CIO, CTO or Director of IT: Choosing the right option For Your SMB

When it comes to deciding on an individual to take on a leadership role for the Information Technology department at your small to mid-size business, selecting the right person is crucial but complicated.  Before interviewing candidates, however, you need to define the role.

There are three common titles with differing levels of responsibility: CIO, CTO or Director of IT. In all three of these roles, the IT leader would oversee information systems as well as the company’s underlying technology. These roles can include strategy and business process, too. These three different IT leadership positions can oversee management of information, digital and online. Further, they can oversee office and facilities management.

Despite some similarities, there are some elements that distinguish the roles.


CIO – Chief Information Officer Role

The CIO of an organization is one that focuses on business process alignment. The Chief Information Officer will place an emphasis on the management of information and business strategy. Also, the CIO will really pay close attention to operations and the delivery of the company’s technology. This includes infrastructure and the way third party service providers are managed.


CTO – Chief Technology Officer Role

The CTO job often dedicates most of their time and resources to software development. This could be for digital projects or ecommerce – as well as customer interactive systems and customer portals. The CTO is likely to be more focused on profitability.


Director of IT Role

The Director of IT is quite vast in responsibilities. The Director of IT, oftentimes, will be a leader in the strategy of all kinds of IT areas in the business, as well as keep track of how the organization applies technology resources. A person in this role would need to possess a background in software development and business systems. The Director of Information Technology job title can cover project, infrastructure and facilities alike.

With an understanding of the subtle differences, now ask yourself a few of the following questions before coming to any conclusions as to what job title – and accountabilities – your business needs.


Who will the technology leader will report to?

Keep in my mind that regardless of the job title, this IT leadership position will need to work with all departments, company-wide. The CIO, CTO or Director of Technology will want to update processes and the way the people in the organization operate. This role will be a part of executive management or the senior management team. This may mean that this technology leader will need to report to the Chief Executive Officer.


Will your new IT leader be in charge of the organization’s “Digital Vision?”

If you are company in the ecommerce sector or if you possess a marketing team that relies heavily on promoting with social media platforms, will the CIO, CTO or Director of IT be held accountable for digital initiatives? What is needed to execute the company’s digital vision? It is imperative to decide before browsing senior technology candidates’ resumes.


Do you need the senior technology leader to manage suppliers or do you need a person to build a team?

Before selecting a title and advertising your senior technology leader job opening, take into consideration if the organization’s technology workers are outsourced or if they are full time employees or dedicated contractors. If the technology is mainly outsourced, that would mean the executive leader would need a background in contract management. This person must possess strong negotiation skills and be well-experienced in procurement. If the technology workforce is sourced from within the organization, that would mean your leader would need strong interpersonal skills, excellent leadership qualities and be able to motivate and inspire a team atmosphere.


Is there already a sound technical infrastructure in the organization?

Determine if the CIO, CTO, or Director of IT will be leading a group of capable technical professionals or if vision and oversight is needed, along with direction. There is a vast difference. To set your tech leader up for success, it is best to have the business’s ducks in a row. Determine your needs, first, before recruiting for the or even creating the job description and list of accountabilities.

Answering a few of the significant questions as mentioned in this article and planning for the big picture in will help determine which type of technology leadership is best-suited for your business.