by Edward Qualtrough

Financial Times Chief Data Officer on democratising data analytics

Sep 14, 2015
IT StrategyMedia and Entertainment Industry

Financial TimesChief Data Officer Tom Betts believes one of his key goals as the new FT CDO is to move beyond a centralised data function and “make data analytics part of everyone’s responsibility” at the media organisation. [See also: Chief Data Officer salary and job description – What’s the role of the CDO and how much does a Chief Data Officer get paid?]

Betts was named as the first Chief Data Officer at the London-based Financial Times in its 127-year history at the start of the month, with FT CEO John Ridding describing Betts as a “hugely important part of the company’s digital transformation” and his appointment to the FT executive board as “fundamental to the continued growth of our digital and subscription business”.

Betts said that even though the FT had started to build a culture around data and analytical thinking, the next phase was embed analytics and data across the FT.

“We forged a path with our metered model and a direct consumer relationship,” Betts said of the 2007 decision to make their online editorial gated to paid and registered users.

“I was brought in to lead the data effort in 2009 as Senior Data Analyst, and we were able to significantly increase our customer acquisition. It started with marketing and filtered out across the organisation.

“Data has been a key component of that growth and data as a culture has been part of that transformation. In 2009 we didn’t have a one, even if we had some; but right now every department has some kind of data DNA running through it.”

Democratising data

Decentralising and democratising data was how the FT would achieve this, Betts said.

“It’s about getting every part of the organisation to be more effective with what they do and democratising data across the organisation,” he explained.

“The challenge is to move beyond a centralised data function to a decentralised one, where data becomes part of everyone’s responsibility.

“It’s much more than a technology challenge – creating reports and saying ‘there you go’. It’s a training challenge, how we help everyone understand the impact of what they do.

“Certainly there’s a core of experts who sit in the middle offering expertise and rigour, but this is about having everybody learn about our customers and ultimately this is a decentralised capability.”

The CDO and the CIO

Betts also said that he would be working closely with Chief Product and Information Officer Christina Scott to help improve the customer experience for users of Financial Times products.

Betts said: “There are big opportunities for digital products towards more personalised and tailored experiences. As data becomes something we receive and take a look at, it’s a two-way dialogue we can use and embed in our product – there’s lots of opportunity for collaboration between data and product teams.

“Being CIO and Christina having product responsibility, she is very aware of the importance of having customer feedback in her role. My interest is ensuring that data is embedded in everything that we do and is tested and measured in the products we build so we can understand what the return on that investment is.

“Translating engagement to an ROI is tough, but it’s an area in which we’ve made a lot of progress.”