Monday, August 02, 2004

There is No "I" in "CTO"

Within the IT community the title CTO is often synonymous with CIO, or perhaps subordinate to it. On the wider stage of companies that use technology to enhance their profits and competitive position, the title CTO has a unique meaning that has little to do with the CIO.

Where the CIO deals with IT services to support the company's internal operations, and sometimes external interfaces with customers, the CTO is more often focused on the development of technologies that have a direct impact on future company products. For example, Pat Gelsinger, CTO of Intel, does not handle anything to do with Intel's IT systems - internal or external. Gelsinger is directing the research, partnerships, and PR of Intel such that they are positioned for the future intersection of computing and communications. Intel sees that in the future the line between these two domains will blur and disappear. They do not intend to allow their products to be limited to the computing side of that integration. This is even more important because their competitors (e.g. AMD and Transmeta) could move squarely into the center of the computing/communicating space and displace Intel as the primary player. Gelsinger's #1 mission is top position the company so that that does not happen.

The "T" in CTO is generic. It is not limited to information, IT, computers, networks, or the Internet. It refer to the exploration of new drug development at Novartis, the creation of new construction techniques at ABB, the invention of new power sources at GE, and the incorporation of lighter airplane composites at Boeing.

CTO = Strategic technology positioning for future competitiveness - specifically applied to new products and services.

CIO = Strategic application of IT to improve internal performance - including the information interface to the customer.


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