The swift changes across all industries in today’s global economy have affected all roles from top to bottom. But only a few know that these changes have impact up to the level of the C-suite, particularly in CIO and CTO positions.  

Today, CIOs and CTOs both play vital roles in ensuring that information technology (IT) systems and services are in tip-top shape. Also, as technology leaders, they are important in ensuring that the company reaches its business goals and that the services they offer also benefit external customers. 

However, as organizations evolve at breakneck speed through technology, how do we draw the line between similar roles? 

The CIO Role 

Traditionally, the Chief Information Officer or CIO is the company executive who leads the teams in implementing and managing information and computer technologies.1 The CIO primarily calls the shots for IT operations within an organization.  

The CIO analyzes how new technology that a company adopts improve existing business process. They can also set out to integrate new systems to improve existing ones.  

As technology continues to evolve and with more companies doing their digital transformation, the CIO role is becoming increasingly popular. As a result, many job candidates with years of IT experience behind them are attracted to apply for CIO roles in a tech company or a business. 

The CTO Role 

On the other hand, the Chief Technology Officer or CTO in the C-suite leads in fulfilling a company’s technology needs in the vital areas of Research and Development (R&D).2 

CTOs also consider a company’s short-term and long-term needs, including company resources toward investing in new technology that will drive the company’s growth.  

The CTO typically reports to the CIO and also to the CEO. Back in the day, most companies only had a CIO. However, as technology became indispensable for all companies and new technology became ubiquitous, many organizations now have one CIO and one CTO. 

Deep Diving into the CIO and the CTO Roles 

The CIO: Outside Looking In 

The significant difference3 is that CIOs are more inward-looking. It’s because a CIO must ensure that costs and expenses are managed wisely in a company’s IT infrastructure. Hence, a CIO’s primary clientele is his colleagues. A CIO is obsessed with figuring out how to do more with less. 

The CTO: Inside Looking Out 

On the other hand, the CTO is not so much concerned about the internal process. Instead, they focus on new ways, innovations, and technologies to improve a company’s business goals and growth prospects. Thus, a CTO is more outward-looking as the focus is on improving customer experience through the company’s products and services. 

Technical But Entrepreneurial 

In totality, the CIO and the CTO are viewed by their colleagues as a technology leader, having the shared responsibility of helping reach business goals, lead in technology strategy, and support the company’s business strategy. Hence, and especially more so today, both functions also play the role of a business leader.  

As technology continues to pummel through the global economy and this post-pandemic workplace continues to evolve, how must you expect the role of the CIO and the CTO to change further? Is it already enough that they possess superior knowledge on emerging technology and above average skills in information technology?  

What does the 21st century enterprise and Industry 4.0 need from a CIO position or a CTO position today?  

The CIO Role and The CTO Role Redefined 

Why should their roles change in the first place?  

When these roles emerged in the 80s, the global economy and the world of work looked completely different. For one, there was no pandemic. Also, geographical boundaries seemed more apparent many years ago compared to today.  

Moreover, the current IT, computer science, and business innovations were not yet present back in the day. As a result, technology did not singlehandedly lead to growth and transformation the way that it is now.  

But one significant change we see today is the merging of technology and business. Back then, the stereotype for scientists and geeks was that they stayed in laboratories, basements, or libraries. Today, geeks are found heading some of the world’s most familiar brands and in the zenith of the corporate ladder.  

This was only made possible when technology and business seamlessly merged. You may be skilled in computer science or IT, but do you also have what it takes to communicate your ideas to leaders who may need to become more familiar with technology?  

Does your technological prowess able to tide you through leading a team and finding solutions to problems? Can you effectively implement your vision to help external stakeholders, such as customers and other vital clients? 

Technology as Business Strategy 

In today’s rapidly changing world, technological superiority needs to be complemented by an entrepreneurial mindset. Hence, CIO and CTO roles need to expand from concentrating only on technology infrastructure but also to covering business strategy.3 CIOs must also become business strategists. This is the bare minimum today in the tech sector and outside of it.  

According to Axiom’s lead data scientist and tech mentor Donncha Carroll, today’s CIOs and CTOs must strike a balance between their obsession with systems and their keen eye for improving customer experiences. Tech models must combine with business models and in-depth knowledge of business markets, even if you are a tech professional. This is why more business leaders are becoming CIOs and CEOs, even if their backgrounds are not primarily in technology or an allied field. 

What Does This Mean for Job Candidates?  

As a tech professional replete with years of experience across several tech roles, while these credentials are admirable, it remains a reminder for you not to be complacent but to continually upskill.  

Expand your horizons and look for short courses on business, business strategy, and leadership, which can greatly complement your technical know-how. The secret is that your soft skills must balance your technical or hard skills. Your left brain should complement your right brain — the yin and the yang. 


The importance of lifelong learning and upskilling, despite years of experience, cannot simply be overstated. Navigating the changes in CIO and CTO roles, it’s best to have a partner to help you land that dream tech job. 

Choose the Fox Search Group. With our team of expert recruiters, you are several steps closer to finding the ideal company that is most suitable for your professional profile. Talk to us today and be one of our many success stories!


1 Chief Information Officer (CIO) Definition, Meaning, and Salary, Kenton, 

2 Chief Technology Officer (CTO): Definition, How to Become One, Average Salary, Frankenfield, 

3 CIO vs. CTO: Key Differences in Roles and Responsibilities, Lawton,