CTO vs. CIO: What Is the Difference?

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There are many jobs in the tech industry, some which can seem to mean the same thing. One such example is the confusion between CTOs and CIOs. What are they? What do they do?

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

CTOs utilize technology to aid a business. They typically make sure the technology companies use functions smoothly for their customers. CTOs are adaptable, technologically-adept, and constantly improve the company’s technologies to stay up-to-date on advancements. Whether the products CTOs deal with are purely digital or not related to the tech industry, they are still beneficial for any business.

What CTOs Do

Some of the things CTOs do for a business include:

  • Testing to ensure a smooth functionality in technologies
  • Periodically examine technologies as a part of routine checks
  • Maintaining technologies within the companies goals and values
  • Working alongside vendors to devise solutions to technology problems

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

CIOs address focuses on the internal elements of a business. More specifically, they work with IT services, help desks, security procedures, and even program management. They partially look at digital systems within a business as well. An additional characteristic of a CIO is that they keep an eye on the employee and company productivity to enhance any weaknesses.

What CIOs Do

A few responsibilities of CIOs are:

  • Monitoring divisions of a company
  • Build on the business’s primary goal
  • Managing technology systems to increase productivity

Should Businesses Employ Both?

Though they seemingly have similar functions within a company, CTOs and CIOs serve different purposes. However, having both can be a benefit to a business’s functionality and success. CTOs and CIOs are intertwined in a few ways. For example, both require a collaboration with other members or divisions of the business. Business owners can attest to the importance of such a collaborative effort.


In order to determine which of the two positions a business may need, if they were to have to choose, first understand the difference between them. Then, analyze the reason why either would be needed.

  • What is the company looking for?
  • Which area would they be working in—the more digital, informational end or the technologies end?
  • Who would be focused on: external customers or the infrastructure of the business?

The answer to this could help identify if a CTO or CIO—or both—is a better fit.


An important thing to note about CTOs and CIOs is that they are indeed separate, meaning a CTO couldn’t turn around and become a CIO or vice versa. Similarly, this is why adding both to a business is profitable. These people essentially help elevate businesses by serving as bridges that connect the elements of a company to each other while steadily improving the ‘bridge’ itself. They will have the business’s future and best interests at heart.

Experience, as with any industry, is significantly important. Industries as a whole consistently evolve. Businesses do the same but on independent levels. CTOs and CIOs must understand the company to be able to benefit it.