CIO vs CTO: Settling the argument with an expert in an interim role

CIO vs CTO: Same Difference; Different Story

There are a lot of parallels between what being a CIO and a CTO entails. A CIO looks at the company’s requirements of IT and tech. On the other hand, a CTO is involved in an organization’s R&D, all the while also looking at a company’s internal tech needs. This role is also known as a Chief Technical Officer. So, the line between a CIO and a CTO is a fine one. However, major companies still want to have both on board since digitization has no other options; to stay competitive, an organization has to adopt new technologies.


There are a few key differences between the job roles of a CIO and a CTO. One of these key differences lies in their outlook. CIOs look inside the company; they look at the daily operations of a company, and the technical requirements that are needed for the same. On the other hand, a CTO looks externally, managing the customers’ technology-related needs from the company.

In short, in the case of big organizations, CIOs manage IT and CTOs manage business technology. However, a CTO can easily take over the duties of a CIO, as their job role already entails looking at the company’s tech needs.

In the case of skill sets, CTOs take this round of CIO vs CTO as well. A CIO need not be as tech-savvy as a CTO. However, a CTO needs to be highly knowledgeable; their technical attributes should be off the charts. The more IT-oriented your company is, the more tech-savvy and hands-on CTO you need.

Why Hire a Tech Expert Rather Than A CTO?

There are multiple reasons why a tech expert can do the job just as fine, if not better, than a CTO. First, and more crucially, the monetary aspect. Hiring an executive-level person will make an executive-sized hole in a company’s pocket. This will not be the case with an interim tech expert. They can come in and steady the ship as and when required while costing far less than a full-time CTO.

Second, a tech expert will find more synergies within an organization than a CTO. A tech expert, who has previously been CTOs of other companies, can intermingle with an organization without necessarily being a part of the same, all the while catering to the technological needs of the organization. Further, a tech expert can hit the ground running; immediately taking charge of things and starting work with almost zero time taken to adapt.

Third, for non-core-tech companies, there is no immediate need for a full-time CTO or even a full-time tech expert. Yes, digitization has become more and more important ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, but a gig tech expert can bring digital adoption just as smoothly to an organization as a CTO would, without costing as much. In fact, for such companies, going first with a tech expert to gauge the requirements and implement changes can prove to be the right call. If the need is there for a senior-level person at the firm, the company can always CoHire a senior tech executive. And this leads us rather nicely to the next point.

A tech expert can complement an existing CTO at an organization. They can help with the day-to-day activities while also planning for the future. They don’t need to be on a full-time payroll to burn cash before the company earns through digitization. Therefore, a tech expert can help your organization, no matter the presence of a CTO (or as we talk about next, a CIO).

Why Hire an Information Expert Rather Than A CIO?

As discussed previously, a CTO can handle the responsibilities of a CIO just fine. However, a larger organization can demand the presence of a separate information officer. Or an information expert.

First, as is the case with any executive-level full-time hiring, it will burn away at cash if you hire a CIO. However, an interim information expert will cost far less and can help with internal digitization just as easily.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to close offices and move their human resource to the safety of their homes. However, this has presented a new challenge – how to stay connected and function smoothly from home? The companies who were digital-ready were able to cope; those who weren’t, lagged. As such, an information expert can gauge the organization’s IT requirements, and implement them as and when required. Thus, an information expert can work in tandem with a CTO, taking the internal IT affairs off their hand and function independently. This can improve the external digitization of an organization, which has to take precedent over internal matters. As such, an information expert can help take the load off the CTO, or the tech expert.

Third, an information expert will generally be more hands-on with the technology than a CIO and can help with fast, data-driven digital adoption. Further, an information officer can start instantly, hitting the ground running and taking charge without wasting any time.

Summing up

CIO vs CTO has been a battle for ages. With digital becoming the new normal, they have become a necessity. However, there is nothing a tech or an information expert, with the same level of experience (or perhaps more), that a CTO or a CIO can. The greatest incentive remains that you save a lot of money – this is especially important for young companies, with less money to throw around, and old companies, with less digital experience. Both can hire an expert for their technology needs and save a lot of time and money.

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