Interviews

Keeping ahead in the digital age - a Q&A with the FT's Head of Product

As a digital-first organisation, staying ahead in the digital age remains critical. We hear first hand from our Head of Product,  David Griffith, on how he leads his team and makes sure our customers come first to deliver the best FT.com experience. 

Tell us about your role at the Financial Times?

I work in the Financial Times Product Team. As Head of Product I oversee development and digital strategy across the Financial Times’ specialist product and b2b proposition.

How long have you been working in this field?

I started as a developer / web producer back in 2000 working for a regional newspaper. Back then ‘the internet department’ was a team of 3 people and very much seen as an oddity. People weren’t quite sure what we did and I spent a lot of time explaining that I wasn’t there to fix the printers.
I moved from development to Project, and eventually Product Management. I have always worked in the media however, for regional and national newspapers as well as specialist b2b media organisations.

What are your key motivations and drivers?

I am motivated by making a difference. I am passionate about how technology can transform organisations and what they offer to their customers. The “information revolution” is somewhat of a cliche, but it is true that we live in a time of unprecedented change. The challenges and opportunities that a business like the Financial Times faces are motivating in themselves. 

As Head of Product, what do you see as the most important attributes/ roles within your team for the business and its customers?

I think there are three main attributes that the product team bring to the business:

  1. We act as the voice of the customer, articulating the problems and challenges that customers face in an impartial manner and ensuring that the customer’s needs are at the heart of the work we do.
  2. We help to identify and articulate the ‘art of the possible’ or more simply help the business, and ultimately our customers understand what technology can do for them.
  3. Finally we help bring together the right people at the right time. Digital development involves many different people with many different skills. Customer research, UX, design, development, architecture, copywriting, SEO, project management all have a significant part to play.

Do you notice any trends within the Product Team environment?

Two things come to mind:

  1. Firstly I think Product has become accepted as vital part of digital businesses. There have of course been strong product functions in start ups for a long time, and the FT has had a strong product team for nearly 10 years. However it seems like nearly all media organisations now have strong product teams, working in tandem with editorial, commercial and technology departments.
  2. Secondly I think Product functions have become more holistic, encompassing not just Product Management but Customer Research, UX, and Visual Design. This is certainly the case at the FT and I think it works well.

Taking your work hat off, what would you, as a consumer, like to see advance in the next three years for FT and its customers?

Given my role it is difficult to take my work hat off to answer this! I think there are lots of ideas to pursue but if I had to choose one, I would say better machine learning and recommendations for relevant content and information.  We have some fantastic data scientists and data technology capabilities so this is something we are very much in a good position to experiment with.

How do you prioritise the most important functions and features for customers? With digital, surely there's many demands and a short shelf-life...

I think there are three main principles when it comes to prioritisation:

  1. Is there a customer need for this? How clearly has this need been expressed and by how many people?
  2. Does this feature or functionality align with our business strategy or goals?
  3. Is this feature of functionality difficult to build or even feasible?

What excites you about digital technology, publishing and its future?

The pace of technological change, the real challenges it throws up to businesses like the FT and the very real unknown future.

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