What's the Difference Between a CIO and a CTO?

At one time, most companies had a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). As technology became more and more necessary for organizations, the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) was created. While both of these positions are affiliated with technology, there are some vast distinctions between the two roles.

Internal versus External

One of the most significant ways that a CIO differs from a CTO is seen in the way that focus is maintained. The CIO focuses on internal information technology (IT) matters. This individual tends to work very closely with the IT staff of an organization. While it’s not necessary for the CIO to be an IT specialist, the role does require the CIO to have a strong working knowledge of the IT operation. Also, the CIO needs to have an eye for organization and managing IT personnel. Finally, since many companies do not understand how an IT department works, the CIO can often assist in helping integrate IT personnel into day-to-day operations.

On the other hand, the CTO has a much more external focus. The CIO looks internally at how technology is being used within a company and the CTO maintains an external vision for all things technology. The CIO works closely with IT staff and the CTO often works closely with companies that maintain an engineering division.

Top Line versus Bottom Line

The CTO places emphasis on the top line of an organization or business. This individual is always looking for ways to increase revenue. On the other hand, the CIO looks to find ways to increase the bottom line using the available technology, seeking to increase profitability.

Changing Roles

Another area where the CTO and CIO differ is seen in the changing roles. While the CTO role has remained primarily the same, there have been radical changes within the role of the CIO. Initially, the CIO maintained cybersecurity within an organization. At that time, most sensitive data was handled solely by the company. With the passage of time and the greater accessibility of off-site storage (”cloud computing”), more and more organizations have gone to the cloud for their needs and that means that CIO has less control over the cybersecurity issues. On the other hand, it allows CIOs to branch out within the organization and use the IT staff for issues other than troubleshooting laptops and working on email security, as pointed out by Forbes.

New Technologies

Both the CIO and CTO must value the importance of continuing education. Technology evolves rapidly and both officers need to be aware of any new developments in technology that can improve both revenue and profitability for their organizations.

Just about any business nowadays needs to incorporate technology into its operation in one form or another. While a small company might not need both a CTO and a CIO, it should look at finding an individual who can understand and execute the duties of both roles.

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