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Every C-Level Job and What They Do

by Alfie Powell, on 19 August, 2021

It seems like every job that gets written or spoken about in some capacity consists of three letters and always begins with C and most of the time ends in O. It can get confusing.

From the get-go, the C basically always stands for Chief and the O usually means Officer.

The middle letter, whether it be M, O, E, or anything else is anyone's guess though. Alright that's not true; every one of these roles has clear and defined jobs... obviously they do.

Anyway, with all of that rambling over, I'm going to run you through all of the main C-level roles at a company (in no particular order) and tell you what each of them do. All of this so you can look like you know what you're doing and who people are talking about in business meetings, eh?

CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

I said it was going to be in no particular order, but I was obviously going to start with the CEO. The big cheeses.

The CEO, as you definitely know, is the highest ranking executive in a company. They oversee it all and while CEOs in SMBs are a little more hands-on, CEOs at big big big companies deal almost exclusively with high-level strategic decisions and those that direct the company's overall growth.

If a company is particularly big, then your CEO might become famous - for better or worse - such as The Zucc or the late Steve Jobs.

The CEO is the boss of it all and often the founder or co-founder of the company.

CTO (Chief Technology Officer)

The CTO often reports to the CIO (who we'll talk about later) but that doesn't mean that they're not a chief in their own regard... because they completely are!

Generally speaking, they're responsible for overseeing the development of technology for external customers, vendors, and other clients to help improve and increase business. On top of that, they'll also sometimes deal with internal IT operations in a company without a CIO.

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

The money man.

There's a lot of analysis in this job. The CFO is in charge of managing the financial actions of a company. Knowing the financial strengths and weaknesses of a company is imperative for the CFO, who spends a lot of their time tracking cash flow and financial planning. 

CIO (Chief Information Officer)

The CTO's boss.

A CIO is responsible for innovation and revenue-generating ideas throughout the business, in a digital sense. Digital transformation is at the top of the CIO's priorities list, who is in charge of all technological strategies in a business.

COO (Chief Operating Officer)

Not to be confused with the noises a baby makes when left idle, the COO is often considered the second in command in a company after the big bad CEO.

Typically, a COO runs and oversees the day-to-day administrative and operational tasks that a business has as a whole, and reports to the CEO. While the CEO would generally handle the public affairs, the COO would be in charge of internal affairs at a business.

Essentially, a lot of admin and managerial skill and experience is needed to be a COO.

CCO (Chief Compliance Officer)

The CCO is the person who oversees the formation of business objectives and the subsequent implementation of all commercial strategies.

Having a marketing background is preferable for a CCO, as they run the definition of policies that a company adheres to, as well as making sure that they fulfil the outlined budget.

Extensive knowledge of the products and/or services offered by the company and how the customers use them is imperative for the CCO, who also sets up performance objectives and goals for the staff.

CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer)

A typical CKO has to foster innovation in their company, and will be in charge of making sure they have a perfect ROI with knowledge management.

This will include investments in employees, processes and intellectual property, and subsequently avoiding the loss of knowledge that occurs when certain personnel is lost.

CSO (Chief Security Officer)

This one more or less speaks for itself, as the CSO is responsible for the protection of personnel and assets, whether they're physical or digital.

Typically, a CSO will be responsible for online safety protocol, risk management and responding to security incidents. Since things are becoming more and more digital now, many of these tasks - the digital ones - will be given to the CIO.

CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer)

Confusing, I know. There's also another CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), but that more or less falls into the CCO or CKO's job these days.

For obvious reasons, the role of this CSO is rapidly growing in the larger business world. CSO's basically have to collate information and opinions from scientists, regulators, customers and investors and make sure that the company runs as sustainably as possible.

As per Odgers Berndtston, "Sustainability is now incorporated into two-thirds of companies’ core missions and signatories of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment represent over half of the world’s institutional assets."

CDO (Chief Data Officer)

Similar to the CCO and CKO in that they oversee the strategy and directions of a company, the CDO then differs from them as they try to underpin said tasks with data.

The CDO will oversee data quality, data governance, master data management, information strategy, data science, and business analytics. This may also sound similar to the role of the CIO, but they're actually vital for each other to function optimally, and one can't really live without the other.

Caroline Carruthers, director at consulting firm Carruthers and Jackson, said this about the two roles:

"I often use the analogy of the bucket and the water. The chief information officer is responsible for the bucket. They're responsible for making sure that the bucket is the right size, that there are no holes in it, that it's safe, and that it's in the right place.

"The chief data officer is responsible for the fluid that goes in the bucket, comes out of the bucket, that it goes to the right place, that it's the right quality and the right fluid to start with. Neither the bucket nor the water work without each other."

CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)

As you may have guessed, the CMO oversees the formation and subsequent implementation of a company's marketing and advertising initiatives.

Essentially, if the CMO doesn't generate sales and revenue through successful marketing, then they're not very good at their job.

The CMO has to use market research, pricing, product marketing, marketing communications, advertising and public relations to foster an environment where potential customers become consumers.

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