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CSO, CTO & CIO: Know the C-Level Difference

6 Jan, 2009 By: Carla Nasse imageSource

CSO, CTO & CIO: Know the C-Level Difference

all heard about too many chiefs yet not enough people doing the work. Most of us
probably have personal experience with that situation.  We all know about CEOs,
CFOs and COOs.  We also know that if the top person in IT says“ No, not on this
network” our big connected solution just got moved to the “lost deal” file.
We’ve learned that the IT person is an integral part of our approval process if
we are selling something besides just hardware. The larger the prospect, the
more difficult it can be to determine who is the right IT person. Here’s your
primer on all the new IT chiefs.

We’ve learned that the IT person is an integral part of our approval process
if we are selling something besides just hardware.  The larger the prospect the
more difficult it can be to determine who is the right IT person.  Here’s your
primer on all the new IT chiefs.

CIO / Chief Information Officer

Normally, the CIO will report to the CEO and is responsible for strategic
planning of information technology and computer systems that will support the
growth and goals of the company.  This is one of the more familiar titles and
most commonly found in medium to large size companies. 

CTO / Chief Technology Officer

Although sometimes confused with or used interchangeably with CIO, the CTO’s
function has a different focus.  While the CIO is looking forward and
determining strategic planning, the CTO is responsible for the scientific and
technical concerns.  A system crash keeps the CTO awake at night.   The CTO
develops the contingency plans and the “what if’s.” 

CSO / Chief Security Officer

Everyone is concerned with security.  The person that lays awake at night
worrying about the security of the company’s computer systems is the CSO.  The
biggest concern has always been an intrusion from outside the network via the
Internet.  These days the concerns range from corporate espionage or damage from
a disgruntled employee, to viruses and lost laptops, PDAs and Blackberrys.  In
some organizations, physical security is added to the responsibility. In some
circles, it is thought that security is security, whether it’s physical or
computer networks.  There can be slightly different terminology.  Chief Security
Architect, Chief Information Security Officer, Security Manager, Corporate
Security Officer and Information Security Manager are all titles that would
include these responsibilities.

CCO / Chief Compliance Officer

This is one of the newer titles for the chiefs.  With the growing number of
regulatory requirements, compliance is an increasing concern.  Internal policies
and procedures are also part of the mission.  Most companies now have policies
regarding employee use of the computer, network and Internet.  There are also
policies regarding the retention of files, both electronic and paper.  In some
companies, CCO can also mean Corporate Compliance Officer, but the
responsibilities would be the same.

CKO / Chief Knowledge Officer

The concept and planned implementation of sharing knowledge across the
enterprise was relatively unheard of ten years ago.  This practice involves data
mining and a means of then pushing the information out to the workers.  In
addition to gathering and organizing data, the CKO must develop a plan for
refining and disseminating the information as well. 

CDO / Chief Data Officer

This is the person who develops and manages the company’s data processing
and data mining.  Generally, only very large organizations have a CDO.  Some of
these are Citigroup, Capitol One, and Yahoo. 

CNO / Chief Networking Officer

Instead of being involved with the planning or day to day operation of the
company’s computer systems, the CNO more commonly is responsible for connecting
people and businesses within the company, with other companies and the

on the size of the prospect, any one or all of these positions may be on the
organization chart.  The definitions I’ve given here are the generally accepted
roles within a company, but every company may define a role differently.

As with any aspect of the sales function, you have to check it out to ensure
that you have all the bases covered.  Any one or all of these could play a role
in the decision process.

Carla Nasse is  a member of CompTIA who helped develop the PDI+
certification for the document technology channel & specializes in IT training
and consulting.  At


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