CTO vs CIO – What is the Difference?

- Posted by Author: DTC Marketing in Category: Information Technology |

What’s the Difference: CTO vs CIO

Whether you are new to the technology world, interested in pursuing a career in technology, or curious as to how you can merge your management experience with your knowledge of technology, you might need to know the differences between a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a Chief Information Officer (CIO).

The difference between the two can be tough to decipher, as “information” and “technology” usually go hand-in-hand. A simple characteristic and way to tell the two apart is that the CIO typically works on aiming to improve processes within the company, and the CTO uses technology to improve or innovate products for the company. Let’s dive deeper and look at the differences between CIO and CTO roles and what makes them so unique.

What is a CIO and what do they do?

By definition, a CIO is short for the executive title of Chief Information Officer.  The general role of the CIO is making sure business procedures run accordingly, with the purpose of supporting the productivity of employees and individual business units as a whole. The CIO has the responsibility of managing current operations, mission critical systems, and total security. 

The CIO can be regarded as the key leader of all in-house technology and digital processes. IT departments usually have minimal interactions with other business units, so it is the job of the CIO to develop the reputation of IT within the company.

However, the CIO of a company isn’t only focused on tech. A good CIO integrates the IT department with other business units, so knowledge of the company and its best practices is important. If a company is looking to digitize, improve, or automate its current processes, the CIO is responsible for managing the project as whole, even if a specific IT team executes implementation.

Some key responsibilities of a CIO include:

  • Managing all technology infrastructure
  • Directing IT operations and departments
  • Supporting and implementing technology to simplify business processes
  • Improving the company’s bottom line
  • Collaborating with ISPs and vendors to drive productivity

Management and communication skills are also important, as a CIO can oversee dozens of IT employees and IT teams. The CIO must also be able to convey needs and strategies with other company executives and department managers.

What is a CTO and what do they do?

The role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) aims to create ways to use technology in order to help the business itself grow. These usually are ways that improve services or products that customers purchase with the support of new technologies.

A main difference from the CIO, is that the CTO focuses on external customers, or those who are buying products. The products could be digital or technology-based too. As customers become smarter and more aware of the products they purchase, the CTO must stay up to date on the cutting edge of technology. This ensures the company stays ahead of its competition and offers the best products. The CTO is responsible for the engineer and developer teams who focus on research and development to improve and innovate the company’s products and services.

Some key responsibilities of a CTO include:

  • Maintaining the company’s tech offerings and products
  • Using and evaluating technology to improve the company’s products
  • Overseeing the engineering and developer teams
  • Know and use all technologies the company adopts
  • Improving the company’s bottom line
  • Working with vendors on supply solutions

Even though a CTO’s role is tech-focused, they must stay up with the latest advancements in technology and have a background in computing or software engineering. A CTO must also incorporate right-brain skills like creativity, innovation, and collaboration to be successful.

CIO vs CTO: Which is right for you?

CIOs and CTOs may be mixed up by people outside of the tech industry, however both roles are essential to a company’s success. As executive level positions, one is generally not more senior or junior than the other. In fact, successful companies are often celebrated by strong presence from both the CIO and the CTO working in unison. 

From the individual’s viewpoint, both of these roles are seen as separate career paths. One does not train to be a CIO and switch to a CTO position as they desire. A CIO comes more from the IT operations side of the business, where CTOs come from more of the software engineering side of the business.