Are there different titles for the CIO role, or does each IT job have its own specific function?
In this post, we’ll break down the definition of the CIO and contrast it with other common IT leadership roles.
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3 Different Titles for the CIO Role
Understanding the differences between IT leadership positions can be confusing, since many of these roles use the same titles and share the same job duties.
That being said, digital leadership positions do tend to have specific meanings that are widely agreed upon.
Let’s look at a few of those now:
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is an executive position that’s responsible for the IT department of a company. The CIO oversees the technology infrastructure of a company, from the hardware to the software to the IT department itself.
Some companies have a CIO whose role is more business-focused – who may handle everything from digital change management to digital innovation – and other companies have a CIO whose role is more technical.
In short, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the job tasks that belong to the senior-most IT leader. This is one reason why there are so many different titles for this position. Depending on the company’s size, industry, and its business priorities, for instance, the company’s senior IT title can vary widely.
Here are some of the most common titles and descriptions used in place of “CIO”:
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
- President of IT
- IT Director
- IT Manager
When these titles are used interchangeably with the CIO title, it is often a result of convention or job scope creep, rather than a deliberate choice on the part of executives.
While in some cases we will see these job titles appear in place of the CIO role, more digitally mature companies will separate these positions from that of the CIO, as we’ll see below.
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is technically a different position from the CIO. Their focus tends to be on technology related to external customers.
Job duties can include:
- The development, maintenance, and improvement of customer-facing software
- Managing the IT teams that develop those solutions
- Focusing on increasing profits
- Collaborating with other IT leaders to meet these needs
Large enterprises will often hire both a CIO and a CTO, who will each have their specific job functions and roles.
But, as mentioned above, companies that are still digitally maturing may have only a CTO position, most often as a matter of convention.
The IT Director has a widely accepted set of responsibilities that can include:
- Overseeing the IT department and IT teams
- Designing the organization’s IT policies, strategies, and initiatives
- Leading technology-related business strategies
As with the CTO title, the title of IT Director can be used in place of the CIO title in some companies – and, as mentioned above, companies that use “IT Director” instead of “CIO” will often be less mature than those that have a CIO role.
Other IT Leadership Roles
There are quite a few other job titles that can be held by IT leaders, including:
- Chief Data Officer (CDO). The CDO, as the name suggests, is responsible for developing a company’s data management strategy and its data-driven methods.
- Chief Digital Officer (CDO). This job, which also uses the acronym “CDO,” has a much more vague definition. In some cases, they will act as the CIO. In others, they will be temporary positions designed to help an organization undergo digitization or digital transformation. In yet others, they will liaise between the CMO and CIO.
- Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO). The CDIO is a synonym for the Chief Digital Officer, covered in the above bullet point. In some companies, though, this title may be used in place of the CIO title.
- Chief Innovation Officer (CINO). The CINO focuses on leveraging technology for digital innovation and growth. This role’s responsibilities will vary depending on the company’s needs. For instance, some CINOs may focus exclusively on supervising product-centric innovation, while CIOs lead digital organizational change. In others, they will oversee all projects related to digital innovation.
- Chief Technology Innovation Officer (CTIO). The CTIO, like the CINO, manages and leads programs and projects related to technology-driven innovation.
There are certainly other IT leadership roles above and beyond those listed here, but these are some of the most common executive titles that work alongside or directly beneath CIOs.
What Influences the Choice of Job Title?
There are quite a few factors that can affect a company’s choice of the IT leader’s job title, a few of which were covered above.
A few include:
- How digitally mature a company is
- How many other IT leadership roles exist in that organization
- The existing conventions and the history of a given organization
- The geographic locale
One of the biggest reasons IT leadership positions are so confusing is that IT jobs – unlike more established positions, such as those in finance or sales – have been evolving rapidly as the world enters the digital age.
In the coming years, however, this may change and IT job terms may become more universal.