CXO 2021: The latest C-Suite Titles for the Coming Year

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Acronym and career junkies unite!

In both pharmacy and law (my professions), they almost have their own little secret languages and acronyms that go along with each profession, and different acronyms can mean totally different things.

I wrote a post over at LinkedIn back at the beginning of 2019 looking at all the newer and current C-suite titles out there, and figured it was time for an update. I keep seeing different C-suite acronyms, C_O, so I wanted to run through the alphabet and check — what are the newest/latest C-suite offices out there these days?

And here we go!

C Suite Titles

CAO — Chief Administrative Officer — Their job predominantly works with budgeting, administration and anything that’s administrative. Works with CFO and CEO. Similar to a Chief Operating Officer (COO). Could also be Chief Audit Officer — for businesses that need to remain compliant with a ton of laws (like healthcare or banking). Could be Chief Academic Officer — which is typically a provost at a university. Chief Accounting Officer, and a new one — Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer. Chief Analytics Officers could be around too — and in fact, I predict this will be one of the hottest newer C-suite position in years to come, as making meaning from piles of data will be one of THE most coveted skills out there! There might be Chief Architect too — for design and architectural firms. The Chief Advancement Officer could be part storyteller, communicator and/or fundraiser. The Chief Automation Officer focuses on how to integrate automation to increase productivity, typically with a Chief Tech Officer. A Chief Agility Officer improves how work gets done in the company.

CBO — Chief Budget Officer — deals with, you guessed it, budgets. Could also stand for Chief Brand Officer, and there’s even a certification for this one. Also Chief Business (Development) Officer. A Chief Behavioral Officer looks at psychology of the buyer or customers in order to unpack needs.

CCO — Chief Customer Officer — There’s an entire conference dedicated to these pros. Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Communications Officer, Chief Content Officer, Chief Creative Officer (They have one of these at Pixar, for example.) Chief Culture Officer? Chief Change Officer? Chief Clinical Officer. Chief Cloud Officer — is responsible for storage, maintenance and set up of information inside the cloud and works with the CTO.

CDO — Chief Digital or Data Officer — Manages data and information as an asset across the organization. I would say that in the future, this job is going to be as common as CEO, CFO and COO positions in major companies, as most now are sitting on top of a goldmine of data. Also may experiment with data and tools, and may often report to the CIO or Chief Information Officer. Could also be Chief Design Officer — big in the fashion industry, the person who oversees design of brands or fashion houses, or Apple has one. Chief Development Officer — a position typically overseeing fundraising or business development. Chief Diversity Officer oversees diversity initiatives across an enterprise.

CEO — Chief Executive Officer — The person in charge, answering to the board of directors. There’s also Chief Engineering Officer — Usually in charge of R&D and tech engineering. Chief (Digital) Experience Officers oversee the real or digital ‘experience’ within and around a corporate brand, products or services (the original here would have been Walt Disney.) Could also be Chief Ethics Officer — but that’s sometimes the work of the general counsel — although with stuff like artificial intelligence coming online, someone has to start overseeing the ethical challenges of utilizing these technologies. New in 2020, I found a Chief Ecosystem Officer — which apparently is big in Blockchain companies. And last a Chief E-Commerce Officer who oversees the electronic commerce of an organization.

CFO — Chief Financial Officer — The person in charge of the finances. Chief Freelance Officer — Overseer of contract workers. I also found in 2020 a Chief Freelance Relationship Officer — I suspect this one popped up due to the new California rules around 1099 employees in the US? (Just a guess.)

CGO — Chief Governance Officer — In charge of policy and governance, typically with the board of directors. Could also be work for the Chief Counsel or Corporate Secretary. Could also have compliance or ethics management. Chief Gaming Officer — works on gamification either at tech or video game companies. There’s a Chief Grilling Officer at Reynolds…? Chief Growth Officer is a new one onto the scene — one who works cross functionally to maximize growth?

CHO — Chief Human Resources Officer — (or CHRO) — Like Chief People Officer or Chief Personnel Officer — in charge of the processes for people in and around an organization, typically. Chief Happiness Officer? Tony Hsieh comes to mind here. Chief Hacking Officer — which focuses on cybersecurity in mainly IT firms.

CIO — Chief Information (Security) Officer — The CI(S)O oversees the CDO on the data side, but they’re often also in charge of the enterprise information technology as well. Could also be a Chief Information Security Officer. Also Chief Innovation Officer — which sounds super cool in charge of innovation, but sometimes also involved in change management, which in corporate America is NOT always fun — here’s an actual job posting in my hometown. Chief Investment Officers — I assume would oversee investments. Chief Internet Evangelist Officer (CIEO) — I couldn’t find a good job description here, but the title sounds cool! A Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO) I assume would be in charge of identifying and commercializing/protecting IP of the organization.

CJO — Chief Joy Officer. Really. There’s a whole new book on this.

CKO — Chief Knowledge Officer — typically knowledge management and intellectual capital (including intellectual property?) are under the roof of CKO.

CLO — Chief Learning Officer — Basically the person in charge of education and talent development either internally, externally for customers, or both. You could also have a Chief e-Learning Officer, which does learning electronically. There’s also Chief Legal Officer — always a fun debate among attorneys — ask a CLO who their actual client is… Chief Listening Officer — this one was started by Kodak a few years ago.

CMO — Chief Marketing (Technology) Officer. Chief Medical Officers — are big in healthcare firms and hospitals. There’s also a Chief Movement Officer — which looks like a hybrid between communications and storytelling…?

CNO — Chief Networking Officer — This sounds like a cool one — the person in charge of social capital or in the tech world, the business networks — within and outside the company. I wonder how many companies have actually measured social capital within their organizations, or furthermore PAID professionals MORE who had more social capital? Also on the healthcare front, a Chief Nursing Officer is usually employed at hospital systems.

COO — Chief Operating Officer oversees operations of the business.

CPO — Chief Procurement Officer, Chief People Officer (Similar to HR), Chief Privacy Officer (a BIG job at tech companies today), Chief Process Officer, Chief Product Officer. There’s an opening for a Chief Population Health Officer at a health system. Chief Perception Officer is a new one on me for 2020 — much like a Chief Experience Officer.

CQO — Chief Quality Officer — oversees…you guessed it, quality.

CRO — Chief Risk Officer, Chief Research Officer, Chief Research and Development or Design Officer, Chief Revenue Officer

CSO — Chief Safety Officer (mark my words, when we return to work, there will be someone assigned this title — esp. if we need to redesign our offices for better social distancing and cleaning protocols), Chief Security Officer, Chief Systems Officer, Chief Science Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer (a newer title, and one that will be increasingly important over time as companies struggle with sustainability and environmental impact). There’s a Chief Storytelling Officer now too — like a corporate novelist or historian combo, maybe? Chief Social Media Officer popped up in 2020 (CSMO), in addition to Chief Supply Chain Management Officer (CSCMO).

CTO — Chief Technology Officer or Chief Talent Officer (which would be more about HR and people).

CUO — nada.

CVO — Chief Value Officer — Ensures customer value or Chief Vision(ary) Officer — the person in charge of setting the Vision for the company.

CWO — Chief Web Officer

CXO — Chief Experience Officer — Overseer of user experience with an organization. Kind of like Walt Disney….?

CYO — nothing.

CZO — nothing.

There you go! Looks like the C-suites are going to get bigger, with cooler titles in the future. I also am glad to see that technical experts in addition to generalists are appreciated at the very tops of organizations.

Let me know if I missed any!


Erin L. Albert does a lot of stuff, but really gets nerdy on new titles and job descriptions as a career coach, inter alia. Any opinions above are her own.

Written by

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, entrepreneur and The Edutainer Podcast Producer. Opining is my own.

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