The title issue: CTO vs CIO, and why it’s the wrong question

CTO has got to be one of the most overloaded (to use a development geek term) titles around. Depending on the industry, the company, and the individual in the position, the Chief Technology Officer may have entirely different responsibilities and purview from other similarly named positions. And what in heaven’s name is a CIO anymore? In many companies, the CTO title seems to have supplanted what ten or twenty years ago would have been referred to as the CIO, which sadly tends to spoil the old joke that CIO stood for “Career Is Over.”

As an article in ComputerWorld pointed out, “ask what a CTO does, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses. In some companies, the CTO heads research and development. In other companies, the CTO is just like a CIO. In still others, the CIO reports to the CTO. And there are also CTOs who work in IT departments and report to the CIO.”

I’m going to reveal my bias here up front: it doesn’t matter, really, what you call the position. The important part is to recognize two conflicting truths: technology is all-important in many leading and bleeding-edge companies today; technology itself, however, cannot be the sole, or even the main, focus and purview of the senior technology executive. [Read more…]