What does the CEO, CFO, COO, CTO and others do?

You probably know who the CEO is, but do you have any idea what the CTO is responsible for, what the COO does, and when to turn to the CFO? Find out the difference between each leadership position and how they can help your company grow.

Top management organization

The rapid growth of companies brings with it the need to optimize their management and delegate authority. The roles and responsibilities of executives are evolving, and with it, their very designation. Although the role of managing directors and shareholders remains the same, it is gradually changing for senior management positions.

The top management organization is moving to the designation of Chief Officer (CxO), or chief executive officer. Thus, CEO and others are commonly encountered in both limited companies and public limited companies.

The most commonly used abbreviations for top management

Abbreviation English title
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CFO Chief Financial Officer
CTO Chief Technology Officer
COO Chief Operating Officer
CSO Chief Sales Officer
CIO Chief Information Officer
CMO Chief Marketing Officer
CHRO Chief Human Resources Officer
CDO Chief Data Officer
CPO Chief Product Officer
CRO Chief Risk Officer

In some cases, a single acronym can refer to multiple different positions. For example, CCO refers to both Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Communications Officer, as well as Chief Compliance Officer or Chief Customer Officer, among others.

Managing the company with regard to its objectives

Each company approaches management and strategic planning in its own way. The workload of each management position is therefore dependent on the specific sector, the company's operations and its organisational structure. One person may lead several different areas of the company and even the owner or CEO may have multiple leadership roles. CxOs have responsibility for a specific part of the management of the business and its integration into the overall running of the business.

We have prepared an overview of the leadership roles you may encounter most often.


The Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, is responsible for the strategic planning of the company. The CEO is tasked with growing and developing the business and overseeing its operations as a whole.

He or she sets strategy and long-term goals, while ensuring that they are achieved. Last but not least, he represents the company in dealings with business partners and investors and is often the face of the company to the public. The CEO may also be the owner, in which case he or she is often referred to as the Founder CEO.


The Chief Financial Officer is the chief financial officer of the company. He is in charge of managing the company's financial resources and capital and is responsible for ensuring the financial well-being and stability of the company.

The CFO manages the budget and oversees financial planning, control and reporting. His responsibilities include, but are not limited to, ensuring proper bookkeeping and tax compliance.


The Chief Technology Officer or CTO is responsible for the technical and technological leadership of the company from planning to managing development to evaluating effectiveness. The CTO seeks out innovations and ensures their implementation in internal processes. If the company does not have a Chief Information Officer (CIO), he or she also takes care of information technology and data security and protection, including from cyber threats.


Chief Operating Officer is the designation for the chief operating officer of a company. The COO manages and coordinates operational activities and ensures the efficient functioning of internal processes. He or she ensures compliance with environmental rules and security regulations. The COO's duties include optimizing, monitoring and automating processes.

When to divide the management of the company

The most common reason to proceed with the division of tasks and responsibilities is when the current management style does not meet the needs of the business. As the company grows, it is virtually impossible for the owner to manage all areas alone. The division of responsibilities allows for focusing on specific areas and specializing in specific tasks, which promotes the further development of the company.

Internal vs. external management

Choosing strong and effective management is a challenging task. You can approach it in two ways:

  • Internal: by promoting or appointing a current employee to a management position.
  • External: by hiring a director from outside who has no previous work experience with your company, but who will bring his know-how and does not suffer from operational blindness. Outside management is sometimes hired only for a specific project or for a limited period of time.

The choice between internal and external executives is a strategic decision that should be based on the specific needs and goals of the business. In some cases, a combination of both can be beneficial, giving you a deep understanding of the company as well as an innovative and fresh approach.

Benefits of internal management:

  • Deeper knowledge of the company.
  • Understanding of internal processes.
  • Greater loyalty and trust.

Benefits of external management:

  • New perspective and problem solving.
  • More objective evaluation.
  • New contacts and knowledge.

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