What's The Difference Between A CIO And A CTO? - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
04:42 PM
John Soat
John Soat

What's The Difference Between A CIO And A CTO?

I mean, besides that middle letter. Or is that the only difference?

I mean, besides that middle letter. Or is that the only difference?I've always thought of chief information officers and chief technology officers like lions and tigers -- similar in species and temperament, each the master of its domain but separated by a geographic distance that represents the difference between strategy and tactics, applications and theory, projects and product testing.

The reason I ask is because I recently ran across an item from the Government Printing Office, the agency responsible for printing and disseminating documents related to the function of the federal government, such as the Congressional Record and the Federal Register, among many, many others. The government printing office said in a statement that its CIO, Reynold Schweickhardt, will now become its chief technology officer, and its CTO, Michael Wash, will become its CIO.

Simple as that, eh? Just switch those middle letters.

Before joining the GPO in 2003, Schweickhardt was director of technology for the House of Representatives. He'll now be responsible for, according to the statement, "building strategic relationships with industry and government partners to road map important security and technology and processes for the future of the U.S. Passport and other government credentials." Good luck with that, by the way.

Wash joined the GPO in 2004 to build something called the Future Digital System, a digital content system "which will allow federal content creators to easily create and submit content that can then be preserved, authenticated, managed and delivered upon request." Wash will continue to develop FDsys, which is set to launch early next year, along with "managing the operational activities of agency IT systems." That sounds like a pretty full plate.

William Turri, who's identified as "acting Public Printer" and is presumably the head honcho at the Government Printing Office, praised both men and his organization's ability to pull off the switcheroo: "How fortunate GPO is to have this terrific brain trust, with two exceptional information technology leaders to rely upon."

How fortunate GPO is to have two people flexible enough to be willing to trade places like that, I say. What are the difficulties involved in such a switch? I assume there are salary considerations -- certainly there would be in the private sector -- as well as management challenges, such as adjusting for leadership styles. What about vendor relationships, or strengths and weaknesses technology-wise? Office politics?

I'd like to know just how common it is for a CIO and a CTO to exchange jobs. Have you ever done it, or know of someone who has?

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