchandising and logistics are all part of the products that your customers are now expecting to see. An example that springs to mind is one of our customers in North America who have a dedicated team of people preloading eBook readers with documents, packaging them up and then posting them out to their customers’ customers. Yes, there are printing processes involved in the final product, but they are offering much more than that and technology definitely played a big part in it. This example really encapsulates the changes printers have faced and the level of service you’re now expected to deliver. It’s a lot to deal with! But imagine how much easier it would be to do that if you had a CTO.

  4. GenZ want you to speak their language

    Most printed marketing campaigns are supported by digital and social media marketing activities these days. And as new social media technologies emerge and present new opportunities for getting onto the screens of the younger generations (think Snapchat and TikTok), the younger print buyers will be expecting you to consider them all as part of any multimedia campaign that you’re pitching. Having a CTO who understands these technologies and has introduced them into your service offering, will certainly set you apart in the eyes of this younger generation of print buyers.


If your company can relate to any of the points above, it might be time to get yourself a CTO. Maybe there’s someone already in your organisation that perfectly fits this bill, or maybe you need to consider hiring someone new. There are also third party IT companies who can “rent you” a CTO, if you didn’t want to plunge right into having someone full time. However you do it, and whatever job title you give them, it’s definitely time to consider having someone in your printing company responsible for the continuous development of your technology.

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