Technology leadership has become a lot more complicated as technology has become more important to gaining and keeping a competitive advantage in modern businesses.
A business used to have just a Chief Information Officer (CIO) but now there are many other roles that have come to prominence in the C-suite such as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Digital Officer, and Chief Data Officer.
In this article, we will examine the differences between and CIO and a CTO. The first thing to point out is that there is no universally accepted definition of a CIO and CTO.
The roles differ by size of company, industry, and sector. Technology roles in the C-suite are perhaps the least well defined and least well understood of any senior role.
That being said, there are some trends that are emerging and this article is the result of practical experience, leading-edge research, and also the analysis of job descriptions across the industry.
The size of your company matters
In a small company, there is unlikely to be a split between the CIO and CTO roles, the responsibilities will be covered by one person.
However, as the company grows there is often a need to separate out the roles to ensure that both internal IT and customer-facing technology get the attention they deserve. That’s when things get complicated.
The added complication is that as the company grows the CTO and CIO positions can overlap and interact with other senior technology roles such as the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer.
What is the split between a CTO and CIO?
In companies with both a CTO and CIO the traditional split is that:
The CTO is more externally focused on technology propositions for customers. The CTO, as well as being an expert technologist, becomes the external face of the technology offering.
The CTO role can differ from company to company, but it usually includes everything from technology vision and strategy to architecture, innovation, software development, and product development for customer propositions.
CIOs, on the other hand, are more focused on the needs of internal business users. Aspects such as core operations systems, process automation, data, end-user computing. The CIO ensures the internal users get the best technology to run the business.
The position of CIO was born out of the IT department to be the leader of the business’s internal technology teams. It is the CIO’s role to keep business processes running efficiently so the company operations run smoothly.
Who is more senior? The CTO or the CIO?
There are no hard and fast rules, sometimes the CTO reports the CIO and sometimes visa versa. In some work environments, they are peers and both report to the CEO.
This is where the industry you are in plays a big part in this decision. If technology is a core part of the customer proposition e.g. technology-led companies, software companies, eCommerce, the CTO is usually the more senior role. If internal operations are the focus e.g. manufacturing, B2B businesses then the CIO is often more senior.
My personal view on this is that companies operate much more effectively when there is a single leader who is responsible for all of the technology, regardless of whether this is the CTO or CIO. There is often a lot of friction when the CTO and CIO are peers.
The trend seems to be that as technology becomes ever more important in customer propositions, it is the CTO, who is often the most senior technology executive. Regardless of who is the most senior, it is very important that one of the reports directly to the CEO.
More about Irish Tech News and Business Showcase here.
FYI the ROI for you is => Irish Tech News now gets over 1.5 million monthly views, and up to 900k monthly unique visitors, from over 160 countries. We have over 860,000 relevant followers on Twitter on our various accounts & were recently described as Ireland’s leading online tech news site and Ireland’s answer to TechCrunch, so we can offer you a good audience!
Since introducing desktop notifications a short time ago, which notify readers directly in their browser of new articles being published, over 50,000 people have now signed up to receive them ensuring they are instantly kept up to date on all our latest content. Desktop notifications offer a unique method of serving content directly to verified readers and bypass the issue of content getting lost in people’s crowded news feeds.
Drop us a line if you want to be featured, guest post, suggest a possible interview or just let us know what you would like to see more of in our future articles. We’re always open to new and interesting suggestions for informative and different articles. Contact us, by email, twitter or whatever social media works for you and hopefully, we can share your story too and reach our global audience. We are agile, responsive, quick and talented, we look forward to working with you!