Emerging Tech

Video: What's the difference between CIO and CTO?

Although the roles of CIO and CTO may sound similar, there are some clear distinctions between them. This episode of Sanity Savers for IT Executives explains the differences in goals, mandates, and skill sets for a CIO and a CTO.

When you talk about IT leadership career tracks, the question that almost always comes up is, "What's the difference between the CIO and the CTO?" Though the two roles sound similar, there are some clear distinctions between them. This episode of Sanity Savers for IT Executives explains the differences in goals, mandates, and skill sets for CIO and CTO.

You can also read the two articles that this episode was based on:

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

9 comments
stevengirardpalmer
stevengirardpalmer

Yes, many companies have both or are moving to both. Often the CTO isn't an IT person at all, but still follows your description, Jason, as a person that architects the company's products. When a company has both, I know I'm targeting the CIO position and not the CTO position. You just said it better than I usually do. So, than you. CIO, OptHome www.opthome.com

prem_is
prem_is

Not sure about you lot, but I am more confused about these terms after watching the video. A simpler definition would have been CIO - Person responsible for identifying and defining the information needs of the various stakeholders of an organisation. This person is mostly concerned with what INFORMATION to make available to whom by when. In the absense of this role, the different management layers would perform this role specific to their functions. This leads to duplication of information/systems/processes (as there is no organisation-level person to see across the different silos) CTO - Responsible for decisions on how the above information is made available via TECHNOLOGY. It is important that this person comes from a technical background, with tech. architect experience. Makes decisions on platforms, software strategy, IT infrastructure roadmaps, etc. My two cents. Prem

Beejer
Beejer

prem_is identifies what is missing from this discussion of the two roles. It is the information component. Information is the most valuable asset of most companies and its management is more important than the technology infrastructure it resides on. If the person responsible for the organization's information management isn't the CIO then who's role is it?

kjmcsd
kjmcsd

Great video! Alot of people don't know the difference. Alot of people don't know what a CTO is, never heard of it. Alot of people think the CIO is the technical guru. Very concise and well explained.

Paul W. Homer
Paul W. Homer

Do you actually get organizations that have both? A software company for example has to have a CTO that drives the product line, while a bank usually has a CIO that builds up the internal systems. One is the lead development role, while the other is the lead operations role. Paul.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

In fact, some big technology companies (such as Cisco) have a CIO and multiple CTOs - each one serving a different product line.

kjmcsd
kjmcsd

I have never heard of a company having both. I have worked for various Fortune 500 companies and usually like you said, if they are not a software company, they just have a CIO. Very interesting. Why is that?

WiseITOne
WiseITOne

Interesting to note that there is a difference and who is in charge of which.

thomas
thomas

Over the years, I've held both positions, even in the same Fortune 100 conglomerate, and I find your depiction very close to the real world situation. Sometimes the CIO or CTO is expected to play both roles, Yahoo for instance, and other times the CTO has limited impact on, or involvement with, the product development, GM for instance, and your depiction would be all the more convincing if you added some case data from different companies. One additional point I would mention is the importance of internal "marketing," or the convincing communication of ideas, decisions, partnerships and opportunities inside the organisation. This is probably most important for the CTO, but the CIO, often the first stop for cost reduction, needs to have an excellent communications system in place with feedback channels from the user base.

Editor's Picks