CTO vs. CIO: What the Hell is the Difference?

by | Sep 18, 2020 | Software | 0 comments

If you’ve ever seen the terms CTO or CIO, and been confused about what the difference is, you’re not alone, friend. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) sound like they could be the same exact thing.

So what’s the difference between a CTO vs. CIO?

Almost every company on earth touches the internet at some point, and all of the information & data that a company gobbles up is under the CIO’s domain.

Put simply, the CIO focuses internally on their own company and all of the digital technology & processes that employees use in their day to day jobs.

The chief technology officer is usually in charge of creating innovative new technology that customers might buy. They also have a hand in enhancing all of the technical offerings within a company.

The CTO focuses externally on the customer & the products and services their companies offer while also thinking of new ways to deliver value to the customer.

However, inside smaller businesses there are rarely both a CTO & a CIO. This comes down to cash, and being cost efficient. A CTO is most likely the role at a small biz, and takes on the job functions of a CIO+CTO into one.

At heart, the C-Level, regardless of the title, requires leadership. A strong CTO or CIO must develop phenomenal teams that push the company forward, create brave new products & services, and hopefully grow the next crop of leaders to guide the company into the future.

Why being a CIO ain’t EASY

As a citizen of the 21st century, you’ve experienced how quickly technology has changed the world.. Every day there seems to be a game-changing new company with some sick features that everyone’s hot on.

Remember when people used to say that Amazon would never work because people would never put their credit card information on the internet? Yeah, look where we are now.

Amazon just got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for delivery. Technology has taken over the world.

Who’s in charge of staying on top of all of the hundreds of thousands of technology trends & software targeted towards companies? The CIO.

What does a CIO do daily? Maybe one day they’re managing a team of software developers who are working on improving the internal Salesforce environment for the sales team. You know, making upgrades so that Tony the account executive can crush his quota for the quarter. The next day maybe Mr./Mrs. CIO attends a conference on the latest business technology from Microsoft. The day after that might be for catching up with the directors and IT managers under him/her.

The buck stops with the CIO when it comes to digital technology & processes. Just like other C-Suite positions, the CIO is a leader of people with an eye towards the future. It’s their job to know how employees feel about the tools they use and whether the tech is hurting or helping them.

The CIO works on projects that have a big impact on the organization, but those projects have tons of small details that different IT managers under the CIO take care of. If the CIO can run a tight ship that’s efficient, lean, and always innovating, then they’re doing a great job.

CTO=Technology Guru

Think of the chief technology officer as your resident mad scientist, tinkering & guiding a team of researchers and developers as they try to improve their product and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

The CTO is the innovation officer of a company, and more often than not they focus on the external customer who is buying their product. Even if you don’t have your own developers inside of your company,  a CTO can function as a one-man innovation team for your small business.

When people think about business services they usually think about offering services to customers. Technology folks like the CTO think about business services differently.

The “customer” for business services can be internal teams at a company, especially if the company is a big boy enterprise like Walmart, General Motors, Nintendo, or REI for example. These companies have thousands & thousands of employees that all demand quality technology so they can do their jobs well.

If you’re a small business? Your CTO can set up the company technology wise to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to succeed, and they can also set up infrastructure that will last for years.

At a small business, the CTO will wear many hats while creating a dependable structure so that other folks can focus on growing the business.

chief-technology-officerPotential Things a CTO Can Help a Small Business With

Just to get the ball rolling a little bit, here are some specific things a CTO can help you with.

  • Making sure your online presence is buttoned up. This means taking care of servers, hosting, and software licenses. All the stuff you probably hate thinking about.
  • Maintaining and improving your website. Actively making sure you not only look good online, but you’re staying cutting edge for your customers who demand the best.
  • As your company grows, a good CTO hires great IT people. They know what to look for & which questions to ask so you don’t have to.
  • They develop a roadmap to allow your company to keep innovating and trying new things. Magical innovation doesn’t happen instantly and a good CTO knows how to plan and execute complicated projects.
  • A CTO leads software development and can customize software to suit your exact business needs as you continue to scale.

Why does YOUR Business need a CTO On-Demand?

A CTO at a smaller company is a necessity these days,  especially since most small businesses will probably not have a CIO leading internal technology.

That means the CTO at a small business acts as both the CTO & CIO, focusing on internal processes & tech, as well as customer-facing tech, even if that just means maintaining & improving your company’s website.

These days, we understand that budgets are tighter than ever. The uncertainty in the world makes it hard to plan for the future, let alone for next week. Things are changing in the blink of an eye.

That’s why we’re seeing a massive surge in popularity for CTOs on-demand. There’s a ton of upside with very little downside. You get the expertise of a CTO in a flexible package, which is a pretty phenomenal perk.

If you happen to get through a ton of technology work in a few months? Great. Scale down the CTO’s hours or erase them all together.

Does all this sound like it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for? Are you searching for that special someone, who can come in and sweep your company off their feet? All with the flexibility and scalability of a subscription type service?

Contact our team at Gravity Junction today. We’ve got your CTO wizards standing by!


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