CIO vs CTO- What’s the difference anyway?

Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vs Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – What is the real difference between their jobs? Is one more valuable than the other?  What do their daily responsibilities entail? Who takes a call on service desk matters? Who owns the software and architecture?  There are a lot of questions around the roles and responsibilities of the CIO and CTO. So let’s look into the CIO vs CTO debate from the following angles

  • What are their unique responsibilities?
  • How are they different from each other?
  • How are they unique in their responsibilities?


Here are simple answers that will help settle the CIO vs CTO debate.

A CIOs role is to ensure that business processes are in compliance and are running efficiently, which helps employees increase their productivity. CTOs on the other hand, create or build technologies that will help businesses grow. A CIO’s job is more internal and a CTO’s job is mostly external facing.

Here’s a more comprehensive overview of what their jobs encompass.

CIO – The face of every IT team

It’s no secret that IT teams do a poor job of internally marketing themselves. To help fix this problem is where a CIO plays an integral role.  He/she acts as a liaison between IT teams and other business stakeholders.

A CIO needs to be on top of running IT systems, devices, processes and everything else concerning the productivity & day-to-day operations of employees. If an internal technology process needs improvement, or there is a need for digitization of any process, the CIO is the person making the decisions.

Here’s a list of the responsibilities of a CIO  (but not limited to):

  • Focus on requirements of internal customers (employees) and business units
  • Strategize ways to increase the organization’s bottom line.
  • Own and run internal IT operations
  • Collaborate with vendors, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and others to drive business productivity
  • Own company’s technology infrastructure
  • Streamline internal processes to meet business objectives

CTO – The Messiah to the outside world.

A CTO’s role is predominantly external facing, ensuring he/she builds technologies and systems that support the growth of a business.  What differentiates a CTO is the necessity to be more hands on with technology.

Does this mean that a CTO is senior to a CIO? Is one more strategic for the company than the other? Simple answer – NO. In an organization with complex IT operations, it’s imperative to have the strong presence of both a CIO and CTO, in order to ensure smooth operations. Individually, they are independent career directions and require unique skills.

Here’s a list of a CTO’s responsibilities

  • Be the face of the company’s external technology offerings and run the engineering teams
  • Be ‘hands on’ with various technologies used by the organization
  • Ensure alignment of technology with business goals
  • Constantly enhance the technology that the organization sells
  • Work to increase an organization’s top line.

So we hope that settles the CIO Vs CTO debate once and for all. To reiterate what we discussed:

  • CIO is the owner of internal processes, who helps employees stay productive
  • CTO is external facing and focusses on technologies that help the business grow
  • Neither role is senior to the other. Both are different career paths
  • Both roles are equally important for the growth of an organization

In case you’re looking for more resources, here are a few stuff around the web

Cover image by Sharmila