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The Major Differences Between CDO VS CTO in 2024

Written By Sidrah Nizami – Last Modified On May 15, 2024

In a startup, there are quite a few executive offices in operation. However, most companies do not always consider the position of a CDO (Chief Digital Officer). This is because many companies still don’t accept the office as a whole, and the role of a CDO in a digital startup isn’t clear.

In this article, we examine two stances that have caused a lot of IT firms to become perplexed. Many have questioned whether key differences between CDO and CTO offices are combined or separate. A tech startup requires a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) and a CTO.

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What is a chief technology officer (CTO)?

The executive overseeing technology within a company is known as the chief technology officer. This might involve everything from developing a technology strategy to product development and cybersecurity. They must be able to integrate digital innovation with corporate objectives by comprehending broad technological trends.

Any CTO role should have a solid understanding of personnel technology infrastructure, but historically, that might have been the sole requirement. However, in recent years, the position has become much more customer-focused, necessitating a significant expansion of the skill set.

Some technical expertise needs to be put on hold, or at the very least put on an equal footing with the leadership and technology management competencies you’ll need to succeed as a tech leader.

And for most technologists, who have grown up with and become experts at the technical while not always having a natural flair for the managerial, that’s not always a simple step.

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What is a chief digital officer (CDO)?

A senior executive known as a chief digital officer (CDO) is in charge of the governance, administration, and use of digital throughout the organisation. Various tools and services, such as business intelligence, digital mining, data management, digital transformation, advanced analytics, machine learning, and even artificial intelligence, are used to manage and exploit this digital.

The definitions and duties of a chief digital officer (CDO), chief analytics officer (CAO), and chief technical officer (CTO) may overlap depending on the firm. The chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer is typically the person to whom the CDO reports, in addition to the chief executive officer (CEO). The chief digital officer (CDO) occasionally reports to the chief technology officers (CTOs) or chief information officers (CIOs).

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The chief digital transformation leaders and chief marketing officer (CMO) frequently collaborate to leverage digital to enhance client relations and interactions, support the customer experience, and ultimately generate sales.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CDO

The CDO role should be looking for chances to use digital analytics, whether it is to forecast customer patterns or discover fresh avenues for producing money.

Customer digital, digital obtained from the Internet of Things sensors, social media digital, structured digital, or unstructured digital are all digital that the organization may collect internally or acquire from a third party. The CDO is responsible for ensuring digital security and upkeep.

Still, their job entails more than just making technical decisions about where to store the digital (e.g., in a digital warehouse, digital lake, or master digital management). Instead, the CDO must assist the company in realizing the value of this digital asset so that it may be mined for information and a competitive edge.

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The CDO has the highest level of responsibility for the organization’s strategic use of digital. This is necessary for the enterprise to operate more efficiently, for employees to be more productive, and for other decision makers to modify established revenue streams, better engage with current customers, find new ones, and develop new business strategies.

The CDO role must carry out these tasks using various technologies and tools, such as machine learning,  IoT, AI, the cloud, advanced analytics, and business intelligence software. Building a team of digital specialists comprehending the organisation’s culture, goals, and industry is a crucial component of the CDO function. They can use digital analysis to handle issues, challenges, risks, and opportunities.

To guarantee lifecycle digital quality and management, the CDO is also in charge of developing and upholding the organization’s digital governance policies and processes. The CDO must collaborate with C-suite executives to complete these tasks. The CDO role is also expected to collaborate closely with other senior executives whose roles involve digital, such as chief information security officers (CISOs), who are responsible for the organization’s digital security, or legal, compliance, and risk managers, who ensure digital policies comply with legal requirements.

Qualifications of a CDO

You would be on the right track if you obtained a PhD in a digital-related discipline, such as digital science, computer science, information management systems, statistics, or analytics. If it sounds too demanding, upgrading one’s digital scientist or analyst skills might be facilitated by a postgraduate business analytics and business intelligence program.

It will make it easier for persons without IT or analytics credentials to advance in these positions and advance their careers to become CDOs.

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As a senior digital analyst or digital science professional with practical experience managing a team, you would need more than ten years of experience. It will also be helpful if you have experience developing digital science initiatives and supporting and promoting analytics within an enterprise.

Career Path to Become a CDO

The chief digital officer is a senior position. Thus it typically takes some time for people to think about it while applying for positions. You can take advantage of this if you’ve recently started your career by developing a thorough career strategy that will enable you to find a CDO more quickly. To make that happen, follow these crucial professional steps:

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1- Consider formal education

Many firms demand formal schooling in business or their specialized field from candidates for C-suite positions. While you can advance to this career without a degree, taking undergraduate business technology or digital courses is strongly recommended.

Consider earning a postgraduate degree after completing your undergraduate studies to position yourself as an authority in your subject and pursue better career prospects down the road. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a degree in technology is useful for master’s degrees for aspiring CDOs.

2- Establish your network.

It’s beneficial to network with more seasoned digital workers when you’re first entering the industry. By interacting with you, you can learn new skills and more about the various professions in digital analytics and management professions.

Consider signing up for a business networking site or going to conferences or events in your sector to start expanding your network. By doing these activities, you can also improve your interpersonal abilities, which are crucial for chief digital officers because they frequently interact with several executives, stakeholders, and other business members.

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3- Perform an internship

Consider getting an internship before finishing your degree. Internships in the business world are a terrific way to put your talents to the test and see whether digital management is the right job for you. You might get the chance to observe an accomplished digital executive in action during an internship and learn about their typical day.

You can speak with the student office at your university or approach a lecturer to inquire about career options for students to find an exciting internship position. You can also get in touch with nearby tech businesses that handle massive amounts of digital.

4- Work in analytics, digital transformation or digital science.

Consider looking for an entry-level position in digital science or analytics, depending on your area of expertise. This step allows you to strengthen your resume by developing useful initiatives while assisting a company’s digital department.

To advance your career in this profession, you would learn how to efficiently gather, handle, and analyze digital as a junior digital analyst. Finding a job in a firm like the one you want to manage as a chief digital officer may improve your chances in the future if you already know which organization you want to lead.

5- Obtain some managerial experience

Employers frequently only consider chief digital officers with previous executive experience. This typically includes doing anything from managing others to serving as a senior executive for a business.

Employers may be certain that you have some business strategy management expertise. They can successfully lead their digital team or department while assisting the organisation in achieving its enterprise goals thanks to this qualification.

6- Learn to express your business strategy, abilities, and knowledge

You should understand how to present your talents and expertise successfully because the hiring process for executive positions can be complicated. It boosts your chances of moving on to the next round of interviews or perhaps receiving a job offer from your ideal company if you know how to impress a hiring manager or potential employer. You can explore typical chief digital officer interview questions and practice responses to help you learn how to prove your skills during recruitment. Additionally, it’s crucial to work on developing confident body language.

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What are the key differences between CDO VS CTO?

Perhaps, the few points presented above have clarified the distinct roles these executives play in a digital business. To avoid confusion with the Chief Digital Officer position, which is frequently referred to as CDO, the Chief Digital Officer is simply in charge of all matters about data administration, analysis, and exploitation in a startup.

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A CDO is required for the efficient handling and administration of such big data because the amount of data generated, examined, and used by businesses and startups every day is in the millions of terabyte range. We are all aware of the potential consequences of improper data quality handling for a software firm.

A startup’s chief technology officer (CTO) is the executive in charge of technology or engineering.

In a tech company, the role of the CTO is well defined and does not conflict with that of the CDO. The CTO and CDO are two distinct roles on the board of executives. It is simple to say.

Should a company Hire a CTO or a CDO?

Today, the CDO’s responsibilities go beyond simply collecting, archiving, and protecting organizational digital. These business leaders primarily concentrate on changing business processes and customer-facing solutions, enhancing the digital experience, and decentralizing IT with new business models as digital and analytics continue to become increasingly important for decision-making. The epidemic further underscores the relevance of this CEO position in contemporary digital organizations that rely on digital-driven decisions. CDOs will continue to be important in deciding an organization’s success in the information era when digital is king.

The employment outlook for a Chief Technology Officer is still favorable due to the quick transition that more and more firms are making toward digital transformation. Many businesses are searching for the most cutting-edge technologies today. Tech specialists with experience using these tools are frequently needed for this project.

Bringing a CTO on board can help firms change with the rapidly evolving tech ecosystem. CTOs are adept with technology and fantastic at growing a company.

What are the salaries of a CDO and a CTO?

The average annual salary of chief digital officers in Europe is roughly 616,000 US dollars or 604,976.68 euros. It is significantly more than paying for similar tasks in other hierarchical levels. Salary levels have increased dramatically in the USA. You have the potential to make up to USD 1,000,000 (952 800 Euros) here. 

The average CTO compensation, according to PayScale, is $164,349 per year. For businesses in various areas and industries, salaries range. However, the typical CTO compensation is between $90,000 and $248,000.

The highest tech executive post, the CTO, commands significant compensation. In the past, the CIO also served as the CTO. However, the technical development team is increasingly essential to the expansion of every business. As a result, businesses realized that the roles of CTOs and CIOs must be distinct.

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Bottom Line

Regarding the comparison itself, whose position on the board should the CTO or CDO hold in a tech startup?

The straightforward response to this analogy is that they are two distinct locations on the board because they are in different positions.

More specifically, it is anticipated that the CDO and CTO will collaborate to quicken the speed of a rapidly expanding tech startup.

Since the CTO position is crucial for businesses engaged in digital marketing and online sales, it is frequently one of the company’s first hires and a foundational department. CDO is the contrary.

For many years before the CDO position was formally added to the organization, the CTO filled the position of CDO. The CTO will be the cornerstone for driving transformation, with the CDO working to grow new technology stacks and digital use.


Which is higher, CIO or CDO?

CIOs are, in essence, frequently the top IT executives in a company. The CIO, who in turn reports to the CEO and the board, oversees the work of many other IT leaders, including CDOs.

Does the CDO report to the CTO?

The chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer is typically the person to whom the CDO reports, in addition to the chief executive officer (CEO) (CFO). The chief digital officer (CDO) occasionally reports to the chief technology officer (CTO) or chief information officer (CIO).

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