Emerging Data on the CPO vs CTO Debate You Should Know

We see the question all the time, especially now. Have you found yourself thinking or being asked any of the following questions?

  • What is the difference between a CPO (Chief Product Officer) and a CTO (Chief Technology Officer)?
  • Why do I need a CPO or CTO?
  • Should the role of CPO and CTO be combined? 

Read on for our thoughts on the subject.

Leading different groups, both the Chief Product Officer and Chief Technology Officer share a special and pivotal partnership. 

At their core, the CPO cares a lot about the stakeholders. They are insatiable at trying to understand everyone’s perspective and what everyone needs and for the organization to be successful. They are a change agent, like working with people and like puzzles. They like to see the results that come from the interaction from a lot of different entities. 

While the CTO has similar qualities they tend to thrive on scaling products. A CTO will immediately want to put in the security, bring in the technical talent and are typically much more inward facing. In general, they don’t get their energy from talking to a lot of people to get to the business outcomes. 

As we see the Chief Product Officer role become more prevalent in our environment, you will see more clear differences as a result. The title gets blurred because the CPO role is so new. At its core a CPO is the WHAT we are building and the WHY. The Chief Technology Officer is really about the HOW, the technology you are going to use and the teams that are going to build it.

The need for one or both roles truly depends on the size of your ScaleUp. During the fastest, most transitional ScaleUp phase (typically the middle), when transition and speed are of the utmost importance, you may want to consider combining the roles for quicker decision processes. The larger your organization however the more important it is to have both, clear and distinct.

At the end of the day they are both C level executives and they wouldn’t be if they didn’t care about the business. You have to understand the ethos that drive them to do what they do to understand which path better suits them. 

For more information on ‘What is ScaleUp’ – recommended reading.

To better understand the ScaleUp Playbook to help build the framework to understand the tools needed for ScalingUp ‘The ScaleUp Playbook’ – recommended reading.