The Financial Times (FT) is known as an international daily newspaper with a special emphasis on business and economic news, but in 2014, media organisations need to be more than a newspaper and the FT has in many ways led the media move too digital, but not without challenges. The paper, published by Pearson, was founded in 1888.
It was reported in the third quarter of 2013 that the FT's total circulation grew 8% year-on-year to 652,000 across print and online, the highest paying readership in its 126-year history. Digital readership grew strongly, with online subscribers increasing 31% year-on-year to 415,306.
Mobile readership continues to increase, driving 62% of subscriber consumption, 45% of total traffic and nearly a quarter of digital subscriptions. The FT's flagship web app has more than five million users, while the number of users that consume FT content across multiple platforms has nearly doubled over the last four years (up 81%).
CIO Christina Scott has been with the FT since May 2012 and in those two years has put the technology department at the heart of the FT business. This CIO 100 judging panel felt this was an important decision as media organisations will continue to face digital disruption from new formats and devices.
“The focus is on driving engagement and there are a lot of people who buy the FT subscription and need help getting more value from it,” she says.
In digital media, Scott explains, the strategy is to enable the reader to have conversations around the content with peers and the media organisation, to share thoughts and – most significantly for the media organisation – to actually know and understand its readership.
What the judges said:
“She’s using the cloud capacity to run quick experiments and a lot about the cloud is about testing and trying things.” Richard Sykes
“It is about fail fast and get on with it for the next thing. She has also re-energised technology at the FT so it reports to the CEO and she has justified that.” Mike Altendorf.
When did you start your current role?
Have you completed an MBA?
Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
- Peer Group
Technology strategy and spending
What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
Re-engineering our content platform to separate content authoring, content management, semantic metadata, data with accessibility through scaleable APIs. Layering onto this we are developing a responsive site.
What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
It will allow the business to build product quicker and more easily engage with third parties, including B2B customers integrating FT content within their own systems. We already have API driven services delivering to Google Newstand App, our web app, Flipboard, Samsung TVs and chat on. However introducing the semantic metadata will allow us to produce completely new products in the future created using the most relevant content for the user.
In a world where are readers are faced with so much choice the ability to bring our quality journalism to them where they want and make it the most relevant to them is critical. It also allows the user to define in a much more granular way what they are looking for and brings the ability to find 'the story' across articles by linking companies, people, countries etc. in the ontologies we are creating.
What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
We are looking new API business licensing - based on consumption.
We are building standard business ontologies in partnership with BBC and Reuters.
We continue to build API driven products such as those mentioned above such as the Samsung TV app or Google Newstand app where the product is built by Samsung/Google. We also have an audio app in new Mercedes (if you are thinking of buying one).
We have a strategic relationship with Salesforce as we migrate to their platform for our new membership platform through which all our CRM activities, Call Centre, Sales, Leads and subscription and billing will be run. For the first time bringing a single customer view across the whole of the FT Group (FT.com, Events, Financial Publications, New York Institute Finance).
Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Eidos Media (content mgt system)
Ontotext (semantic metadata)
Amazon (AWS and Redshift)
What is the IT budget?
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Our 2014 Mission Statement is "Powering the FT with Strong, Simple and Open Technology". Within this we are looking to replatform onto strong platforms that will enable the FT to meet their financial targets in 2014... the membership, advertising, data and content platforms we are delivering in 2014 are critical to allow us to move the business forward in both product and marketing venture. With 'Simple' we are looking to decommission a number of our legacy systems that require increased support and unwanted complexity. The focus of 'open' is to have a technology function that is open in it's approach to new ways of working, collaborative and able to discuss technology with the business without jargon and being an active participate of the technology community....W3C, open standards (such as the ontology work), conferences such as Edge which we run.
Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
Content architecture transformation - this has made the company rethink what the FT will be in the future.
Responsive design - shift from 'digital first' to 'mobile first'. In progress but rethinking business.
Data - move from legacy data warehouse to Redshift allowing access to data more timely and in a self service way.
Salesforce platform - move customer service from many third party call centres to in-house team in Manila, able to interact better with the customers. Ability to connect via social media, click to chat, the right information presented to customer agents at the right time.
Digital learning week - technology team active in this initiative run twice. I chaired the opening panel debate. A week of discussion, interactive demos, presentations for FT staff run globally to educate the company in all things digital.
'Simplification' - removing complexity. Standardising tools such as monitoring, change processes, focus on removing legacy - saved cost, reduced risk
Vendor management - getting a grip on vendor contracts, renegotiating, putting in place a formal process through technology for tech procurement, building partnerships.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
I pulled together a team to create an editorial dashboard. This was very collaborative between tech, data and editorial and has just launched. The main aim of this is to enable the editorial team to understand more about the readers...how many and when did they read an article, how did they come to the article (search, social media, homepage etc.), how did they interact (share, comment). With the 'digital first' transition of the newsroom this sort of data insight given to the journalists is a powerful insight they haven't had previously.
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Data is critical and new data warehouse on Redshift is being delivered in Q2.
Semantic metadata, dynamic publishing and API gateway
Splunk - monitoring and performance transparency
Front end technologies such as Node JS
What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
We allow use of own technology, most business systems are available on mobile and outside FT network, editorial team using mobile devices for video production, using social media to engage with customers, editorial have received social media training and are actively using, monitoring social media.
Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
We have a good understanding that even 'free' technology should be flagged to the tech team. When we were hacked in 2013 by the SEA we found that some of the social media management tools such as tweetdeck had security concerns. As a fairly small company I think we have a good balance between agility and governance. We have introduced a fairly light technology due diligence process for procurement of any tech.
Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Peers and other companies predominantly. We are an open company and look outside for what is working well and I encourage my management team to get out there and attend conferences, talks and visit other companies. I brought in a CTO I knew was well connected with what is happening in the technology space as I felt when I arrived at the FT we were somewhat introspective.
The CIO role in the business
Who do they report to?
Does the CIO have a seat on the board?
How often do you meet with the CEO?
Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
The IT department
How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
320 (230 perm/90 contract)
Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
CTO, Director IT Governance and PMO, Programme Director. All my direct reports and the wider management team are expected and do work closely with the business.