Monday, March 19, 2012

Do you need a CIO or CTO or both?

I see a fair number of questions on LinkedIn about companies trying to decide if they need a CIO or CTO, and what if any is the difference is between them.  So I thought I'd wade in on this topic having been a CTO on a number of occasions.  So let's start out of the gate with the acronyms; CTO = Chief Technology Officer (or sometimes Chief Technical Officer), and CIO = Chief Information Officer.

First of all if you're a technology startup stop worrying about titles, only Investors and narcissists worry about titles when your company staffing can be counted on one hand.  There should be at most two titles at that stage, founders and team members.  You can of course put formal titles on your website Bio's, but that's mostly for the benefit of potential investors, and to make you look bigger than you really are.

If your a bit bigger, or more mature than a startup and you are in the technology space then you probably need a Chief Technology Officer.  If you're not in the technology space, but are dependant upon IT to operate your business then you probably should have a Chief Information Officer, and if your really big and you meet all the criteria above then maybe you need both, but then you better delineate responsibilities really well, or have the CTO report to the CIO (rarely vice versa).  Finally very large organizations may have multiple CTO's, one for each major line of business, or area of specialization.

So let me take a stab at delineating the responsibilites, and hey if you disagree or you think I missed one let me know by email or comment.

Chief Technology Officer

So having been a CTO on three occasions with Bluespring Software, The Devine Group, ProspectStream and SaaS Capital. I might tinge this viewpoint with a little bit of what I strive to be as a CTO, but the responsibilities should come pretty close.  Again remember you only need a CTO if your company is in the business of developing or selling technology, or keeping up with technology innovations is an essential  cornerstone of how you do business.
  • Evaluate new and emerging technologies and their impact on the business (Research).
  • Develop relationships with key technology vendors with respect to their product roadmaps.
  • Manage the architecture and development of product(s) or in-house systems.
  • Evangelize the technical superiority of the companies products, so as to positively impact. recruiting efforts, and market percpetion of the company as a technology leader.
  • Act as a technical subject matter expert within and outside the organization.
Famous CTO's include:

Todd Park (the first CTO of the United States Government)
Bill Gates (former Microsoft CTO)
Ray Ozzie (former Microsoft CTO)
Padmasree Warrior (Cisco)
Verner Vogels (Amazon)
Mark Carge (eBay)
Dharmesh Shah (Hubspot)

Chief Information Officer

If you do not fit the criteria for needing a CTO, or you are a larger company where IT is essential to your operations, or where the senior management team is highly dependent upon data from IT systems to effectively manage the company then you need a CIO.
  • Manage the implementation of new or in-house developed IT systems.
  • Manage the procurement of IT systems and build vs. buy decisions.
  • Define the IT systems required to support business operations and effective management.
  • Evangelize the technical superiority of the businesses IT operations and infrastructure, so as to positively impact. recruiting efforts, and market percpetion of the company as a leader in the use of technology.
Famous CIO's include:

Steven VanRoekel (CIO of the United States Government)
Dave Barnes (CIO, UPS)
Robert Carter (CIO, Fedex)
Tony Scott (Microsoft)

Other potential titles you might come across that are efforts to span or combine the roles into one, or reduce the potential salary cost of the role include Vice President of Information Technology, and Information Technology Manager, and there are all manner of permutations on the theme.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! very informative! I also agree with you, both are important!
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