Technical, Technology

Language Deathmatch: CIO versus CTO

[NOTE: For some time I have been considering a series of short “Deathmatch” style articles, contrasting similar-but-different words. This post is the “Pilot” for such a series.]

A geek speculates: what is the difference between a CIO and a CTO?

Google returns a lengthy definition, a Slashdot discussion, and other answers. But Sean enjoyed my answer:

I have always read CTO as “Senior VP of Engineering” whereas CIO is “Senior VP of Information Services”

A CTO has more of a focus on engineering, like managing the development and deployment of a new web site at a dot-com. You’ll find CTOs at technology-centric companies.

A CIO focuses on an organization’s IT needs, and is more likely to focus on deploying existing third-party software to serve the needs of staff and customers, developing some new software when needed. You’ll find CIOs at Universities.

In a nutshell:

CTO == über-developer
CIO == über-sysadmin

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Categories: Technical, Technology

  • CTO vs. VP of engineering is a lot like CEO vs. President. The former are public-facing roles whose job is to represent the company and technology to the outside world, whereas the latter is the internal equivalent, to represent the company’s goals and execution. So “CTO is Sr. VP of Engineering” is like saying “CEO is Sr. President”, which is an oversimplification. CIO develops the sysadmin strategy; VP of IT executes on it.