Chief Information Officer, Chief Digital Officer or Chief Technology Officer. They all have one thing in common – they all use technology to drive competitive advantage. The difference is the lens each applies to that remit.

The CIO approaches the technology problem from a business perspective. It is the historic role to which a CEO would look to for technology direction. In my view there is still very much a place for CIOs at the board table however in some instances the role of the CIO has been fragmented into other roles, each having a specific focus.

A CTO will pay much more attention to the technology. They will often come from a technology background and will have a primary focus on how technology can be used within the enterprise. If you want to understand how to take your business into the cloud ask a CTO but beware you may get a technical answer. The CTO role is the one that the majority of IT technologists look to for direction.

The new kid on the block is the CDO – Chief Digital Officer.  Some might say this role has been created due to a lack of leadership by CIOs who are too busy dealing with BAU to help the board ‘get’ and leverage technology.  Businesses have become frustrated with the time and cost of technology and yet many realise that there’s an even bigger technology wave coming.  The CDO is sometimes brought in to oversee the transition that this wave will drive.  Sometimes the CDO comes from a commercial background focusing on aspects of eCommerce and digital marketing. Sometimes they will be a change agent, pushing the organisation to take on the new challenges.  In all cases the role needs to work closely with other technology leaders to get the job done.

It has been my pleasure to work with many and varied CIO’s, CDO’s and CTO’s over the years. Obviously each brings his or her own style to the role and above all else all have been strong leaders.
So that’s my view of the differences between the roles. In all cases strong leadership, commercial business skills and board level stakeholder engagement skills are the key to success.  If you don’t have these, you can forget the technology.
Got a different view? I’d love to hear it. Please add your comments below…


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