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When you have a retrospective after an unsuccessful digital initiative, what is most often identified as the challenge that kept projects from moving forward? While there are always external forces at work, the fate of your technology project is often decided during the kickoff phase when you are defining roles and responsibilities. It is absolutely vital that you are able to pull the correct resources into place to define not just the technology requirements, but also the business perspective to keep your innovation project moving forward. Companies continue to struggle with determining whether a CTO or CIO will have the right skill set needed to help usher in a new age of innovation in the enterprise.

Outsourced CIO and Outsourced CTO in Boston

The Role of Technology in Innovation

It would not be overstating to note that technology is core to innovation initiatives in businesses of all sizes. The recent global pandemic situation with COVID-19 outlined the stark reality that much of our innovation is fueled by technology as companies scrambled to revamp their operations in the new reality for business that includes a socially-distanced world. Thousands of individuals were suddenly left without key tools for innovation — such as in-person meetings and client visits, where business leaders and technology professionals would use to generate new ideas to enhance business processes. Solving problems today involves remote work efforts, the quick access to detailed data structures and real-time analytics that aid decision-making for teams. Global companies that are more comfortable connecting remotely to solve problems are accelerating their advances, while some US companies are simply struggling to stay afloat. With all of the changes happening in companies around the world, it’s not surprising that the CTO and CIO are becoming increasingly interconnected in the minds of senior leadership.

There Are Distinctions Between a CIO and CTO in Many Organizations

How does a Chief Information Officer (CIO) differ from a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? While the terms often refer to an individual who has a high degree of technical ability, there is an accepted difference in focus within most organizations. The key differentiator is that a CIO is often considered to be looking inward on the organization — reviewing operational efficiencies, supporting business units and providing a secure and reliable infrastructure for the business. A CTO may be more outwardly focused, working with customers and business professionals to solve problems through the use of innovative new solutions.


  • Often works to streamline internal processes and drive efficiencies
  • Manages all or the majority of the IT infrastructure and operations
  • Supports internal and external business unit technology requirements
  • Aligns business needs with external partners
  • More likely to have bottom-line profitability metrics

CIOs are more likely to begin their careers in front-line technology roles, growing their technical knowledge in a way that supports their high-level view of the organization’s operations and finances.


  • Owns external, customer-facing products such as web applications, websites and mobile engagement
  • Is responsible for directly increasing company revenue
  • Manages all developers and engineers
  • Direct collaboration with a variety of external partners around supply solutions

A CTO is a tech-focused innovator who often has a background in software engineering, with a creative bent and a strong understanding of customer needs and relationships.

Defining the Right Roles to Drive Meaningful Innovation

Making changes simply for the sake of change can be extremely disruptive within any organization. When you are determining the right roles for the future, enterprises often land on having both a CTO and a CIO — while smaller companies tend to lean one way or the other. While there is a great deal of crossover within these two tech-related senior leaders, the role of CTO is often considered to be more collaborative and future-focused, while your CIO is more engaged with operational efficiencies than finding new ways to drive revenue with your customers. The lifecycle of the organization and the complexity of your operations are only a few of the factors that must be considered when you’re defining these roles and considering a shift in executive responsibilities.

Finding the Perfect Balance of Operations and Innovation

Today, companies are likely to find these skills by looking beyond the traditional boundaries of an organization — expanding their thought leadership circle to include trusted partners such as IT managed services providers. With the help of these IT experts, many of the day-to-day operations can be outsourced, leaving internal technical professionals with the space needed to drive innovation and make a solid difference in the future of the organization. In this case, companies may lean towards hiring or appointing a CTO who is well-acquainted with customer needs, while utilizing a fractional CIO or trusted partner to support internal operations. Strategy is at the heart of innovation, and this requires a strong outward focus and exceptional collaboration skills.

Far beyond help desk support, you need a technology partner that will provide you with insight and leadership that will help sustain your business both now and in the future. When you partner with the team at Boston Help Desk, you’ll find a world-class technology team that truly understands the requirements of a complex organization. We work with companies of all sizes to ensure that you have the right people, process and technology alignment that will drive efficiencies and position your business for future growth. Contact our team at 617-302-8920 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation with the experts at Boston Help Desk.

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