Choosing Between CIO vs IT Manager

A CIO and an IT manager both focus on the same thing — technology — but they don’t go about it in the same way.

When it comes to the business of information technology, there’s the chief information officer. The CIO leads strategic planning and implementation efforts to help keep an organization’s technologies current, efficient, and effective.

The IT manager role, on the other hand, focuses more on day-to-day operations, maintaining and upgrading current IT systems in the department.

Read more: CIO vs CISO: What are the 5 Big Differences?

What Is a CIO?

A chief information officer (CIO) is a strategic visionary for a company that oversees all aspects of information technology, from hardware to software. They do not usually have direct control over day-to-day operations or employees.

Instead, they evaluate policies and procedures and implement new systems to improve performance and efficiency at the company. They see technology as an investment.

What Is an IT Manager?

An IT manager is responsible for managing and coordinating information technology infrastructure for an organization. They make sure that computers, software, networks, hardware, etc. are secure and operational, ensuring the maximum efficiency of business operations.

IT managers also ensure that all of an organization’s internal and external technology is functioning properly and securely, and oversee new computer equipment or upgrades, as well as data storage and retrieval processes.

Read more: IT Certifications vs Degree — What Should You Do?

CIO vs IT Manager

How Are They Similar?

Both of these technology-focused professionals play vital roles in IT. They are responsible for overseeing, managing, and providing resources to other members of their organizations’ IT teams.


Some IT manager and CIO responsibilities overlap. Common areas of responsibility include:

  • Establishing internal security protocols to protect company data from internal and external threats
  • Implementing technologies used by different business departments, such as computers and data storage devices
  • Managing budgets related to IT initiatives
  • Hiring additional staff members when necessary

IT Infrastructure Management

They both oversee a company’s IT infrastructure and resources. Both the CIO and IT manager need to be familiar with everything from cloud infrastructure to enterprise software systems and processes. They take a lead in establishing standard processes for supporting business decisions with information systems.

Team Direction

The executive team doesn’t always have an intimate understanding of IT processes, while mid-level employees don’t always see the ways in which IT projects align with company goals. Although they oversee different initiatives, both the CIO and IT manager are responsible for filling in these knowledge gaps, making it easier to move projects along swiftly and without wasting time or money.

Familiarity With Various Technologies

Due to their positions, IT managers and CIOs often become familiar with numerous tools and programs needed to accomplish assigned tasks.

Succession Planning

Both positions also perform succession planning on behalf of their organizations, although succession planning may be more important for an organization than its departments — because companies want continuity. Succession planning includes identifying prospective candidates who can replace departing employees during times of leave or resignation.

Read more: Entry-Level IT Jobs to Kickstart Your Career (2021)

How Are They Different?

Both IT managers and CIOs manage people and IT resources, but there are subtle differences in how they do it.

Management vs Operations

Both manage their team members, but with different scopes of responsibility. On a typical day, an IT manager deals with day-to-day technical issues, such as deploying new software and hardware, resolving network outages, and troubleshooting hardware malfunctions.

On the other hand, a CIO deals with more high-level concerns such as data privacy, crisis management, and strategic initiatives that require cross-departmental collaboration.

Technical Expertise vs Business Savvy

The CIO must be technically trained but also proficient in business strategy, while an IT manager doesn’t necessarily need that same level of business acumen because their role is more hands-on.

Department vs Enterprise Function

The position of CIO is an enterprise-level job, meaning that CIO has authority over all aspects of technology. The technology management position, on the other hand, is geared toward smaller departments or specific functions within a company.

Tactical vs Strategic Focus

IT Managers need strong analytical skills, expertise in emerging technologies, and several years of hands-on experience leading teams of engineers and admins. Executives depend on the CIO to share ideas and offer solutions about how to streamline business operations with technology.

Salary Range

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two roles is compensation. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a CIO in the United States is around $179,000 per year, while the average salary for an IT manager is $109,000 per year.

Choosing the Right Role for Your Team

IT management is much more hands-on, guiding individuals to achieve business goals, as well as dividing work into chunks, assigning teams and individual team members to specific projects or tasks, and overseeing everything that’s being done with IT — making sure it all gets done well and on time.

CIO leadership is all about setting a vision for where you want your company to go — and then inspiring others to help you get there. In some smaller companies, aspects of these two roles are combined. In others, they exist side by side.

Read next: 7 Best IT Certifications in 2021

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an award-winning public speaker and a passionate writer. He writes to edutain (Educate + Entertain) his reader about Business, Technology, Growth, and everything in between. He is the coauthor of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook. Aminu loves to inspire greatness in the people around him through his actions and inactions.

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