The CIO vs CTO discussion has become louder in small and medium business’ in recent years. These organisations realise that technology is driving incredible disruption and have usually hit a size where they can afford to add this role to their C-Suite. While they understand the importance of the role, they struggle with understanding which way to go. So, in this blog post we tackle it and give you the rationale behind one or the other.
One thing to stress before we dive into the definitions of these two roles is that there isn’t a hard line between the two. The roles may have different definitions depending on what industry you are in and how big or small you are. Therefore it’s best to look at the roles from the outcomes they need to achieve rather than a 2 line definition. That way you will ensure that the role you chose delivers an outcome for the business. So what are the two roles?
CIO (Chief Information Officer)
A CIO is usually the leader of a companies IT staff with responsibilities over
- IT infrastructure and applications
- Internal IT policies and procedures
- Information security
- IT (Information Technology) /ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Strategy
CTO (Chief Technology Officer)
In contrast, the CTO looks at the companies’ holistic use of technology. Not just IT but also
- How to create new products and services
- Understanding of your markets use of technology
- Technology Strategy
- Research and Development
- Evangalism – the spokesperson communicating the technology strategy to the market, parnters, employees, investors etc.
So which one you need?
From our perspective you always need the CTO.
While you will always need that CIO (or IT Manager) role to maintain your internal environment, you either need to roll this function into the CTO role or have it as a stand alone role. Because at the end of the day, in a 2019 world where technology is the main driving force of disruption, every organisation needs to have their eye on
- The changes that are happening in their markets,
- Their customer behaviour and expectations,
- Their competition and
- Trends in technology broadly
Without this how can you properly inform your organisation of what they need to execute on in the short-mid-long term to be successful. How can you anticipate how your industry will be disrupted and pivot your business to meet these changes. Without this you will only have that internal perspective and consequently will mean investment is self serving and self centred. And that’s the fastest way to lose sight of your customer, market and ultimately lose out in business entirely.
Now every organisations is going to be different and there will always be options to consider around how you get that CTO insight and expertise into your business. But one fact of life today is that no business can use the excuse that they didn’t know or couldn’t afford the advice because the result will be that the market will put you out business unapologetically.