When talking to business managers, I often find confusion about the roles of technology leadership positions. CIO and CTO titles are frequently used interchangeably. Sometimes they only have a Director of Technology who reacts to “tech issues” when they come up. For the sake of clarity, I’ll offer my observation that Information Technology leaders tend toward one of two orientations: Internal business processes or external product development.
CIO is primarily internally-facing.
The CIO, or the Chief Information Officer, is a company’s top technology strategist who understands the business information needs of the company and the stakeholders of corporate operations. Maintains internal IT systems, including company information domains and business processes. Typically reports to the CEO on business models and vision issues, and collaborates with other business executives to learn their needs and develop new concepts. The CIO is a business person with IT experience.
A CTO is primarily customer-facing.
The CTO, or the Chief Technology Officer, is a company’s top engineer who most understands the science behind technology alternatives and frequently heads product research and development initiatives as they relate to the company’s current and future product offerings. Typically reports to the CIO or CEO (depending on corporate size and structure), and plans for technology evolution of the company systems. The CTO is a technology person having some familiarity with the company business model.
For what its worth, while I have experience in both roles, I am much more qualified for the CIO role.
What’s your take?
Do my descriptions match your understanding of the different roles? Do technology leaders in your organization participate at the highest levels of decision making? Does anybody know what they do at all?