CIO vs CTO vs CISO | Technology Executive Search Firm | Cowen Partners

      Chief Information Officer vs. Chief Technology Officer

      The Difference Between a CIO versus a CTO & Why It Matters

      When it comes to managing a company’s technology, there are two executive-level positions that take the lead: Chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). People mistakenly view these two positions in the same capacity because they both involve technology. However, a CIO and CTO have very different operating functions. Below are summaries of each role that showcase the vast difference between the two positions.

      What Does a Chief Information Officer Do?

      A CIO is responsible for handling a company’s infrastructure, as well as IT operations. The CIO finds ways to implement new technology internally that will make business processes more efficient and effective. For example, if a business process can be automated, the CIO will determine the best automation system to use and how to implement it at the company. The CIO manages the security and operations for a business, as well.

      The role of a CIO is paramount to success in today’s technology-reliant world. If a business cannot keep up with the latest technology infrastructure updates, the company will eventually become obsolete. If your company has been struggling with productivity, this is a role that can improve internal business processes.

      Chief Information Officer Job Duties & Responsibilities

      Some responsibilities of a CIO include (but are not limited to):

      • Managing all technology infrastructure
      • Overseeing IT operations and departments
      • Aligning and deploying technology to streamline business processes
      • Increasing the company’s bottom line
      • Focusing on the requirements of internal employees and internal business units

      CIO vs CISO: What’s the Difference?

      The chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) are two C-level positions important to the success and security of a business. As technology evolves these two positions must help a business adapt to the current technology trends and updates. Both roles focus on using technology to build a company’s IT infrastructure, however, the positions play two very different roles. Below is a summary of the main differences between a CIO and a CISO within an organization.

      Chief Information Officer (CIO) Role

      A CIO is responsible for managing a company’s IT operations. The CIO does this by ensuring the business stays up to date on the latest technology. The role requires a significant amount of research and analysis of the latest tech trends to determine which processes and systems are a good fit for the company. Once a beneficial technology is identified, the CIO then works to integrate the new system into the company. By regularly reviewing IT procedures and systems, a CIO will increase business efficiency and keep the company competitive.

      Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Role

      The CISO also works with IT but manages the security side of the business. Cybersecurity is vital to the wellbeing of a business, and the CISO role is responsible for managing data security risks. A solid risk management framework allows a business to successfully evaluate and prepare for risks involved with new deals and technology development. By developing a proper risk management system, a CISO will ultimately keep your company’s data safe and secure. 

      Chief Information Security Officer Job Duties & Responsibilities

      A CISO may be responsible for the following:

      • Establishing the right security and governance practices
      • Enabling a framework for risk-free and scalable business operations
      • Evaluating the IT threat landscape
      • Devising policy and controls to reduce risk
      • Leading auditing and compliance initiatives

      What Does a Chief Technology Officer Do?

      CTOs identify technology to enhance the customer experience. Since technology advances so quickly, the CTO role spends a significant amount of time researching the latest updates. The CTO also manages the research and development team to find innovative ways to improve offerings. Once a new solution is identified, the CTO works with engineers and developers to expand product and/or service offerings. 

      In any business, customers expect the latest tech updates. They want the shopping experience to be fast and easy, and the products or services have to include the latest tech advancements. If a company falls too far behind on tech updates, customers will seek out a more modern product. Clearly, the CTO role is another indispensable position that will keep a company relevant and competitive. 

      Chief Technology Officer Job Duties & Responsibilities

      A CTO may be responsible for the following:

      • Owning the company’s tech offerings and external products
      • Using and reviewing technology to enhance the company’s external products
      • Managing the engineering and developer teams
      • Understand and touch all technologies the company deploys
      • Increasing the company’s top line
      • Aligning product architecture with business priorities
      • Collaborating with vendors on supply solutions

      CIO vs CTO: Conclusion

      The CIO and CTO roles may sound similar at face-value, but they clearly serve very different purposes. Both executive-level positions can bring immense value to a business, but your company may need one more than the other right now.

      When looking to hire a CIO or CTO, ask whether you need to enhance technology within the company or for your customers first. If you need to focus on external products and services while driving innovation, then consider hiring a CTO. If you need to improve internal processes and enhance productivity, then hire a CIO. 

      Large companies would benefit from having both roles on staff. A CIO and CTO both contribute to company growth and both can positively impact revenue. If your business can afford it, these two c-suite positions have the potential to massively enhance your business by updating processes with the latest technology trends. 

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      Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and include vice presidentgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Learn how our CTO, CSO, and CIO executive recruiters deliver top talent, no matter the need, with our industry-leading research and resources. Discover the strategy that made Cowen Partners a leader among the nation’s best techonology executive search firms in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond.

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