Ringier Axel Springer Poland product team morphs with tech team

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


While prepping for the master class on mobile Web sites, Ringier Axel Springer Poland Head of Product Grzegorz Krawczyk and I got talking about organisation structure.

At the beginning of 2024, the news company completely changed its product and tech organisation. Formerly reporting to the business, Grzegorz and his product team changed reporting line to the CTO.

Product was being morphed into the tech team.  

Now, it’s a rare case that one team enjoys being moved into another, but eight weeks in, Grzegorz explained what had happened and the positive aspects he is already seeing. He and I both thought this should be shared with the INMA community, so here is a run down of the new structure, plus a few caveats of what may or may not work elsewhere. 

The product team at Ringier Axel Springer Poland now reports to the chief technology officer.
The product team at Ringier Axel Springer Poland now reports to the chief technology officer.

Firstly, it should be noted that Ringier Axel Springer Poland has multiple titles, including Onet, the largest Web portal in Poland (U.S. folk could compare it to Yahoo). So this structure is reflective of what may work in a larger organisation.  

As director of media product (which is often referenced at CPO) Krawczyk has five key areas of responsibility:

  1. Software engineering
  2. Product, newsfeed
  3. Content services product
  4. Growth including SEO, marketing automation, and social
  5. UX and design

What’s new and notable here? A few things. Let’s break them down. 

Transformation stage

Ringier Axel Springer Poland tested various structural solutions. For years, the product department was centralised and played a traditional role translating business needs into technology solutions and vice versa.

More recently, product teams were placed closer to the business, strengthening the role of managing directors and their influence on the product agenda, but technology continued to operate in separate structures. After examining all the possibilities, it turned out the best solution — as in many companies around the world — seemed to be a combination of technology and product. This also served the purpose of the business. 

The UX team had been centralised in the organisation, separated from design

Now the two teams are being brought together and are working more closely with the technology and product teams.

Having this under one team makes everything a lot smoother. It’s rare that I see UX and design without a reporting line — or a very strong link to the product team — because it’s so hard to extrapolate where one finishes and the other starts.

Software engineering is now part of this product and tech team

Again, I am seeing this more and more. It’s essential that product and tech have to make decisions together. There will always be a tension between product wanting to build quickly and technology wanting to build a stable architecture, but sometimes a little tension is good as it helps to get to a balanced decision. 

Having both in one team means tech debt is likely to be reduced because the head of the department is incentivised to bring it down, not make it someone else’s problem. The big question here is about knowledge and skills. It is often thought that deep engineering skills are needed to lead a software team. However with the right management and leadership skills, it can work.

As head of product, Grzegorz had already worked closely with IT professionals for the past eight years, so although some technical terms are foreign, he understands the technology. Therefore, he has found people have reacted positively. It’s the beginning of a long — but positive — road. 

Data resides in a separate department, managed by the AI and data director

This team also has IT specialists, product specialists, as well as analysts and data scientists. Why didn’t it move? This is an important point to recognise: because it worked. 

This was already a highly functional team serving the business. Something that is important to note: Some of these decisions are personality driven. It’s more important to get the right people in the roles that draw the right boxes on an org chart. If you have teams in place that work well together, the actual reporting lines and structure is less important and you can do more damage by making changes. 

Marketing remains separate

The team is broken down into smaller teams that serve each business function. There is overlap between growth and marketing, which can cause gray areas, but they mirror each other and work closely together.

For example, growth is responsible for the effectiveness of SEO such as site speed and visibility, while editorial growth is responsible for CTRs and traffic from SEO. Product lays the groundwork and sets the infrastructure for marketing to operate. Again, these two teams have to have a good working relationship  

Lastly, I mentioned that product reported to the CTO yet manages software engineers. So what are the other areas of the business the CTO has responsibility for? He oversees additional business units including their digital publishing platform Ring Publishing, hardware and development ecosystem, as well as technology teams serving other areas of Ringier Axel Springer Business like monetisation, data, and corporate solutions. 

Grzegorz added that overall leaders who believe in this direction and are able to take responsibility for this transformation play a very important role. They have the right leadership and buy in at the top of the organisation.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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