Product Accelerator: CTO vs. CPO – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to Scale-Up Hacks, we love to talk about the importance of distinguishing between your CTO and your CPO. The two roles have a lot of similar priorities. They're both trying to drive change. They're both heavily focused on fueling success. But they differ in how they focus. Shelley Perry, an Operating Partner at Insight Partners summed up the situation thusly:

A CPO is heavily focused on interacting with and engaging stakeholders. He or she is constantly seeking external feedback to help guide a product to create positive business outcomes. The CPO is hyper-focused on driving change and problem-solving.

A CTO is much more inwardly focused. This doesn't mean that someone in the role won't engage with analysts and stakeholders. But instead of focusing on the business side of positive outcomes, the CTO spends most of its time looking at the technology itself, building the kind of technology ecosystem the product needs to succeed.

In our experience, there's a great deal of crossover between these roles. The difference is in the details, but both are instrumental in helping a business scale quickly. Both will be heavily motivated to push the business forward, but they'll focus on different areas of emphasis along the way, with CPOs spending more time on the ideas and execution of a product and a CTO emphasizing the underlying technology that makes a product work. We unpack this in more detail in our video, "Product Accelerator: CTO vs. CPO – What's the Difference?" where Shelley provides insights into each role.