- Digital overhauls in organizations across corporate America are giving chief technology officers new responsibilities and increased authority internally.
- One key shift is closer communication with the CEO. That’s an important reason why Johnny Dranchak joined social media startup Tsū Inc.
- Dranchak will manage the relaunch of the platform, which aims to give a sizeable portion of ad revenue to content creators.
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Chief technology officers are becoming more critical to organizations as companies pursue a “digital-first” strategy — and they’re gaining heightened visibility within the C-suite along the way.
Previously, CTOs and other tech leaders were often siloed from the broader organization. IT departments, for example, often focused on making sure computers worked or addressing other tech issues. But now, the mission of the sector is fast becoming the organizational-wide goals as companies like JPMorgan Chase, Walmart, and others pursue major digital overhauls.
That’s giving tech chiefs closer access to the CEO. This is one factor why Johnny Dranchak left Oneworld — the international alliance of airlines that includes American Airlines and British Airways — to join Tsū Inc. as its chief technology officer.
“To have an organization where you say you’re digitally forward and you don’t have the CTO reporting directly to the CEO of a company strikes me as not really thinking that digital is important to the company,” Dranchak told Business Insider in his first interview in the role.
Dranchakwas also previously a chief technology officer within General Electric and Dow Jones. In his new position announced on Tuesday, Dranchak will manage the engineering and design of new products, as well as oversee the company’s data assets.
While Tsū shut down in 2016, it is relaunching after being bought by investors earlier this year. The platform tries to differentiate itself from Facebook and others by paying a sizable portion of ad revenue to content creators on the site.
Pursuing ‘wicked disruption’ in the social media industry at the ‘intersection of all the technology’
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016 — when the British consulting firm linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign improperly accessed the information of millions of Facebook users — social media firms have faced escalating federal and public scrutiny over their data collection and privacy policies.
It’s created a chance, Dranchak says, for “wicked disruption” that wasn’t there a few years ago. Now, sitting at “the intersection of all the technology” at Tsū, he’ll play a key role in meeting that mission. Dranchak will work with head of product Michael Caldwell to build the platform for the relaunch. He’ll also manage compliance with new data privacy laws, like California’s measure slated to go into effect in January.
Throughout his career, Dranchak says he was brought in when companies were at an “inflection point” of how they defined the roles of chief technology officer. At Oneworld, for example, CEO Rob Gurney embarked on a digital-first mission, including linking apps from the member airlines to allow customers to check-in for routes with multiple carriers through one platform.
As vice president of innovation, Dranchak helped oversee that effort, including reporting directly to Gurney and serving on the executive committee. That connection proved critical. And when he was considering the move to Tsū, Dranchak says the offer would not have been as attractive if the role reported to the chief operating officer instead of the CEO.
“I’ve seen that succeed,” he said. “That is part of my approach and my standard playbook.”
‘Separate silos’ no longer make sense
Increasingly, one key shift is the transition to digital becoming an organizational-wide effort.
Now, marketing, accounting, human resources, and other departments need to think about tech issues, among them when to transition to the cloud or which applications could best serve the sector. Artificial-intelligence-based offerings, for example, can help reduce bias in hiring but are governed by an uncertain legal framework, presenting a quandary for those HR teams that may want to adopt the tech.
But instead of leaving oversight of systems to the respective business units, more organizations are pursuing a centralized structure where the CTO or another similar position manages them. That’s the strategy Tsū is taking.
“The notion of doing separate silos just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Dranchak said. “We are building a digital product. We are a digital company. We don’t have physical goods, we have no brick-and-mortar in the traditional sense.”
The influence of roles like the chief technology officer is likely to only increase as investments in digital overhauls grow. Dranchak’s shift is an example of the new authority of the position and the direct access to top executives that aspiring CTOs will seek.