What’s the difference between a CIO and CTO?

When talking with non technology companies, I’ve sometimes run up against a company saying they have a CIO already, so why do they need a CTO? It’s a good question. I’ve been reading a lot about the role of the CIO and it’s constantly evolving responsibilities. A good primer on the subject is a white paper from PWC title “The situational CIO”.

After talking with CEOs and other CTOs & CIOs, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re never really have both a CIO and a CTO. Your company is going to fall into one of two categories:

  • Technology is integral to your company. You have a CTO that manages the entire IT organization, including software development and infrastructure. Your CTO reports directly to the CEO and is a peer with the other CxO executives.
  • Technology is newer to your company and/or not as integral. In those cases, you probably already have a CIO who overseas several areas. There is a Director or VP of Technology that reports directly to the CIO

This is only my conclusion after a dozen or so conversations over a month, so I could be wrong. However, I think understanding where technology in general and a CTO in particular fits into an organization structure, compared to much older and well defined areas, is very valuable. It allows for technology to be given it’s proper seat at the table, so to speak.