What's the difference between a CIO and CTO? Not too much, survey says

'A CIO acts as an internal technology strategist. A CTO acts as a tech engineer.' But that's about it. Both are razor-focused on the customer experience. One in four now have both roles.

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The roles of chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO) have always had their distinctions: the CIO manages the internal IT workings of the organization, while the CTO focuses on the customer experience. 

In recent times, the internal and external aspects of IT have been overlapping, with CIOs worrying just as much about the delivery of superior customer experience as their CTO counterparts. So who's responsible for what? Or does it even matter anymore whether one's title is CIO or CTO? 

There are distinctions to be made. "A CIO acts as an internal technology strategist. A CTO acts as a tech engineer," notes Nicolas Poggi of Prey. "CIOs are a lot less technical than a CTO because they often come from a non-technical background." Still, in many cases, "CTOs say that CIOs should report to them. CIOs claim CTOs must answer to them." 

Still, a great convergence appears to be underway, a survey of 415 CIOs and CTOs by Transposit finds. The data shows both positions have taken on significantly increased responsibility for business strategy.   

The majority report having both CIOs and CTOs as part of their organizations. Eighty-three percent of CIOs said there is also a CTO, and 86% of CTOs said there is a CIO at their organization. In addition, 24% perform dual roles, serving as both CIO and CTO.

Both CIOs and CTOs oversee software development, operating in-house developed software, managing SaaS or operating commercial off-the-shelf software, external customer experience and digital transformation. In fact, more than a third (34%) say that ownership of most aspects of digital transformation initiatives is a shared responsibility between the CIO and CTO. In addition, 33% say ownership of the technology for the external customer experience in their organization is a shared responsibility. Another 28% say ownership of managing SaaS or operating commercial off-the-shelf software in their organization is a shared responsibility.

Customer experience tied to digital transformation is the name of the game, no matter what one's title may be. The vast majority (98%) of executives reported that there was an increased focus on digital transformation within their organization in the past 3 years, with 75% of CTOs and CIOs disclosing that this has been the case especially since the Covid crisis began.