Early in my career I thought the role CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) were interchangeable positions. It did not take me long to come to understand that each role is different and the importance of each role is rooted in the user community it serves.

While both roles are C-level, it is not uncommon for a CTO or CIO to shift into one or the other over the course of their career. The primary distinction between the two roles is pretty easy to understand. ┬áThe correct title is based on the person’s interaction with the business, the technology, and its clients.

The CIO owns the technology that operates the business, whereas the CTO owns a technology that drives the business with its customers.

TechRepublic has one of the best skill set overviews for the CIO and CTO positions. It is an aimple guide that outlines each of the positions key responsibilities. The TechRepublic breakdown is as follows:

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)
  • To be successful the resource has to be a skilled and organized manager

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.

Do You Sell to the CIO or CTO?

For organizations that sell to IT departments this distinction is also important. The CIO generally owns the infrastructure that the company utilizes to operate internally and as the foundation for any technology they deliver to customers. The CIO generally owns the purchasing around servers, storage, networking and security. The CTO, especially those who create technology products, are more interested in application software and database technologies, but do have a shared concern about security with the CIO .

Did we get it right? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photo Credit: philsout via Compfight cc