Welcome to our 1st edition of the UK CTO Pulse Check. Our mission is to monitor the evolving perspectives and actions of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) shaping the landscape of the UK's tech sector. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges, priorities, and trends influencing the UK tech scene.

If you'd like to discuss any of the data further, or are looking for more information on specific areas covered, feel free to reach out to our Managing Director, Chris Spranklen at chris@burnssheehan.co.uk.

You can read all the data in our 2023 Tech Hiring Report. Featuring data and commentary from technology businesses and leaders, plus accurate salary benchmarking for technology hires in London & the North.

⬇️ Explore the 2023 London Tech Hiring Report

⬇️ Explore the 2023 North Tech Hiring Report

Understanding the Pulse: Who and What?

Compiled by Burns Sheehan, this report draws insights from 77 CTOs representing tech-driven organisations based in the UK. The CTO survey respondents come from a diverse range of sectors, including InsurTech, Logistics, Financial Services, Health, Media, and more.

The majority of organisations have employee counts between 11-50 and 101-500. In terms of the size of their technology function, a significant portion also falls within the 11-50 range.

Notably, 82% of the surveyed CTOs hold positions on their respective company boards or executive management teams.

82% of CTO respondents have a seat on the company board or executive management team of their organisations.

What are the biggest challenges facing CTOs?

The most common challenges reported by CTOs include managing delivery expectations within budgets, talent recruitment and retention, and aligning technology with company expansion goals.

What are the biggest challenges facing CTOs?

Navigating business strategy & opportunities within the tech landscape

The top three priorities faced by CTOs are developing new products or services (61%) improving customer experience (54.5%), and enhancing operational efficiency (51.9%).

Acquirng new customers and hiring technology talent were identified as the biggest external issues influencing or disrupting technology roadmaps by CTOs.

The top three priorities for CTOs are developing new products or services, improving customer experience, and enhancing operational efficiency.

Focusing on technology investment in 2023

A majority of CTOs (62%) plan to allocate their technology investment towards building new products and features. 

Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, and AI/Machine Learning were reported as the most widely adopted technologies in 2023. This reflects the broader industry trend of harnessing advanced technologies, underscoring the urgency to address skills gaps in these domains.

A majority of CTOs plan to allocate their technology investment towards building new products and features.

"As a company, Spendesk sells software in what is now a highly competitive market. Our success largely depends on how well we create and update our software to stay ahead of the competition, operate it efficiently, and do so cost-effectively. Like many CTOs, my top priority and biggest challenge is to continuously improve our agile product engineering process to keep us innovating."

- Richard Rosenberg, CTO @ Spendesk

What are the biggest hiring challenges for CTOs?

Hiring stands out as a pivotal factor for technology strategy execution, with 55% of CTOs ranking it as 'very important.' Anticipating growth, 51% expect to expand their headcount in 2023.

Elevated salary expectations (28%) is the biggest obstacle causing challenges with recruiting, driven by cautious talent navigating a volatile job market, seeking attractive remuneration to facilitate transitions. Closely followed by limited access to diverse talent pools, and a deficit of technical skills and experience in candidates.

CTOs and talent teams are having the most success addressing these hiring challenges by optimising the recruitment process, improving in-house talent teams, offering remote work options, and increasing salary bands to compete with rising tech salaries across the sector.

Inflates salary expectations are the biggest hiring barrier for 28% of CTOs, followed by access to diverse talent and a lack of technical skills in candidatesCTOs are seeing the most success hiring by optimising their hiring processes, offering fully remote options and improving their in-house talent team

Throughout 2022 and early 2023, employee attrition rates remained relatively stable, with 72% of CTOs content with their attrition levels last year.

Leading reasons for top tech talent leaving their current organisation include higher compensation packages (53%), better career prospects and training opportunities (24%), and the allure of more exciting roles (24%).

Hybrid working & office arrangements

Hybrid work setups have become the norm, as organisations embrace flexibility and remote work arrangements to attract and retain talent. A majority (52%) of businesses introduced hybrid work policies post-Covid-19, while 19% maintained pre-pandemic policies. A "work where it works" policy is the most common approach, followed by partial in-person work for 2-3 days a week and full remote work. The majority of CTOs who responded feel that their office environment provides the right experience to attract employees back to the office.

A work where it works mindset is the most common hybrid working format, followed by 2 days in the office.

Strategies to foster employee engagement in hybrid settings include periodic collaboration sessions, providing access to shared workspaces, and flexible working hours.

Reflecting on the impacts of hybrid work, 78% of CTOs acknowledge improved work-life balance and enhanced talent attraction (59%). Positive effects on mental well-being (50%) and inclusivity (40%) are also noted. However 40% express concerns about reduced company collaboration. 

The effect hybrid working has had on team performance

We're continuing to see the large tech hubs mandate employees back to the office to boost collaboration, but it's important to consider the detrimental impact a big change in hybrid policy can have on the morale and engagement of your team, especially if not communicated well.

What are the biggest skills shortages in the UK tech sector?

The most prominent knowledge and skills shortages are in technical leadership (36%), Data Engineering (30%), Cloud Infrastructure (27%), and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (23%). While the tech sector in the UK has fared better than other regions, there's still a pressing need to safeguard roles and bridge the skills gap in these growing sectors that companies are looking to invest in.

The biggest skills gaps in UK technology include tech leadership, data engineering and cloud

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Policies:

While the majority of CTOs believe they have developed DE&I policies that attract diverse talent, tech teams' gender and ethnic diversity remains limited. 43% said women make up between 10-20% of their senior management team, whilst only 0-10% of senior management teams are make up of people from an ethnic minority background according to 71% of respondents.

D&I data for technology teams remains disproportional

"While there's an awareness of what needs to be done to improve diversity and inclusion within the UK tech industry, the actual action being taken is pretty woeful. People will always bend towards what's easy, due to external macro or financial pressures. Saying the right thing is easy, but doing the right thing is the real challenge.

We need to showcase how different people get into tech, highlight success stories, and provide role models for people to look up to. There is no one silver bullet, but small incremental changes can make a difference. The first incremental change you can make is to change yourself and your attitude. Whether you're an employer, employee, owner or founder, everyone needs

to start thinking differently. When we start thinking differently, we act differently, and that's the only way we will start to see real change."

- Hayley Roberts, Co-Founder & CEO @ Distology



Burns Sheehan are a specialist technology recruitment agency based in London & Manchester. We partner with growing organisations with a compelling story to tell and essentially surround them with world class tech talent. We create industry-leading teams across all sectors in tech, including: Software Engineering, Product & Delivery, Platform Engineering & Infrastructure, Data, C-Suite & Leadership.

We understand that making informed hiring and employment decisions is essential to any business, and we hope by sharing our knowledge we can equip employers and candidates with accurate insights to help make the most informed decisions moving forward.