CIOs today are faced with many decisions and fewer and fewer of those decision have much to do with technology per se and much more to do with how technology affects the operations and long-term prospects of the businesses they are in.
Because of this, today's CIOs often come from non-technical disciplines. Obviously, they have to understand technology, but they also have to be good managers with a solid set of business skills that a CIO of even five years ago may have lacked.
And, as companies lean more and more on technology for productivity gains and business process streamlining, vendor partnering and other B2B network integrations, the need for someone to decide exactly which technologies are the right ones to accomplish the business' goals could become increasingly crucial and common, says Jan Sibley, vice president of ThoughtWorks, a systems integrator, and a former CIO at Washington Mutual Home Loans
''It could be an emerging trend based on the factors of the world we live in today,'' she says. ''The amount of data trafficked now was incomprehensible 10 years ago. The security issues, the vendor complexities, the things introduced by homeland security, for example, are daunting in a way that I don't think were daunting before.''
Today, CTOs are more commonly found in either start-up companies too small for a traditional CIO and technology companies whose main focus is looking into the future in anticipation of the next great product trend, says Ryan Jones, a venture capitalist with Commonwealth Capital in Boston.
''The CTO is most valuable when there is a great deal of change in the development of the product and the market into which the product is launched,'' he says.
Since the IT landscape changes so rapidly for users as well, expanding this idea to include the enterprise reveals a CTO can perform the same function but in an internal-facing role, says Sibley. In this role, the CTO (often reporting to the CIO) takes a strategic blueprint of the company's goals and figures out where and how technology can help accomplish those goals.