Tech leaders' responsibilities are growing fast - and their job titles are expanding along with them. Last year, Forbes posted an article about this topic titled "The Rise of the E Pluribus Unum CIO: Many Titles, One Top Tech Leader" and described how the roles are evolving with the titles following suit. Now there are a number of creative titles like chief information technology officer (CITO) or, as Standard Chartered, an international bank, likes to call their CIO, chief technology officer and transformation officer (CTOTO). What do these title changes mean for the CIO's platform of responsibilities?

Burke Autrey, CEO of Fortum Partners, shares his insights about the new titles and evolving roles of the CIO in his e-book, "The CEO's Guide to Hiring a CIO ". He also describes the important distinctions between a "Digital Leader" and a "Digital Supporter." 

Here is an excerpt from "The CEO's Guide to Hiring a CIO":

"At the heart of the trend is an attempt to separate and elevate the innovation component of the CIO role (the “digital leader” ) from the often less-strategic, more operational, component of the CIO role (the “digital supporter” ).  A more detailed treatment of the implications of this trend may be found in my response to the Forbes article "The Rise of the E Pluribus Unum CIO: Many Titles, One Top Tech Leader ", but elevating innovation within an organization is a complex undertaking that extends well beyond the title of the technology leader.  A simpler explanation is to say that the CIO role has a strategic/innovation component and an operational/tactical component and both must be well-executed and represented on the executive team." 

As a former CIO, Autrey reveals his findings about technology leaders after numerous conversations with clients and fellow CIOs:

"I agree that the role of technology leaders is expanding and evolving. I don't agree that coming up with more titles to describe the One Top Tech Leader is any more helpful than changing the CFO title to "Chief Financial Innovation and Transformation Officer" (A CFO by any other name...). What a technology leader does is already poorly understood by non-technology leaders. Encouraging them to use an array of new titles doesn't solve that problem. In fact, I think it does harm. 

At the risk of oversimplification, the root of this desire to change titles is an organization's desire to increase profit (or valuation) through innovation and the overwhelming agreement that technology is the path to get there. Setting aside exceptions and those along a continuum for the moment, there are fundamentally two types of companies with respect to technology:

1. Those that primarily consume technology to produce their revenue (Technology Consumers) and

2. Those that primarily create technology to produce their revenue (Technology Creators).

Consumers are heavily dependent on the Creators for innovation and transformation - spending the bulk of $4 trillion annually to fund Creators (data center, software, devices, services, communications). Creators are generally rewarded with higher margins and higher valuations. The change in technology leader titles is primarily driven by Consumers wanting to be more Creator-like, not the other way around. Therefore, we see more Consumers using Creator-like, or Creator-influenced, titles to help them get there.

For clarity, Fortium Partners generally refers to the Top Technology Leader in a Technology Consumer organization as the "CIO" and the Top Technology Leader in a Technology Creator organization as the "CTO". Until we come up with something better, that just makes it easier to have a conversation, and my discussions with thousands of technology leaders and hundreds of clients bear this out.

The CTO functions in an organization that is laser-focused and purpose-built, top to bottom, to create great technology products for their Technology Consumer (in B2B, usually the CIO). The CIO functions in an organization, very generally, that is better at building a business case, evaluating, selecting, implementing, and managing technology to provide products and services to their customers. Do Creators consume technology? Yes. Do Consumers create technology? Yes. Is one generally better at it than the other? Yes. And there is the harm I mentioned above.

Changing the technology leader's title doesn't change an organization's ability to become a successful Creator. At best, it is only semantics and drives no real change. At worst, I think it gives an organization that is primarily a Consumer unrealistic expectations of their Creator capabilities and sets up the technology leader for failure."


Author: Fortium Partners

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