With the launch of Experience Cloud, Adobe’s looking to bring its creative and marketing technologies to all the touchpoints of a customer’s journey through the enterprise. And for that it needs to break out of its heritage space and straddle the world of the CMO and CIO.
The company’s been on a journey. Firstly from purveyors of software products in a box, ubiquitous in just about every design team across the globe; to SaaS-based apps, where the company’s reach and ambition started to flex outwards from the purely aesthetic world with cloud suites for managing content and marketing workflows.
Now Adobe’s looking to anchor itself at the very heart of an experience-driven, enterprise-wide digital transformation. It’s bringing its customer experience related offerings (Analytics Cloud, Advertising Cloud, and Marketing Cloud) together as a single cloud suite, and promoting tight integrations with the company’s Creative and Document Clouds. It’s also making core services available on the Adobe Cloud Platform, an open extensible platform powered by the Adobe Sensei machine learning / artificial intelligence framework (tailored to customer intelligence use cases). And with Adobe’s evolving common Experience Data Model (representing experience touchpoints across multiple domains and customer types), the platform is designed to be the place for centralising, standardising, and analysing customer data and content from any system (not just Adobe’s) – via APIs, through the Adobe I/O developer programme.
Until recently, the self-service SaaS nature of Adobe’s creative and marketing cloud products meant that CMOs and their teams could deploy by credit card, without needing to bother central IT. And the bounded nature of the capabilities (principally concerned with the production and management of creative content) often didn’t impinge upon wider business applications and their workflows – so, from the marketer’s point of view, there was little to be gained by wider integration (and the inevitable attention this would draw on the CIO’s radar) anyway. Essentially creative marketing technology rubbed along next to corporate IT without much cross-pollination.
But enter the era of digital transformation; specifically, the criticality of customer experience as the primary driver for any meaningful, customer-focused and enterprise-wide transformation. We’ve said in the past that the wide-ranging impacts of data-driven insight mean that such considerations can no longer be consigned solely to the realm of the data scientist – everyone in the organisation needs a degree of data literacy now, if data is to be properly understood in business context and put to work effectively. And now, the importance of transforming the quality of the customer experience necessitates a similar enterprise-wide outlook. We all need to be experience literate too. In order to really support new customer-facing initiatives, companies need to have a continuous ‘digital thread’ that links up new applications and systems with existing practices, systems and teams in core operations.
Adobe’s new Experience Cloud is the company’s attempt to play to this new imperative. To break out of the confines of being thought of as mainly a creative content management / marketing technology player, it’s begun to reformulate its offer, modify its messages, and train its sights on a wider audience. The company understands that to shoot for a prominent place in an enterprise-wide digital transformation strategy, it needs enterprise credibility… and that means ramping up its engagement with CIOs and other non-marketers.
Many IT teams have seen their position eroded by years of shadow spend by marketers on ‘their’ software; feeling ever-distant from the customer; and finding themselves with dwindling influence in a customer-focused business climate. With Adobe’s overtures, they’re now finding an ally in one of the vendors they might previously have seen as largely responsible for the march of the marketer’s tech independence.
It’s changed Adobe (again) to work in this way. And although the company argues that it’s always engaged with CIOs, this move to own the ‘experience management’ capabilities that drive digital transformation does set it up against vendors much better established in the enterprise application space (hello Oracle, and its Content and Experience Cloud and its Marketing Cloud, for example).
None of this is simply about slinging some products together and saying “hey presto, one common platform!”. Those traditional enterprise application vendors are much better known to CIOs, and have a strong heritage of backend integration into worlds Adobe has hitherto not had to concern itself with. Adobe, though, is counting on its heritage in creative content and marketing tech (and its ‘understanding’ of the importance of these elements in transforming experience as companies go more digital) to give it the edge. The Adobe platform does have good context, tailored AI framework and data model, and customer-closeness (from presence in the marketing and creative content space) going for it.
This sort of move by from a marketing tech vendor also has the potential to renew the relevance of central IT teams too – providing a platform that brings their world closer to the customer (and the world of the CMO) as companies weave a digital thread to unite their teams and technologies as they seek to become digital enterprises.
Will it work for Adobe? To an extent, that depends on who the buyer will be now for this side of Adobe’s products (CMO or CIO). But it’ll also depend on how much and how quickly the company can build out from its marketing base to bed its platform in amongst the backend of a company’s IT estate. It’s a similar challenge that’s faced EFSS vendors targeting the more traditional content management enterprise markets (Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, et al) as they look for a slice of a bigger and more sustainable pie. It’s partnerships, with the all the significant players in enterprise IT, which make a difference to these companies… and it”ll be a sign of Adobe’s credibility and seriousness if it’s able to capitalise on those it has and build further relationships to cement its shift into the world of the CIO.