Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dilution of the CIO and CTO Title--part 1

I have been reading some resumes and bios lately and I am stunned by how far down into some corporations the title CIO and, more and more, CTO goes.  I am not referring to large corporations that have large, independent companies such as GE and FedEx.  But relatively small companies with a pretty traditional corporate structure.

The CIO title long ago came to mean "head of IT" instead, in my opinion, of someone working at the CxO level driving innovation, revenue, and customer satisfaction.  But the title has become politicized so that companies have layers and layers of CIO's even when there is a direct reporting relationship to a single CIO.  I really have heard operating company presidents say, "I want my head of IT to have a CIO title too." with no regard to what the role in that operating company actually entails.  Part of this is of course is the operating company president's own desire to build his independent organization and part of it comes from the IT organization wanting their own independence and, of course, from the career aspirations of the operating company head of IT.

But the proliferation of the CTO title is a surprise to me.  It looks like the CTO title can be given to someone with technical decision rights over some domain no matter how small.  I recently saw a bio where the CTO of a really small company wrote that this was his third CTO position and that his last two CTO positions were at (and he was specific but I won't be) large technology companies (e.g. Sun, HP, IBM, or Oracle).  But I know the CTO's at these companies and he wasn't one of them.  So I read closer.  He was the CTO of a small part of a large piece of software.  Like the CTO for the Optimizer for the Oracle database or an extension to Java--not even the CTO for the entire product.  I found that there are layers of CTO positions now with a corporate CTO, a software CTO, product CTO's, and, in this case, product extension CTOs.  Sort of like proclaiming yourself the head chef at the French Laundry in charge of cold sandwiches.

I believe this illustrates huge problems for the IT profession and its relationship to the rest of the business.  Next time let's compare the role of the CFO to the CIO.