What Your Business Needs To Know About the Difference Between a CTO, CIO, and an IT Manager

Why is it important to know the difference between a CTO, CIO, and IT employee?
Well, when organizations start to talk about IT (Information Technology) strategy and how to manage IT, they undoubtedly get to talking about who will take on that role.

  • Is there someone internally that can handle technology needs and determine IT strategy?
  • Do you have a dedicated problem-solver to manage company software, workstations, printers, etc?
  • If not, do you hire someone full-time or hire a contractor?
  • If you do hire someone, should you look for a CTO, CIO, or Director of IT?
  • What’s the difference between those roles and what’s the value?

We’re here to help you with your decision.
You will know the difference between these roles and be better positioned to decide whether to hire internally over finding an outsourced resource. We’ll share with you the types of people to hire and why it should matter to your organization.

Know the difference: The CTO, the CIO, and the IT Employee

Companies with a dedicated resource accounting for the network and infrastructure handling their data and communications, and the IT strategy driving the direction of that, have one of three types of people in that role.

They typically have a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), a Chief Information Officer (CIO), or an IT employee. Many times it is difficult to know the difference between these respective roles in the context of IT management and leadership, but there are definable disparities.

CIO: Chief Information Officer

The CIO is responsible for overall IT strategy and organizational problems that are related to technology, all in the context of overall company strategy. This is a core role and the primary responsibility is to understand how technology impacts your business and to determine how to propel business forward with the appropriate IT solutions in place.

The person who acts as your CIO should be the driver of crafting the technology vision of the company and integrating the needs of your business into that vision.

Your CIO is responsible for watching trends and paying attention to industry changes, and then equating how that impacts your company. It’s their role to recognize what technologies present threats to your company, as well as identify what technologies present opportunities.

Your CIO bridges the gaps that exist between your business and your IT. Your CIO should ideally help your organization respond ahead of time to any technology issues that you’ll encounter, rather than react. There’s so much value to having a CIO on your leadership team.

CTO: Chief Technology Officer

A CTO is responsible for solving your technology problems, like a very senior technician. CTO’s are more tactical in nature, and more hands on.

A standard IT guy doesn’t do any of the things that a CTO or CIO does, and this definitely shouldn’t be the expectation. A standard IT person will be a task-manager, rather than a thought-leader. This isn’t bad, but there’s a clear disparity. Your CTO should be held to even higher expectations over that of an IT manager.

In the IT “hierarchy”, the CTO typically reports to the owner or CIO. The CTO acts as the top engineer or technician, within your business. While your CIO is responsible for communicating your business needs, the CTO and CIO will typically work together within the organization to ensure all parts of the IT strategy are accounted for in the context of overall business strategy.

Standard IT person (IT Manager or IT Director)

The standard IT employee simply executes tasks as part of the overall strategy. They are more reactive than proactive. They work with device issues, and help the employees of your company when they have technology questions or concerns.

What about outsourced IT or an outsourced CIO?

Having a strategic and smart CIO on your side is truly a business advantage. Virtual CEO’s have absolutely the same if not more positive an impact on your bottom line as if you were to fill this role internally.

They’re well educated and work well with a team. They’re a senior leader to work with the rest of the company leadership to drive business forward.

Many companies believe that they can’t afford a CIO because those individuals typically demand a higher salary. Even though the position is in high demand because there is a strong need, businesses cannot afford to have a CIO who spends much of their time crafting and planning, versus generating revenue.

An outsourced CIO, or outsourced IT provider, is undeniably worth the investment. The cost is a fraction of what a business would pay in salary for this role to be filled internally, not to mention the fact that most outsourced IT firms are on call 24/7 and have a support team in time of crisis, versus just one or two people.

Now that you hopefully know the difference between the above-described roles, it becomes clear that having an IT firm or outsourced CIO could yield improved decision-making to better your business. Someone inside a company often times can’t be a change agent. Someone outside the organization can bring that. Much of the fear and emotion of making business decisions is removed when working with someone from outside the company.

Get to know us.

When you’re trying to figure out how to define and execute an IT strategy with your business objectives in mind, it’s critical to hire the right support. Know the difference between the roles, but also what you can expect and what kind of impact that person or group could have.
Take a look at how we can help. Email us here to learn more about how we can assist you with your outsourced IT needs.