CIO vs CTO, Innovation Officer, New Media

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 8 years ago.

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  • #164848

    Steve Ressler

    I was recently talking to a big city that is looking to bring technology innovation into the city. They have a vacant CIO role and they were hoping that position would solve all problems (back-end IT to innovative new projects from open data to new media to disruptive tech).

    My thoughts are that it’s hard to get all that in one position and better to have a CIO and separate CTO or CIO and separate innovation officer or new media head.

    Agree? Disagree? Any good examples of cities with both?

    What does job responsibilities break down? Any job vacancies I can send over?

  • #164866

    Steve Ressler

    Good answer I received over email

    in short, it’s tricky, and it depends on what they are trying to achieve. The title CIO, as everyone knows, stands for “Chief Information Officer” — when the title/position was created, the general intention was for this individual to be at the table at the highest levels of an organization, using “information” (machine generated data) to help make important business/organizational decisions. In the intervening years, this role has really come to function more as a back-office manager of IT resources (people, processes and hardware/software), while the business decision making gets pushed to different people.

    I would argue that a forward thinking organization should hire a true Chief Information Officer which is more geared towards what the role was meant to be — specifically, that individual sits at the highest level of the org and is constantly thinking about ways to leverage information and data to make better decisions. If you do that, there’s a need for someone to manage the infrastructure, and you have a choice — you can put this individual under this new/old CIO concept or you can separate it. The problem with putting it under the CIO is that you’ll probably just get the same old CIO position. What might make sense is creating a position called “Director of IT Infrastructure” or something similar and putting it under a COO-type role. If you do these, you’ve got someone thinking about leveraging data for business decision-making, and you’ve got someone managing infrastructure. What you’re missing is the transformational change piece, and that’s where the “CTO” comes in. The downside with the word “CTO” is that it assumes that technology is the only piece necessary to engender change which is not true — often it’s process and/or culture that needs to be addressed. Therefore, I would advocate for an Innovation title, with a small staff and budget, who focuses on ways to change status-quo processes in the org through any combination of process, culture, and technology, and who works closely with all the heads of business units and the Director of IT Infrastructure.

  • #164864

    Susan Smoter

    When I was offered and accepted a federal CTO position, I asked why not call this the CIO? The answer I received was we don’t know about our information, but our technology needs help! I think this is the crux of the matter and as the previous reply stated, it’s about the IT and not the information assets. When the CIO position was created, it WAS about the information. Clearly it’s taken 20 years to come back to the need for solid, well designed information architectures and strategies for managing and using information assets. I’m glad we’re back at this fundamental now – we can’t have good online services, agency sharing and other digital government initiatives work without focusing on the data!

  • #164862

    Vaughn Ripley

    I agree that two roles (CIO and CTO) are needed in this scenario. My background and understanding was always that the CIO was as the email response said, someone who sits at the highest level of the organization. My experience has also been that the CTO reports to the CIO and has a very different job role/function. Simply stated, the CIO is responsible for all forms of IT and data and how they affect the company. This differs from the CTO’s role of externally facing IT and data. It’s all very confusing, and each agency/company does it differently making it even more difficult to discern and decide.

    Great question that raises some interesting thoughts!

  • #164860

    Kaye Carney

    And is the CTO acronym for ‘Chief Technology Officer’?

  • #164858

    David Dejewski

    As the former CIO for Navy Medical Logistics, I’ve seen this question countless times. I like all the answers on this string so far. I believe CIO and CTO should be separate functions. The size of the organization and the scope of the goals will help to determine how many other C-level executives are needed.

    Here are a couple of resources I’ve found useful to look at when considering this question:

    The Clinger Cohen Act of 1996 formally defined the role of the CIO. Consult the document and look for Section 5125 (or Section 3506 of title 44). The rest of Clinger Cohen is something I would consider mandatory reading for any CIO.

    I first saw the CIO wheel in the late 90’s as part of a Federal CIO training program offered through the Defense Acquisitio…. This wheel very nicely displays the domain of the CIO. As we can see, it is about much more than technology – though technology is a big part.

    When I was CIO, I found the greatest value I offered the executive board was my ability to move seamlessly between three world: Legal, Technical, and Business. I imagined these worlds intersecting like a venn diagram.

    • When I was talking with the legal folks, I brought technology and business requirements to the discussion.
    • When I was talking with the business folks, I brought technology limitations and capabilities, and legal boundaries / enablers to the discussion.
    • When I was talking with techies, I brought legal boundaries / enablers and business requirements to the discussion.

    Even though I had no formal CTO, I did have my chief techies who basically fulfilled that role. There was no way I could keep up with all the legal, technical and business demands AND maintain an in depth technical proficiency. I was a translator more than a designer, programmer or technical troubleshooter. I translated techie into terms that others could understand – and vice versa. I knew how to motivate, prioritize, and delegate.

    Imagine the fun in the board room when someone started throwing around the word “System.” Legal folks interpreted it one way, business folks another, and technical folks a third way. I really loved that word.

  • #164856

    David Dejewski

    Yes, Kaye.

  • #164854

    Zenny Sadlon

    David, I like your “translator” analogy very much.

    I’m afraid I’ll be viewed as beeing off topic. But I believe it is important for people working at this high altitude view level to come to grips with this issue sooner or later. What strikes me about the great CIO domain wheel is the same thing that strikes me about Enterprise Architecture: When all is said and done, it’s about managing real-world processes on the ground level, where the productive work is done. And those process are not rigorously delineated and modeled for all the process role-players to behold, comprehend and own. (System-engineering-based use-cases and other techniques are not good enough to surface the business needs to build IT systems and applications to.) Until we insist on having “maps” of the process people are enganged in any enterprise, we’ll be missing the mark with too many solutions. How can we talk about improving something the end users find a fault with if we cannot present them with a picture of their world that they construct and approve as a fair representation of it and let us build to it?

  • #164852

    Dennis Snyder

    I think Zenny is on to the real issue. A name is a name, but how it fits into your particular organization, what problems are solved by that role, and how that role affects the mission of delivering products and services is what the discussion is about. I have been in organizations where IT was too small to have separate CIO and CTO roles. I have seen others where CTO exists in a back-corner closet to be poked and prodded only when there’s a problem nobody else wants to handle. I have yet to see the CTO as a dynamic and influential member of executive leadership on equal footing with the C-gang.

    Roles and tools are made to address spcific circumstances unique to the environment. I would encourage caution when creating CTO’s until the niche to be filled can be articulated completely.

  • #164850

    Chris Cairns

    Definitely two different roles. @David: great response.

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