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CIO, CTO, or CISO: Which one do I need?

We’re often approached by ambitious mid-market CEOs looking to transform their business with IT and technology. The question of how to do it depends on the particular business. (When a salesperson tells you their product is exactly what you need to fix all your problems, hide your wallet.) What all these businesses have in common, however, is the need for an experienced, business-minded IT expert in the C-suite who can lead the transformation.

Another question quickly arises: What kind of expert? Does your mid-market business need a CIO, a CTO, or a CISO? Let’s take you briefly through each position so you can make an informed decision.

What is a CIO?

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a senior-level position with ultimate responsibility for technology, teams, and suppliers. CIOs provide clear oversight of systems, processes, data reporting, and staff — when it comes to IT and technology, the buck stops with them.

CIOs will actively contribute to C-suite discussions on higher-level decisions and will ensure the IT solutions support the business strategy. Their focus is on business improvements, risk management, and cybersecurity, rather than delivering the day-to-day technology.

In addition, CIOs drive integration, automation, and transformation projects, such as an ERP or custom software development.

CIOs have decades of experience in all aspects of technology and IT, so they tend to earn high salaries. (See our article on CIO salaries.)

What is a CTO?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is also a senior-level position, someone with deep business and IT experience who can create, lead, and deliver technology strategies and solutions to accelerate business growth. The CTO, however, will be more involved with delivering technology initiatives, for example overseeing the development of custom software or apps.

For organizations with both a CIO and CTO, the CIO is usually senior. But the positions should be complementary, especially if a business is looking to grow. And while there will of course be overlap in terms of skillsets, they are two different positions, with different career paths.

CTOs also have decades of experience and tend to earn high salaries, if not quite as high as a CIO. (See our article on how to determine CTO salaries.)

What is a CISO?

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is also a senior-level executive, and usually works closely with a CIO and/or a CTO. As a mid-market business becomes larger and more complex, it often needs a specialist to own and lead cybersecurity, so they hire a CISO.

A CISO is specifically responsible for the security and safekeeping of technology, information, and systems. They communicate risk mitigation strategies to their senior colleagues in plain English, while driving the leadership and cultural changes that make security a reality.

This means that CISOs have ownership of cybersecurity for a business’s infrastructure, applications, and systems and processes. They manage information risk and regulatory compliance, as well as disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

CISOs are highly specialized and in-demand, so they too command high salaries.

Paying for a CIO, CTO, or CISO

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the differences between the positions and what your own business may need. There is also the question of how to pay for them. Mid-market businesses often don’t want, don’t need, or can’t find a full-time CIO, CTO, or CISO. That’s why Freeman Clarke uses the fractional or part-time model. (See our article, Why Fractional?)

We are not a recruitment firm. We’re a team of 85 senior-level CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs who can join your senior leadership team to own and deliver your IT strategy and cybersecurity on a fractional basis.

This means that we bring transformational business benefits at a fraction of the cost. Our expert technology leaders create, lead, and deliver systems and digital strategies that will drive growth and innovation, help you seize new opportunities, and ensure you’re safe from cyber concerns, without harming your bottom line.

The range and experience of our IT leaders also means that you’re not limited to the strict definition of any of the above roles. We get you the IT leader you need, which might draw together different aspects of a CIO, CTO, or CISO.

If you’d like to learn how we’ve helped mid-market businesses like yours, read our client stories. Or Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or “fractional,” IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

When You Hire a Freeman Clarke Principal, How Does It Actually Work?

What happens when you hire a Freeman Clarke IT leader, or “principal?” How do we actually work with our mid-market clients to drive growth? Our own CEO Graeme Freeman explains what to expect.

Find out more in our Client Stories. Or visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or “fractional,” IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

 

Do I need a CISO?

A Chief Information Security Officer is a senior-level executive responsible for protecting your data and intellectual property, and your information systems and processes. They understand your business strategy, your legal and market requirements, and your business’s risk appetite, and they ensure that these are all met.

They are also responsible for planning and implementing a business’s IT security strategy to make security decisions, to assess risk, and to keep the C-suite apprised of risk and risk management.

More broadly, they provide leadership and management throughout the business at an IT, process, and cultural level.

The fact is that security has become an enormous concern in our lives, and we need to keep our eyes open.

In a business the problem is magnified ten- or a hundred-fold. Aside from email and phone scams, which target businesses as well as individuals, there is a security risk every time your business hires a new employee or vendor, inks a new contract, connects your network to a new device, outsources any task, even makes a simple financial transaction. The risk is bigger when you take on investors or merge with or acquire another company.

This is why many companies hire a CISO. This is not the person who will help your company streamline its systems and processes or guide it through an ERP project. Nor is it the person who will set up the firewalls or install anti-virus software. Instead, a CISO is a strategic hire to put security at the heart of your business systems and processes.

CISOs become especially valuable as businesses become larger and more established. The job of security and risk management will simply become too big for the CIO or CTO. Another way to look at it is that the CISO frees up the CIO to implement the IT and technology that will help the business grow.


In the meantime, you can read CIO vs CTO: What’s the difference?


Why does it need to be someone in the C-suite? Because security is not simply a tech matter. Many of the highest-profile hacks have affected companies with highly expert teams and the most sophisticated security technology. Good security requires a commercially-minded leader who fully understands the detailed technical issues rather than just a technical expert.

A serious security lapse could cause your business catastrophic financial and reputational damage. A minor security lapse will cost you time and money. Any kind of lapse may have legal implications, resulting in lawsuits and fines.

On the other hand, addressing security concerns can provide a marketing advantage. In many industries, companies select suppliers who have impressive cybersecurity and compliance certifications. Thus having a credible leader like a CISO enables you to gain new clients, or secure funding, or generally raise your business’s profile.

CISOs are highly specialized and in-demand, so they command high salaries. Many mid-market businesses simply can’t afford to pay another executive’s full salary. Or they may be in an in-between stage where the security concerns are too time-consuming for a CIO but don’t yet merit a full-time salary. That’s why we often suggest a “fractional” or part-time CISO.

If you have questions about CISOs — or any other aspect of IT and technology, feel free to get in touch. We’re always up for a no-strings conversation about cybersecurity or any other aspect of running a mid-market business.

Visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or “fractional,” IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Why Are the First 3 Months With a Client So Important?

The first three months are a crucial time when a mid-market business hires a CIO or CTO. Find out why it can make a difference — when it’s done right.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Making a Roadmap for Growth

We all want to see our businesses grow, but without a technology roadmap for growth, it can create a lot of headaches for a mid-market business. Our experts discuss the value of a roadmap for growth and why you should start one.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Vision + CTO = Efficiency and Growth

The right CTO will help a business leader turn their vision into a reality. Find out how our expert CTOs can make a difference to your mid-market business.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Backoffice Automation

Automation can have a large and immediate impact on a mid-market business’s bottom line. Our experts discuss an example of how automation made a huge difference for a client.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Unlocking Business Growth With Technology

Once you have your core processes and technology worked out, it becomes much easier to look for new ways to grow. Our IT and technology experts discuss how they’ve helped clients leverage their existing customer base and find new markets.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Solidifying Your Company Culture

Meeting apps like Zoom and Teams have been incredibly useful for keeping businesses going during the pandemic. And now hybrid work is the new normal. So how do mid-market business leaders keep solidify their company culture in this new environment? Our experts discuss how IT and technology can help.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Investing in Technology, Moving into New Markets

Many mid-market business leaders see IT and technology as a straightforward business expense. The real visionaries understand that technology can take an organization to a new place. Listen to our IT and technology experts discuss how they’ve helped mid-market businesses scale up and even move into new markets.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Center which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) CIOs and CTOs. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

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You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.

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