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

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cto and cio
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This question often comes up among those who want to pursue an IT career. Sometimes the line is blurred between the definition of CTO and CIO. Here we help you make a distinction between the two roles in light of recent developments in the IT sphere.

IT operations within an organization encompass a whole range of roles and functions, including CTO and CIO. The two terms are often used interchangeably or sometimes combined; however, these are completely different positions that require different skill sets with different goals.

The average global CIO in 2016 made $198,000 USDClick To Tweet

Chief Technical Officer: Operational Mindset

A CTO, Chief Technical (or Technology) Officer, can be described as the technical architect of an organization. Acting as an intermediary between its management and the technical departments, the CTO ensures that the company’s IT infrastructure is aligned with the vision of the management team for optimum synergy.

With a broad technical background, the CTO oversees the technical infrastructure and IT resources of the company and their development to ensure the smooth running of day-to-day work and meet future challenges.

In this regard, the CTO collaborates with external customers (those who purchase the company’s products and services), and keeps an eye on the latest technological developments to enhance the company’s products and services.

The CTO adapts and adopts technical solutions then deploys them to increase the company’s overall competitiveness.

Chief Information Officer: Creative Force

The IT leader within the company, the CIO’s role is also technically aligned, and so their work overlaps with that of the CTO. Unlike the CTO who deals with external customers, the CIO manages the IT operations rather in terms of internal needs by focusing more on internal customers (partners, shareholders, and employees).

The CIO is high up in the management hierarchy of a company, and the CTO may report to or at least keep a constant contact with them. That might explain the difference in earnings in favor of the CIO who outearns the CTO.

A 2016 survey by Harvey Nash and KPMG found that, on average, a global CIO earns upwards of $198,000 annually, compared to $169,000 for a global CTO.

The same Harvey Nash/KPMG report, “The Creative CIO”, also points to the shift in CIO role in recent years, due to the digital revolution. Besides keeping their old tasks and priorities as IT leader, the CIO is more of a strategist planner and business leader. The ever-growing importance of new tech – that could make the difference between the company’s success and failure – and the disruption of business models make the CIO a creative force within an organization rather than just an operational one.

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