What’s The Difference Between CIO and CTO?

As technology has become a must-have for businesses large and small, two leadership-level roles have become the standard:

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

But the distinction between the two can be confusing, as “information” and “technology” usually go hand in hand. So what is the difference between these two roles? How do one focus on technology and the other on information?

The simple difference is that a CIO typically looks inward to improve processes within a company. While a CTO looks outward, using technology to improve or innovate products that serve customers. Let’s take a look at the difference between the CIO and CTO roles. And whether your company should hire one or both roles.

Who Is CIO?

The overall role of the CIO is to ensure the efficient execution of business processes. Just in order to increase the productivity of individual employees and business units as a whole. The CIO is responsible for managing and maintaining day-to-day operations, mission-critical systems, and overall security, from help desks and enterprise systems to service delivery and program management. 

The clear impact of a CIO can be measured through a variety of metrics. Although improving a company’s bottom line is a must. The CIO can be seen as the main proponent of all internal technology and digital processes. The IT department traditionally has a hazy reputation among other business units. So, the CIO’s job is to improve the image and reputation of IT services in the company.

But the CIO isn’t just technical: a good CIO brings the entire IT department together with other business units, so having common knowledge is a must. For example, if a business unit is looking for technologies to digitize, improve, or even automate processes. The CIO is responsible for managing those processes, even if a specific IT group is doing the actual implementation. Just like the summit for other professionals, the CIO summit is also held annually.

Who Is CTO?

The CTO focuses on creating and using technology to help a business grow. Usually improving the offerings that the company’s customers buy with new technology.

The CTO is focused on external customers: those who buy your company’s products, even if the product itself is not digital or technological. As customers become more savvy and knowledgeable about the products they use, the CTO must stay innovative and use the latest technology to ensure the company offers the best products.

To this end, the CTO is often in charge of teams of engineers and developers who focus on research and development to improve and innovate the company’s offerings.

CIO Or CTO: Do You Need Both?

While CIOs and CTOs can be confusing for less technically minded people, both roles are vital to your company’s success. It can be tempting to think of one role as a higher or higher priority. Especially for smaller companies that lack funding for both. In leadership positions, one is usually no higher or younger than the other. In fact, successful companies often have a strong presence of both the CIO and the CTO. Do your best to make both positions a reality as soon as possible.

If you are looking to hire or create a CTO or CIO position. Consider these guiding questions to determine what position you really need:

  • Are you looking to improve or digitize a business process or product?
  • Do you serve your organization or external clients?

It’s important to note that from a human perspective, these are independent career paths: you don’t spend years preparing for the position of CIO but switch to the position of CTO on a whim. CIOs may work more in IT operations in the business, whereas CIOs may have more experience in software development.

Companies need one person to support and drive productive employees and business processes. Just as they need an innovator and creative solver who can use technology to improve business offerings.

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