What’s the difference between CTO and CIO?
There’s no doubt there are people who go around using the terms CTO and CIO interchangeably, but this is a decisive mistake that people are making. In actuality, the two are not the same, because of their key differences.
Now, you might be asking yourself:
- What is a CTO?
- What is a CIO?
- Why are these roles important in a business? AND,
- Do I have to use both in my company?
By becoming aware of what these are, you can redefine how you focus on the roles and your understanding of their responsibilities, efforts, and direction as a leader.
This essential guide will describe both CTO and CIO, and why you might or might not need both. Let’s dive right in!
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The Need for CTO and CIO Positions
Both CTO and CIO terms have been used interchangeably by so many people over the years. But why the interchanging when the two are meant to be different?
In the past, the two roles were basically identical. It didn’t matter if both positions possessed different duties; they were still treated as the same.
But when you consider how fast and how diversely the technology industries are evolving, it should become instantly clear why the two roles needed to be separated. In fact, technology is changing all the time in the business world. From social media marketing strategies, to advanced television, to machine learning, and even AI, there’s simply so much going on when it comes to technology.
That’s why it’s important to know why CIO and CTO are now two separate roles.
Defining a CIO
Quite simply, a CIO stands for “chief information officer.” But how does it differ from a CTO?
What A CIO Does?
The role of a CIO is to manage and implement all information, data, and computer technologies that are used within a company, about at an executive level. Since information is the lifeblood of a company, a CIO must know how to analyze and safeguard it. Plus, when it comes to the hardware and software a company is using, the CIO will have the final say regarding how things are being run.
Essentially, a CIO is the face of your IT department across your business. Therefore, when people think about IT in your business, the CIO should come to mind.
Something To Think About…
Now, while it’s true that the CIO role used to be considered to be someone who worked in the background of a company, this is no longer the case. Typically, a CIO will be a jack of all trades, and can be capable of being the following:
- A lead programmer
- A dev
- An architect of networks, services, and software, OR
- An integral business leader
More so, the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that CIOs may find themselves in six major teams that focus on administrative, strategic, and core IT capabilities and functions:
- Directorate of Administration, Business Management, and Governance
- Directorate of Technology, Innovation, and Engineering
- Directorate of Business Applications Services
- Directorate of Information Technology Operations and Services
- Directorate of Client Engagement and Program Management, AND
- Directorate of Cybersecurity
As shown in the diagram, CIOs must tackle a lot of responsibilities, since they’re a “jack of all trades.” It’s because of this that CIOs must be flexible by nature. “As the business world changes, there are plenty of different trends, changes, and even the ever-changing needs of the business. Therefore, the CIO must be able to adapt and keep up” says John Willer, a technical writer at Academized.
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Soft Skills of CIO
Furthermore, the job and responsibilities of a CIO don’t just stop with the IT functionality of a business. It’s important that the CIO understands how the business works, and therefore how the IT infrastructure is then capable of fitting into and supporting these efforts. The more understanding the CIO has of the business, and its core functions, the better off the IT integrations will be.
With that said, soft skills of a typical CIO include the following:
- Great leadership
- Being on top of their game
- Great communication, AND
- Being a proactive team member
Though, of all these soft skills, communication is essential. For example, when conversing with higher-ups about iT functions, they need to be able to effectively translate IT terms into a way that these executives can understand. This is especially essential when communicating to all employees about any informational changes or upgrades in the company.
Requirements for CIO
Providing a lowdown of what’s expected of a CIO going into their career, they will;
- Typically have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field or industry (such as computer science, information systems, IT management, or so on.
- Have a Master’s degree in business administration
As you can see, CIOs must be equipped with plenty of educational background in order to succeed in the business.
Responsibilities of CIO
Finally, some of the responsibilities you can expect a CIO to have include;
- Creating and seeing through goals and strategies for a company’s IT and Operations departments
- Becoming knowledgeable with new systems that can benefit existing infrastructure
- Can work and create partnerships with technology vendors to acquire the best business solutions and resources possible
- To actively work towards increasing profits by nurturing more efficient and effective operating solutions.
Defining a CTO
At this point, you should have a clear idea of what a CIO is and what they do. So, let’s look at exactly what the CTO role of a company is all about.
CTO stands for “chief technology officer,” whose role is to oversee a business or company’s technological needs and overall development. Quite clearly, you can see that this is very similar to the role of the CIO, and that it’s easy to see why the two roles could get confused with one another.
But remember: they are different.
How CTO Differs From CIO?
Source: Infocomm Media Development Authority
The CTO of a company will typically work alongside the CEO, and will report directly to them. In addition, a CTO helps you connect with and offer better experiences to your customers through the technology, infrastructure, and systems you’re working with.
Depending on what your company’s goals are, a CTO will help introduce the technology that can help you achieve them. A CIO, on the other hand, will help manage all the technology and compute infrastructure within a business to keep it operating.
Soft Skills of CTO:
Much like a CIO, CTOs definitely need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping up with technological trends, as well as the overall industry in general. But what kinds of skills do CTOs need to have handy?
Essentially, the soft skills of a CTO include the following:
- Great communication
- Creativity, AND
- Sense of strategy
Requirements of CTO:
Like CIO, you’ll need an extensive educational background in order to become a CTO. According to Indeed, the road to becoming a CTO looks like this:
- Earning a Bachelor’s degree in information technology or another computer science-related field.
- Gaining entry-level experience.
- Earning a Master’s degree in business administration or management.
- Building on your expertise through education and work.
- Pursuing professional certification in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, enterprise architecture and project management.
Responsibilities of CTO:
All in all, some of the typical responsibilities you can expect a CTO have to include;
- Creating goals and strategies for product designers, engineers, and developers within a company
- Working alongside vendors to improve the products and services that a business produces and offers customers and clients
- Ensuring that the products and services within a business help a company move towards fulfilling their business goals
- Aim to increase and improve company profits and revenue by delivering the most cutting-edge technology to customers possible
Again, this all differs from what a CIO has to do, since a CTO’s tasks are more tech-based. In other words, CTOs handle the tech, and CIOs sign off on said tech.
Should a Company Have Both a CIO and a CTO?
And now, for the burning question: Do you really need both CTO and CIO in order for your company to succeed?
At this point, you’re probably thinking that the answer is yes since both roles are different, but this isn’t entirely the case.
Both the CIO and CTO positions are critical, especially in large companies with separate C-suite positions. They both contribute to the proper functioning of the company from different perspectives (CIO/internally and CTO/externally), and they both participate in the company’s profit (CIO) and revenue (CTO) growth.
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With this in mind, it would make sense that you have both within your company, especially as a larger company. However, it’s important to think about where your company is individually so you can define what you’re working on and what your company is working towards.
For example, you may hire a CTO to help you progress and grow your business from a customer standpoint, but if your existing infrastructure can’t keep up with the company’s growth, then it may have all been for nothing. That’s why services like Jelvix specializes in helping you see your business from an external perspective with their certified CTOs.
Likewise, you could spend a tonne of resources on your CIO to get your infrastructure to the best possible state it can be, but if you’re not focusing on how you can grow quick enough to meet the capabilities of your new infrastructure, it may have been a waste.
As a company, you’ll need to spend time finding the balance between where you’re focusing and what you’re trying to achieve. And this is where it becomes important to jump into resource management and make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve.
You may want to think about both your CIO and CTO and how they can work together to achieve great things. After all, the roles are fairly similar, and it does pay to have them in a team sharing their values and productivity.
This is because, as you can probably quite clearly imagine, both roles work under the same roof within your company and will need to cross paths at more points than perhaps any other area of your business. This is why it’s a good idea to almost ‘combine the roles’. While they shouldn’t be the same person, nor should you treat the roles as being the same thing, you do need to ensure the values of their strategies align.
However, and this is a big however, sometimes the two roles won’t get along. Sometimes, one department is going to want to innovate, whereas the other is trying to keep things stable or is perhaps taking a risk and needs some certainty. Sometimes, and this is sure to happen at some point, there are going to be conflicts of interest. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
According to LinkedIn, if you’re a new company or team leader, ask yourself the following questions before employing either CIO or CTO or both:
- Does your team need to build new technology in order to solve a certain problem?
- Does your team need to repeat a process for the sake of improving it with technology?
- Does your team need to cater to people within an organization with processes that already exist?
- Does your team want to help customers or buyers directly?
By answering the above questions, you and your company will get a better sense on which role to use, or if you’ll actually need to use both for your business endeavors.
The Innovative Uses and Relationships Between the CIO and CTO
There’s no doubt that CTOs want to keep developing and pushing your business forward. It’s the nature of their role. They want to keep the business operating on the razor’s edge of new technology and will constantly be experimenting with new ideas, strategies, and ways of doing things.
However, while creative and somewhat essential if you want to keep growing and keep surviving, this is going to cost money, and since not every experiment is going to pay off, then this may look like money down the drain to some people. Of course, we know it’s not, and while limits do need to be put in place and it all needs to be managed responsibly, it can cause further issues.
For example, CIOs, who are the kinds of people who will be looking at the bottom line constantly, could become infuriated that money is being wasted on pointless, failed projects.
From experience, we’ll typically see that CIOs begin to impose themselves on CTOs to reign in the spending and align each role’s business goals a little more. Of course, the CTO will then feel held because they want to innovate and push forward and are inhibited by the CIO.
It’s this kind of back and forth between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ where the innovation takes place. But, as I said before, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a genius way of doing things because it will keep your business alive and will make the wins even more satisfying.
With the CTOs under pressure from the CIOs, and the CIOs trying to keep up with everything that’s going on, you’ll soon see that innovation takes hold and everybody becomes more creative with their approaches. But, this is something you’ll need to keep your eyes on, and it isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, things get out of hand, and the innovative divide can become a problem.
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To ensure the “feuding” remains productive, you need to ensure that both your CIO and your CTO are familiar with their responsibilities and remain focused on them. You also need to ensure you’re capable of pulling your employees out of their tunnel vision mindset and instead focus on the bigger picture, highlighting when projects and risks have paid off and when pulling in the reins as helped.
Yes, this can feel like a lot of work and can be very tense from time to time. However, behind the bickering and day-to-day issues, you can see real progress being made, even if the roles can’t see it for themselves.
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to hiring and managing both CIOs and CTOs within your business. But at this point, you should have a clear idea of how the roles work, how they differ from each other, and how they can be used within your business to achieve certain things. As a result, determining both roles can help set you on the direction you want your business to take.
Remember: Whether or not you hire both CTOs and CIOs is up to you and management at your company. Get experienced and chat with your team’s to organise how you can use these roles most effectively, and you should notice some big positive differences throughout your company.
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