February 24, 2019

Chief Officer Abbreviations Explained: CEO, COO, CFO and More

There are a lot of abbreviations for top leadership positions that contain the words “Chief and Officer” in the title. It may be confusing to keep the players straight. It may help to explain that a corporate officer holds a management-level position, such as a President, Vice President, or General Manager. Other common positions include:

  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer – This person is the highest ranking corporate officer.  They are the head of management for an organization.  They report to the board of directors. They make high-level decisions about policy and strategy.  The people that report to the CEO include:  The CBDO (Chief Business Development Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), CCO (Chief Communications Officer), CLO (Chief Legal Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CRO (Chief Risk Officer), CCO (Chief Creative Officer), CCO (Chief Compliance Officer), CAE (Chief Audit Executive), CDO (Chief Diversity Officer), and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer).  Steve Jobs was an example of a top CEO.  To find out more about these other chief officer positions, click here.  Check out:  The Best Performing CEO’s in the World.
  • COO – Chief Operating Officer – This person is responsible for the day to day operations or an organization.  Not all companies have one.  In 2006 more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies did not have a COO.  This person may also be called the company’s President.  This person could be thought of as the second in command behind the Chairman or CEO.  An example of a top COO is:  Tim Cook was the COO for Apple before replacing Steve Jobs as CEO. Check out: List of Famous Chief Operating Officers.
  • CFO – Chief Financial Officer – This person manages the corporation’s financial risk.  They deal with data analysis, financial planning and record keeping.  Although they report to the CEO, they may also sit on the board of directors.  Peter Oppenheimer is Apple’s CFO.  Check out:  Bonus Babies . . . The Best Paid CFO’s.
  • CMO – Chief Marketing Officer – This person is the head of sales, product development and all things marketing-related.  The CMO can report to either the CEO or COO. Their job is to obtain growth through sales and marketing.  The CMO has become more commonly discussed in recent years.  Check out:  The Chief Marketing Officer . . . A new Boardroom Role.
  • CIO – Chief Information Officer – This person is the head of information technology.  They may report to the CEO, CFO or COO.  They must create strategic goals to increase information accessibility and manage integrated systems.  The CIO and CTO roles are often confused.  Check out:  What is the Difference Between CIO and CTO.

There may be other chief officers’ positions in other industries as well.  For example in hospitals there could be a CMO (Chief Medical Officer), a CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) and a CMIO (Chief Medical Informatics Officer).

List of chief officer (CxO) titles




chief academic officer


Responsible for academic administration at universities and other higher education institutions.

chief accounting officer


Responsible for overseeing

all accounting and bookkeeping functions, ensuring that ledger accounts, financial statements, and cost control systems are operating effectively.

chief administrative officer


Responsible for business administration, including daily operations and overall performance.

chief Artificial Intelligence officer


Responsible for AI research department.

chief analytics officer


Responsible for data analysis and interpretation.

chief architect


Responsible for designing systems for high availability and scalability, specifically in technology companies. Often called enterprise architect (EA).

chief audit executive


Responsible for the internal audit.

chief business officer


Responsible for the administrative, financial, and operations management of the organization, often combining the roles of chief administrative officer (CAO), chief financial officer (CFO), and chief operating officer (COO).






chief business development officer


Responsible for business development plans, design and implementation of processes to support business growth.

chief brand officer


Responsible for a brand’s image, experience, and promise, and propagating it throughout all aspects of the company, overseeing marketing, advertising, design, public relations and customer service departments.

chief commercial officer


Responsible for commercial strategy and development.

chief communications officer


Responsible for communications to employees, shareholders, media, bloggers, influencers, the press, the community, and the public. Practical application of communication studies.

chief compliance officer


Responsible for overseeing and managing regulatory compliance.

chief content officer


Responsible for developing and commissioning content (media) for broadcasting channels and multimedia exploitation.

chief creative officer


In one sense of the term, responsible for the overall look and feel of marketing, media, and branding. In another sense, similar to chief design officer.

chief customer officer


Responsible for customer relationship management.

Chief Development Officer


Responsible for activities developing the business.

Usually through added products, added clients, markets or segments.

chief data officer


Responsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information and data as assets, via data processing, data analysis, data mining, information trading, and other means.







chief design officer


Responsible for overseeing all design aspects of a company’s products and services, including product design, graphic design, user experience design, industrial design, and package design, and possibly aspects of advertising, marketing, and engineering.

chief digital officer


Responsible for adoption of digital technologies, digital consumer experiences, the process of digital transformation, and devising and executing social strategies.

chief diversity officer


Responsible for diversity and inclusion, including diversity training and equal employment opportunity.

chief engineering officer


Similar to the more common chief technology officer (CTO); responsible for technology/product R & D and/or manufacturing issues in a technology company, oversees the development of technology being commercialized.

chief executive officer


Responsible for the overall vision and direction of an organization, making the final decisions over all of the corporation’s operations. The highest-ranking management officer; often also the chairman of the board. Usually called CEO in the United States, chief executive or managing director in the United

Kingdom, Commonwealth of Nations, and some other countries.

chief experience officer


Responsible for user experience, overseeing user experience design and user interface design. “CXO” is not to be confused with “CxO”, a term commonly used when referring to any one of various chief officers.

chief financial officer


Responsible for all aspects of finances.

chief gaming officer


Responsible for both the game development and the online/offline publishing functions of a company that makes video games.

chief human resources officer


Responsible for all aspects of human resource management and industrial relations.







chief information officer


Responsible for information technology (IT), particularly in IT companies or companies that rely heavily on an IT infrastructure.

chief information security officer


Responsible for information security.

chief innovation officer


Responsible for innovation.

chief investment officer


Responsible for investment and/or for the asset liability management (ALM) of typical large financial institutions such as insurers, banks and/or pension funds.

chief information technology officer


Responsible for information technology. Often equivalent to chief information officer (CIO) and, in a company that sells IT, chief technology officer (CTO).

chief knowledge officer


Responsible for managing intellectual capital and knowledge management.

chief legal officer


Responsible for overseeing and identifying legal issues in all departments and their interrelation, as well as corporate governance and business policy. Often called general counsel (GC) or chief counsel.

chief learning officer


Responsible for learning and training.

chief marketing officer


Responsible for marketing; job may include sales management, product development, distribution channel management, marketing communications (including advertising and promotions), pricing, market research, and customer service.

chief medical officer


Responsible for scientific and medical excellence, especially in pharmaceutical companies, health systems, hospitals, and integrated provider networks. The title is used in many countries for the senior government official who advises on matters of public health importance. In the latter sense compare also Chief Dental Officer (Canada) and Chief Dental Officer (England).







chief networking officer


Responsible for social capital within the company and between the company and its partners.

chief nursing officer


Responsible for nursing.

chief operating officer


Responsible for business operations, including operations management, operations research, and (when applicable) manufacturing operations; role is highly contingent and situational, changing from company to company and even from a CEO to their successor within the same company. Often called “director of operations” in the nonprofit sector.

chief privacy officer


Responsible for all the privacy of the data in an organization, including privacy policy enforcement.

chief process officer


Responsible for business processes and applied process theory, defining rules, policies, and guidelines to ensure that the main objectives follow the company strategy as well as establishing control mechanisms.

chief procurement officer


Responsible for procurement, sourcing goods and services and negotiating prices and contracts.

chief product officer


Responsible for all product-related matters. Usually includes product conception and development, production in general, innovation, user experience, project and product management. Sometimes defends the value proposition of individual products by recognizing and resisting instances where cost reduction or standardization efforts would impede it in ways that operations management may not fully recognize, such as after mergers and acquisitions.

chief quality officer


Responsible for quality and quality assurance, setting up quality goals and ensuring that those goals continue to be met over time.

chief research and development officer


Responsible for research and development.









chief revenue officer


Responsible for measuring and maximizing revenue.

chief risk officer


Responsible for risk management, ensuring that risk is avoided, controlled, accepted, or transferred and that opportunities are not missed. Sometimes called chief risk management officer (CRMO).

chief sales officer


Responsible for sales.

chief science officer


Responsible for science, usually applied science, including research and development and new technologies. Sometimes called chief scientist.

chief security officer


Responsible for security, including physical security, network security, and many other kinds.

chief strategy officer


Responsible for strategy, usually business strategy, including strategic planning and strategic management. Assists the chief executive officer with developing, communicating, executing, and sustaining strategy. Sometimes called chief strategic planning officer (CSPO).

chief sustainability officer


Responsible for environmental/sustainability programs.

chief technology officer


Responsible for technology and research and development, overseeing the development of technology to be commercialized. (For an information technology company, the subject matter would be similar to the CIO’s; however, the CTO’s focus is technology for the firm to sell versus technology used for facilitating the firm’s own operations.). Sometimes called chief technical officer.

chief visionary officer


Responsible for defining corporate vision, business strategy, and working plans.

chief web officer


Responsible for the web presence of the company and usually for the entire online presence, including intranet and internet (web, mobile apps, other).






chief shariah officer


Responsible for the shariah compliance of the company businesses. Usually used in Islamic Banking sector.