Innovation

Sanity check: What's the difference between CIO and CTO?

The CIO and CTO job roles are frequently confused, but there are clear distinctions between the two positions in most large enterprises. The two require different skill sets and are focused on different goals.

The CIO and CTO job roles are frequently confused, but there are clear distinctions between the two positions in most large enterprises. The two require different skill sets and are focused on different goals.

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When you start talking about IT leadership roles and IT career tracks, the question that almost always comes up is "What's the difference between the CIO and CTO positions?"

Here's a quick breakdown of the distinguishing characteristics of those two roles.

Chief Information Officer

  • Serves as the company's top technology infrastructure manager
  • Runs the organization's internal IT operations
  • Works to streamline business processes with technology
  • Focuses on internal customers (users and business units)
  • Collaborates and manages vendors that supply infrastructure solutions
  • Aligns the company's IT infrastructure with business priorities
  • Developers strategies to increase the company's bottom line (profitability)
  • Has to be a skilled and organized manager to be successful

Chief Technology Officer

  • Serves as the company's top technology architect
  • Runs the organization's engineering group
  • Uses technology to enhance the company's product offerings
  • Focuses on external customers (buyers)
  • Collaborates and manages vendors that supply solutions to enhance the company's product(s)
  • Aligns the company's product architecture with business priorities
  • Develops strategies to increase the company's top line (revenue)
  • Has to be a creative and innovative technologist to be successful

Further reading

Does this list of characteristics ring true? What would you change? Take our CIO/CTO poll and join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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