I had an opportunity to have a recent conversation with my son, a Penn State student who was reviewing for an upcoming exam covering technology. It was a little technical, from my opinion, for a Hotel Restaurant Institution Management (HRIM) Major. He asked me the difference between a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and a CIO (Chief Information Officer). My prospective has always been that the CIO straddles both disciplines... the CTO, however, is more firmly situated on the technical side of the house.
CIOs are people with one foot in the business, and another in technology. They focus on ensuring that technology projects are properly staffed and funded, and align with the requirements of the business. They are not fully a business executive, nor a technology executive. They can provide technology leadership and bridge communications obstacles between technical and business leaders. This may include requirements for improving inventory turns, integrating new acquisitions, or speeding receivable collections. They are savvy in justifying the need to invest in technology in a way that's easy to understand for business executives. They are "bilingual", and can communicate with both technical and business leaders on their levels.
I'm in an ITS Collaborative group. We've recently been discussing the differences between roles. I - information role, with a business focus... IT - one foot in each discipline, and T - with a fully technical focus. Depending on your customers, there is a requirement to meet them on their terms, and discuss their needs using terms familiar to their discipline. Where are you? Are you an I, IT, or T? Or, does it depend which project you're undertaking, and which customer you are engaging.
The bottom line is simple, in IT we must provide a service and add value. If we cannot communicate with our customers, then we will be unable to meet their requirements. We should be trained on optimizing business process by reviewing them with an fresh, independent perspective. Technology should enhance an add value to a business by streamlining processes, improving access to data, and empowering continued growth for a business. We need to be able to identify the value we add, and communicate payback on technology investments using terms common to the disciplines we serve.