C-Suite Breakdown

The structure of a business seriously impacts its overall success. If there’s a weak structure with poor management, there’s a high chance that the business won’t be successful. On the other hand, if the business has a defined structure with well skilled management professionals, there should be no issue achieving goals and having successes. The key to having structure and good management begins with the top executives in charge of the business. At many businesses, this group of top executives is called a C-Suite.

C-Suite executives

What is a C-Suite?

A C-Suite is a word used to describe high-ranking executive titles within a business. The “C” stands for chief, as all of the executive titles begin with that word, and a suite refers to the group of people that make up the executive unit. Officers that hold C level positions are considered the most powerful and influential members of a business. Depending on the business, the number of positions and the kinds of roles within the C-Suite can differ. The variation could be caused by differences in business size, missions, and maturity, for example:

  • Larger businesses tend to have more executives so they can appropriately distribute the large workload.
  • Businesses in the healthcare industry may have a chief medical information officer (CMIO), while businesses in the technology industry may have a chief IT architect (CITA).
  • More mature businesses tend to have a more developed and tailored C-Suite as opposed to businesses that are relatively new.

To land a position in a C-Suite, leadership skills are a must have. Many other business positions heavily rely on functional and technical skills and don’t necessarily require leadership skills. C-level executives should have leadership qualities as well as a high level of business expertise and team-building abilities, rather than functional and technical know-how. Regardless of the titles that make up your C-Suite, each position is important and fulfills a need within the business.

C-Suite Roles

As a group, the C-Suite works together to create and implement the business’s operational strategy. They’re in charge of making larger decisions within the business and also ensure day-to-day operations support the business’s established plans and policies. C-level executives work at a high level within their departments and typically aren’t involved with every day management tasks. Instead, they hire department managers to handle those responsibilities and keep the other employees in line. Let’s take a look at the most common positions in a C-Suite.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

A CEO is the highest level, and most commonly heard of, executive in the corporate world. Acting as the face of the company, the CEO sets the plan of action and direction of the company in order to achieve its goal. CEOs oversee the entire operation at a high level and are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the business. Some more specific responsibilities of a CEO include:

  • Developing, communicating, and implementing the business’s strategy.
  • Determining the plan of action to best suit the business’s missions in terms of budgets, investments, markets, partnerships, and products.
  • Implementing existing plans and policies and ensuring successful management.
  • Hiring and organizing head leadership and staff to meet strategic goals.
  • Ensuring that appropriate governance and controls are in place to limit risk and to comply with laws and regulations.
  • Providing leadership at all times.
  • Creating the organization’s culture by helping to determine the attitudes, behaviors, and values to be followed across the entire business.

Each individual task of a CEO relates to one overarching responsibility: ensuring the business is successful. To best fulfill that responsibility, a CEO needs to consider all aspects of the business. This seemingly impossible job is made easier by tracking a wide variety of key metrics:

  • Goal – Every business has a goal, and for many CEOs that goal is a dollar amount.
  • Expenses – In direct correlation with tracking dollars coming into the business, it’s also best practices to measure outward expenses with an indicator as well.
  • Budget – Tracking budget is in correlation with expenses; as a growing company, you have to keep in mind how much you can actually spend at a high-level.
  • Growth – The dollar number of revenue growth.
  • Churn Rate – The percentage at which customers end their relationship with your business.
  • Gross Sales – The grand total of all sale transactions, without any deductions included.
  • Total Profit/Loss – High-level view of all your numbers from new sales revenue, upsell revenue, customer churn, and profit.

Tracking metrics can be extremely efficient when they’re visualized and compiled neatly on a dashboard– learn more about building a CEO dashboard here.

Chief Operating Officer (COO)

A COO is the C-level of the Human Resources (HR) position, whose primary responsibility is to manage all operations of a business. COOs ensure the business functions smoothly in areas such as recruitment, training, payroll, legal, and administration. They are often recognized as second in command to CEOs because they work hard to ensure that the business has a healthy corporate culture. Many large businesses have a COO in their C-suite to free up time for the CEO to focus efforts elsewhere. Some basic responsibilities of a COO include:

  • Overseeing day-to-day operations and keeping the CEO informed of significant events.
  • Creating operations strategy and policies with the CEO.
  • Communicating strategy and policy to employees.
  • Fostering employee alignment with corporate goals.
  • Overseeing human resource management.

Managing all business operations is a hefty task that’s made a tad bit easier when things are running smoothly. To gauge what plans of action need to be taken, it’s helpful to look at key operations metrics. Because operations can vary greatly from business to business, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a broad set of metrics every COO should track. Instead, it’s crucial that COOs choose metrics that are representative of their own business. A COO should never rely on vanity metrics that show nothing valuable, like having 400 email subscribers but only a few trial sign ups each month. Actionable metrics take more work to track, but are the only way to effectively evaluate the business and set goals.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

A CFO is the C-level executive that manages the company’s financial operations. CFO is the corporate career that stems from a financial analyst or accountant position and has skills like portfolio management, accounting, investment securities, investment research and financial analysis. CFOs work closely with the CEO to find new business opportunities for the company while weighing the financial risk and benefits of each potential venture. Some other responsibilities of a CFO include:

  • Executing the financial strategy of the business.
  • Managing controls and accounting procedures.
  • Providing advice on how to increase revenue and reduce costs.
  • Proposing action plans to ensure that annual financial goals are met.
  • Working with the CEO to prepare monthly and annual financial plans.
  • Managing the financial team and fostering team alignment with corporate goals.

It’s crucial that the money aspect of any business is handled well; without sufficient funds, businesses can’t operate. Having a good grip on the overall financial status of the business is easy for CFOs when tracking these metrics:

  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) – The amount of money that comes in every year during a customer’s annual contract.
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) – Similar to ARR, this measures the revenue generated on a monthly basis.
  • ARR Trends Over Time – The growth of ARR since the company started.
  • Expenses – Measure how much you spend and breakdown on where you spent.
  • Budget – Tracking budget is in correlation with expenses. As CFO, you have to monitor the budget more frequently to avoid over spending.
  • Gross Sales – The grand total of all sale transactions, without any deductions included.
  • Total Profit/Loss – High-level view of all your numbers from new sales revenue, upsell revenue, customer churn, and profit.
  • Cash Flow – How much cash is being generated in relation to how much is spent.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

A CIO is a leader in information technology that usually develops from a business analyst position. A CIO is the executive that manages research and development, oversees the development of technology into products and services, and makes sure that all IT plans are in line with the business’s goals. CIOs have technical skills in programming, coding, and project management, and are able to apply these skills to risk management, business strategy, and finance. CIOs are the business’s top technology infrastructure manager. The CIO is sometimes referred to as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), although in some situations, these two may be different. A CIO’s responsibilities often differ from a CTO’s and sometimes include:

  • Running the organization’s internal IT operations.
  • Integrating business processes with technology.
  • Working with internal customers (users and business units).
  • Collaborating and managing vendors that supply infrastructure solutions.
  • Aligning the business’s IT infrastructure with business priorities.
  • Developing strategies to increase the business’s profitability.
  • Maintaining digital operational security.

With technology becoming increasingly important in the business world, it’s essential to use it in the most efficient way possible. CIOs should demonstrate the value provided by internal IT and justify the investment in information technology. To show that technology is a worthy investment of your business, CIOs should consider tracking these metrics:

  • Pace of idea-to-offer cycle – The overall speed of a concept going from idea to production.
  • End User Satisfaction – A measure of how pleased customers are with your product.
  • Expenses – Measure how much you spend, and breakdown on where you spent.
  • Production Errors – The number of problems that occur in production, possibly classified by type or severity.
  • Number of Network Intrusion Attempts – The number of intrusion attempts on your network, usually over a period of time.
  • Number of Security Breaches – As a measure of overall security, this is the total number of breaches, usually over a period of time.
  • Impactful Outages – A direct measure of critical outages that could have significant impact on business operation.
  • Average Ticket Closure Time – Measures the average time to close a ticket.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

A CTO is the highest technology executive position within a company and leads the technology or engineering department. Very similar to a CIO, a CTO has oversight of the information systems and technologies that drive a business. The CTO, however, has a strategic planning role, while the CIO has a technology-focused role. CTOs supervise and create policy relating to the business’s current technological processes, and use technology to enhance products and services that focus on external customers. They also develop strategies to increase revenue and perform analyses based on cost. A CTO should have adequate business knowledge in order to align technology-related decisions with the business’s goals. Some responsibilities of a CTO include:

  • Running the business’s engineering group.
  • Using technology to enhance the company’s product offerings.
  • Working with external customers (buyers).
  • Collaborating and managing vendors that supply solutions to enhance the business’s product.
  • Aligning the business’s product structure with business priorities.
  • Developing strategies to increase the company’s revenue.
  • Communicating the technology strategy to partners, management, investors and employees.
  • Maintaining current information about technology standards and compliance regulations.

As head of the IT or engineering team, a CTO should be concerned about the performance of their teams and product. Measuring performance through metrics can be difficult for CTOs — many metrics that might be easily measurable (such as lines of code written or tickets closed per day) are actually irrelevant to the quality and impact of work done. Instead, focus on metrics that provide positive indications of security or progress. Because technical foundations and operations can vary greatly from business to business, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a broad set of metrics every CTO should track. The metrics a CTO decides to track should be very tailored to their team’s goals and should relate to the overall goals of the whole business. Some basic examples of metrics a CTO could track include:

  • Number of Security Violations – The number of invasions of technology or product security, measured over a period of time.
  • Number of Resolved Threats – The number of threats to business or product security that are resolved, measured over a period of time.
  • Average Violation Response Time – The average time it takes the team to respond to a security violation.
  • Test Code Coverage Percent – The count of code written that’s covered by code tests over the total count of written code.
  • Number of Reported Bugs – The number of bugs in the code or product functionality that are reported either by the team or by customers, measured over a period of time.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

A CMO is the corporate executive that oversees activities that involve creating, communicating, and delivering solutions that have value for customers. CMOs manage the business’s marketing strategy including advertising, brand management, and market research. They usually work their way up from a sales or marketing position, and are able to manage social innovation and product development across any platform, especially electronic. A CMO’s main focus is to enable growth and increase sales by developing an extensive marketing plan that promotes brand recognition and helps the business gain a competitive advantage. Other responsibilities of a CMO include:

  • Understanding the business’s position in the marketplace in regards to competitors and market demands.
  • Setting goals for business direction and development.
  • Developing and executing the strategy to drive the organization to that future market position.
  • Overseeing the development and placement of the creative elements that position the company in the marketplace.
  • Supervising or collaborating with sales teams to turn marketing insights into sales.
  • Directing the company’s public relations efforts to create a coordinated message about the business and its product.

Monitoring your marketing team’s performance is important to the overall success of your business; the better your marketing team, the more your product is recognized. To best keep track of marketing performance, a CMO should look at these metrics:

  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) – The cumulative recurring revenue of all customers over a 12-month period.
  • Annual Contract Value (ACV) – The average value of a customer contract over the span of a year.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – The total cost needed to acquire a new customer.
  • Number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – The number of your leads that are more likely to become a customer based on lead intelligence and lead behavior.
  • Attribution by Variable – This metric allows you to see where your attribution is coming from, for example: by source, channel, campaign, content asset, etc.
  • Marketing Payback – This metric allows you to see how long it takes to make back what you spend on marketing.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) – A way to measure how likely a customer is to recommend your service to someone else.

Tracking metrics can be extremely efficient when they’re visualized and compiled neatly on a dashboard- learn more about building a CMO dashboard here.

Conclusion

Regardless of the type, size, or goal of your business, the C-Suite’s structure, decisions, and vision set the course for everyone in the company. These senior executives are the most important and influential group of individuals at a company and they must exhibit great leadership skills, business expertise, and team-building capabilities. C-Suite executives work as the glue that brings all the pieces together — a business can’t function without them.

Resources

About Bryn Burns

Hi! I'm Bryn Burns. I am a current senior at Virginia Tech pursuing degrees in Statistics and Mathematics. Data science and visualization are two things I'm very passionate about, as well as working with numbers and helping people learn. I'm thrilled to share my knowledge here at The Data School!