As the founder of a cloud software company, I am the self imposed CTO. I have no formal CTO training other then a passion for emerging technology. In a company full of PHd's, I have probably the least technical credentials with no formal post secondary education. As a CTO I view my job as the technical leader. My job is to stay ahead of the curve, spotting trends or even sometimes helping to create the trends based on what I see as a continued evolution occurring in computing. In this new information driven world, ideas have become the new currency and in this, I see my role as not only the technical leader but also the creative leader. I continually try to educate myself on the various emerging technologies with an eye toward their practical implementation within either our cloud software platform or within our customers infrastructures.
For me thought leadership is also a very important aspect of my job. For example, this very blog, is a way for me to publicly think through various concepts with a kind of public peer review.
I do admit, the job of a CTO can greatly vary depending on your company size and the market segment. Like any executive job role there is room for a standard deviation within it's definition. Most will agree there is no common definition of a CTO or it's responsibilities, apart from that of acting as the senior-most technologist in an organization. The role can also greatly vary depending on the type of work, industry or market segment of the organization. More over a CTO can be thought of as a "Jack of all technical trades" and possibly a master of some.
I found the follow excerpt on wikipedia contrasting the differences of a CIO Vs CTO particularly insightful, "The focus of a CTO may be contrasted with that of a CIO in that, whereas a CIO is predisposed to solve problems by acquiring and adapting ready-made technologies, a CTO is predisposed to solve problems by developing new technologies. In practice, each will typically blend both approaches."
"In an enterprise whose primary technology concerns are addressable by ready-made technologies, a CIO might be the primary representative of technology issues at the executive level. In an enterprise whose primary technology concerns are addressed by developing new technologies, or the general strategic exploitation of intellectual property held by the company, a CTO might be the primary representative of these concerns at the executive level."
"A CTO is focused on technology needed for products and technology sold to clients where a CIO is an internal facing job focused on technology to run the company and maintaining the platform to run services to sell to clients."So basically a CTO is in charge of technology whether a phone system, security system, storage system or anything that has a technological aspect. In contrast the CIO leads the management of data / information and how it's utilized.
With the rise of cloud computing the role of the CIO is quickly becoming one of the most important jobs in any well manged business. Information has become a disruptive tool and defining the information architecture while assuring a near realtime access to an ever expanding world of data will be the key metric in which successful and competitive businesses are measured. I won't go as far as saying the role of the CTO is becoming less important, but the role of the CIO is certainly more important then ever before and this is especially true of most modern data driven companies.
I believe we are in the midst of a realtime information revolution. No longer can we sit back and analyze what happened yesterday, we must focus on what is happening now or even what will happen tomorrow. Those companies who have the most efficient access to a realtime data stream will dominate and the CIO not the CTO will be the person who will have the most influence in bringing about this coming corporate information revolution.