What is a Director of IT vs a CIO?

November 7, 2019 0 Comments
director of IT vs CIO

One of the most central components of running a business today is technology. The technology a business uses affects every aspect of its operations. What’s more, staying up to date with new developing technology gives you an edge on your competitors. This makes having a clear understanding of management roles in your IT department essential. Does your business have a Director of IT, a CIO, both? Are you making the most out of their positions? This post will look at some of the key distinctions between the roles of a director of IT vs a CIO.


What Is a Director of IT?

The Director of technology typically operates under the guidance of the CIO and may manage small teams in the IT department. The IT Director’s tasks mainly have to do with overseeing daily tasks and operations.

This can include duties such as:

  • managing staff
  • project management
  • supervising the installation and maintenance of new software and hardware

While both the Director of IT and the CIO are leadership roles within the technology department, the director of IT handles more immediate and specific concerns. This could look like troubleshooting problematic technology issues and keeping operational procedures running smoothly.


What Is a CIO?

Similar to the Director of IT, the CIO is a technology leadership position. It’s a more senior role that usually requires years of experience working in related fields. The CIO is the head of the IT department and offers guidance to the Director of IT.

CIO tasks include:

  • suggesting updates to existing information systems
  • creating department budgets
  • managing funds
  • creating and enforcing department protocol

CIOs can also help to identify strategic technology partners that will help improve a company’s infrastructure.


What’s the Difference? 

In some companies, there isn’t a clear distinction between the roles of an IT Director and a CIO. This can be problematic and can hold a company back. The difference between the two positions has mainly to do with scope. Where the IT Director’s focus is narrower and more concentrated, the CIO is focused on broader concerns that affect the trajectory of the business.

The Director of IT is much more involved with day-to-day operations on a closer level. They interact closely with the IT team to make sure things are running smoothly. The CIO, on the other hand, is more concerned with the bigger picture. They work closely with the CEO in making the best technological decisions for the business. The CIO is a strategic position, one that focuses on long-term goals and facilitating business growth.


Which Does Your Business Need?

Both of these positions are highly important. By handling the different IT aspects of your business, they both work to keep operations running efficiently and to help your business grow in the best way possible. However, the specific needs of each company are what truly dictate the need for either position.


Director of IT

For most sizable companies, it’s necessary to employ a Director of IT. Technology has become so integrated with doing business that having a professional dedicated to making sure it runs smoothly is all but necessary. For larger companies, there may even be multiple IT Directors. In short, if your company relies on technology to do business and is large enough to afford an IT Director, it’s a wise investment.


What to Look for in a Director of IT

The ideal IT Director will have key qualifications that go beyond a high level of technical expertise. It should go without saying that the right Director of IT for your company is someone with a wealth of technical experience. What’s also important, though, is that they possess strong leadership, communication, and financial skills.

It’s important for the IT Director to have strong leadership skills so that they can effectively manage the IT team. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is also essential because regular communication between the IT team, the Director of IT, and the CIO will help your business operate at top efficiency. Clear communication also means that your company’s vision won’t get lost in translation. Financial skills can come in handy because the Director of IT will need to work with a budget and do some forecasting.



While CIOs certainly bring technical experience to the table, their real value lies in their business management capabilities. This role is most useful to companies who have gotten bigger than they once were and who need to modernize their internal systems. A CIO can help companies like this get an edge on the competition and make the best strategic maneuvers possible. In times of transition, the best option can be to search for an interim CIO member to keep your business operating at peak efficiency.

Depending on the size of your company, you may or may not be able to afford a full-time in-house CIO. This isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether or not you need CIO services, though. Fortunately, there are other options. Enlisting fractional CIO services is a great way to gain expert insight without committing to hiring a full-time CIO.


What to Look for in a CIO 

The right CIO for any company will have excellent business management skills and expert-level knowledge of the latest information systems. In short, the right candidate will be someone who can act as an advisor to other C-level executives and has the experience to make business decisions that steer your company in the right direction.


Final Thoughts on Considering a Director of IT vs CIO

Understanding the difference between the roles of Director of IT vs a CIO and how they can best serve your company gives you an advantage in the marketplace. It positions you to make the best decisions possible and to make sure you’ve got the right people around to implement them.

Whether it’s time to reevaluate your IT strategies or take your business to the next level, be sure to consider the value a CIO (or even a Surge or Gap one- we will discuss this later) can bring to your organization.


We Help Lead Your Company into the Future

Contact us here: our team of professionals have decades of experience working in technology executive roles and are well-equipped to coach and mentor leaders across multiple industries. We offer fractional CIO resources and our Surge CIO™ or Gap CIO™ solutions as well.

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What is a Director of IT vs a CIO?
Technology for any business is crucial to success. Here are the roles of a director of IT vs a CIO and which one would be a better fit for your company.

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