The CTO and CPO are important decision-makers in a company. But they are often confused with one another. Let’s discuss the CTO vs. CPO dilemma.
Many professionals dream of reaching the C-suite level. This is proof that you’ve achieved the top of your industry. Among the C-suite positions are the titles of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Product Officer (CPO).
C-suite or C-level are senior executives in charge of the decision-making and strategizing. Most often, the roles and responsibilities of top executives somewhat overlap. This is specifically true for tech companies and startups.
In this article, we’ll help you identify the difference between CTO vs. CPO.
CTO vs. CPO: The Thin Line
A product drives the company’s income and revenue. To ensure that customers are satisfied, you will need technology. In this tech-driven world, you can never neglect your company’s product or technology.
Companies sought to appoint executives specifically focused on the products and technologies. Thus, the birth of the CTO and CPO. However, as they add more executives to the list, the duties inevitably overlap.
CTO vs. CPO—these two often have intertwined duties. This makes it harder to distinguish their roles. So before we get into that, let us first define a CTO and a CPO.
What is a CTO?
As the name suggests, the chief technology officer takes charge of the company’s tech needs. The company’s research and development (R&D) also falls under the command of the CTO.
Their expertise includes developing strategies to create new products or improve existing ones. Yes, you’ve read it right. It is the responsibility of the CTO to lead the design, development, and building of the product. This is evident in emerging or startup companies.
Since the CTO is a top position within the organization, there are strict qualifications you need to meet. Here are typical qualities that are essential for a chief in technology:
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or other related fields (computer programming, software engineering, management information systems, cybersecurity)
- Some companies, such as scale-ups, require Master’s degrees in computer sciences, information technology, or technology management.
- Multiple industry certifications and solid credentials. With an advanced technical skillset and practical experience with tech.
- Ample experience in the technology industry. Some companies go to lengths to require more than 15 years of experience in the field: 10 years in a tech role and five years of managerial experience.
- Excellent verbal and written communication
- Extensive knowledge of the industry
- Team management skills
As an executive, it is apparent that the CTO salary should compensate for their qualifications and efforts. On average, the salary of a CTO in the U.S. is $164,349 annually. But this depends on the company size and location.
Companies like Facebook can compensate their CTO up to $21,812,977 per annum. In comparison, a typical startup can have between $91,000 to $155,500 per year. Silicon Valley CTOs also differ from other locations. Like how a CTO from San Francisco, California can go as high as $292,670 a year, while a Kansas City CTO has $175,114 annually.
What is a CPO?
It is now time to look through what a CPO can do. Basically, the chief product officer facilitates the company’s product development. But then you’ll be asking: Isn’t that what you said about the CTO? What then is the difference between a CTO and a CPO?
Yes and no. Yes, the CTO and CPO overlap when it comes to the products, but here is where they go separate paths. The CTO takes care of “how” to create and improve the product to achieve the company’s goal. The CPO, on the other hand, takes care of answering “why” do we need this product.
It is the CTO’s job to incorporate technology into the company in order to create or improve products. However, they are too occupied with things involving technology to gauge the customer’s temperament. This is where the CPO steps in. Their market research examines and devises a strategy that responds to market challenges and demands.
A CPO needs more than wit and grit. It requires the right industry knowledge, experience, and leadership skills to deserve this title and position. Here are a few qualities that you’ll need:
- Minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Some companies may require a master’s or doctoral in information technology, software engineering, marketing, or related technology and business fields.
- More than five years as head of multiple product teams
- Over five years of startup experience
- Proven track record in product development, analytics, design, or computer programming
- Solid experience and expertise in project management and product ownership
- Extensive knowledge in budgeting and team-leading
- Proficiency in effective methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban
Like the CTO, a CPO should be compensated justly according to their responsibilities and qualifications. According to PayScale, the annual average base salary of a CPO in the U.S. is $193,136 per year. For big companies such as Google, their CPO earns an estimated $273,510 annually.
Similarity and Difference Between a CTO vs. CPO
We have established an overview between the CTO and CPO in the previous sections. At this point, we will dive into their respective roles and responsibilities. Pointing them out separately beforehand would only lead to confusion since their duties considerably overlap. That is why we will compare and contrast their roles in the following sections.
1. Strategies and approach
Both the CTO and CPO strategize in creating products. But between CTO vs CPO, who does it better? Our answer would be both.
We’ve mentioned previously that the CPO takes care of the “why” in product creation. The product team under the CPO is in charge of the building and sharing of the roadmap. They plan the direction of the product. Compared to other chiefs, the CPO knows its target market better. They dig into each customer feedback and adjust, if necessary, to conditions.
The CTO, on the other hand, takes the strategic approach towards development and delivery. This chief examines and plots ways to incorporate technology into improving products and services. By doing so, they can determine which platforms and solutions to use for a better chance of paying off. That is why cost-benefit and return-on-investment analyses are part of their tactical approach.
2. Customer vs. Technology
What should you focus on more: understanding the needs of customers or the strategies to improve products and services?
The best answer is both. You may have the best technological platform to improve your product and service, but these do not adhere to what your customers want. Or, you may know what your customers desire but your technology is inadequate to fulfill them.
Here lie the intricacies of the CTO and CPO roles. The CTO takes care of the tech while the CPO looks after the market. But they have one goal, to build a product that will benefit the company and the customers. The CPO has a thorough understanding of the customer and they represent the target market internally.
The CTO may not have the most understanding of their customers, but they rely on the data from the CPO. They apply the data presented to ensure that their technology reflects the way customers wish to interact with the product.
The approach when it comes to innovation greatly differs between the CTO and CPO. The CPO looks further into the future and plots the direction of the product. They find ways to present approaches on how to deliver value to customers. The CTO focuses on the technology needed to achieve these innovations.
CTO vs. CPO: What does your company need?
Between CTO and CPO, what positions do you need most in your company? Do you need a CTO to spearhead the tech teams in building newer and improved products? Maybe you need a market expert to help you develop products or services that the current customers demand?
It all depends on your company. If you make more inquiries, you’ll find that many executive positions have similar duties to one another. You’ll find yourself confused between the role of a CEO and CTO. But remember, a company does not necessarily need a CTO and CPO together. It relies on the size of your company and the current demand.
Generally, it’s common for a startup to have either a CTO or CPO; it is not often to have both. But as the company grows bigger and products multiply, you’ll find the demand for a CPO.
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