Let’s face it, Technology professionals love an acronym. SAP, IBM, DB2, .Net, ITIL, TDD, COPA, ITSM, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, CSS, SAFe, IM, PMBOK, www, JS. I could go on forever.

These days the business community has some confusing acronyms to decipher with today’s Technology Executives job titles. CIO, CDO, CTO, CTO, CXO, CCIO, CDO, CIO, CDO, CTO and no they are not typos, there are actually three CDO roles, two CIO and two CTO roles types in Tech these days.

CDO could be a Chief Digital Officer, or a Chief Data Officer or even Chief Design Officer. CIO could be Chief Information Officer or Chief Innovation Officer. CTO could be Chief Technology Officer or Chief Transformation Officer.

To help with understanding the remit of these roles, here is an expansion on what each role really means.

Chief Information Officer (CIO) – The most senior technology executive in the enterprise that manages the people, process and technology to support the organisation’s strategic and operational goals. Presides over all elements of the organisation’s technology from systems, infrastructure, data, security/governance, architecture, enterprise applications, service delivery and execution. The CIO is typically required to have strong management and financial skills and will present to the board on occasion.

Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) – Primarily responsible for managing innovation and change within an organisation. Often the innovation of an organisation is leveraged via technology. The role is usually occupied by someone with significant technical and functional expertise within a specific industry or element of core business. Can take responsibility for an organisation change agenda/program and needs to be skilled in Change and communication.

Chief Digital Officer (CDO) – Aimed at converting an organisation from analogue (or traditional technology/processes) to digital, or modern/online technologies/data/processes. Often they work within rapidly changing or disputed sectors with a focus on customer engagement. The role of the CDO is to navigate and lead an organisation through the continually evolving technology/digital landscape including mobile/online/data/social media.

Chief Data Officer (CDO) – Is responsible for the enterprise-wide governance and utilisation of data as an asset. The CDO manages the organisation’s data and information strategy, security/governance, quality control, policy, development, reporting/interpretation and monetisation.

Chief Design Officer (CDO) – Is typically charged with all design and innovation aspects of a company’s products and services. These responsibilities can include product/service design, graphic design, UX design or industrial/package/manufacturing design depending on the organisation/industry.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – Will usually lead technology decisions from an architectural and deployment/execution standpoint. Typically reports to the Chief Information Officer, but in technology driven organisations CTOs can lead engineering/development groups and report to the CEO. Other responsibilities can include technology thought leadership, research and development, technology policy and technology architectural/planning.

Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) – Appointed to significantly enhance an organisation’s success in transformation programs or simply to enable an environment where change is constant. A leader that holds the organisation accountable for the hundreds (or thousands) of actions and initiatives that are necessary for a successful transformation program.

Chief Experience Officer (CXO) – Is responsible for the overall experience of an organisation’s products and services. As User Experience (UX) is becoming a key differentiator in the modern business landscape, the CXO is charged with bringing a holistic design experience to the boardroom to make sure it is part of the company’s strategy and culture. Responsibilities can include UX strategy, technology/digital design, data utilisation and working with many of the before mentioned executives to enhance customer engagement.

Now you have an idea about what title to use with your respective Technology Executive, it’s time to hire the right one into your organisation and GITD (Get IT Done).


Damien Ross is Director – Executive Engagement at Davidson Technology