Adobe, from digital marketing to "experience system of record"

Adobe, from digital marketing to "experience system of record"

Data pipeline, integration & API, architecture, machine learning, system of record… Adobe’s language is going deeper into the roots of IT. Though its annual conference, Adobe Summit (2-4 May in London), is dedicated to marketing teams, there’s a clear indication that a proper underlying IT infrastructure is needed to deploy a successful digital marketing strategy.

Adobe’s evolution over the last few years is really impressive. From a company selling boxes to creative designers, Adobe has gone to be a SaaS champion and a leader in the digital marketing area. However, Adobe still has some work to do to reconcile its vision, products and strategy with CIOs' imperatives and priorities. Indeed, the 2-speed IT model, with a digital, fast IT decorrelated from traditional systems, has shown its limits. You can’t build a unified, 360 degree view of your customers and prospects and deliver personalized messages to them through any channel including offline, point of sales if you don’t work hand in hand with the CIO, building a robust digital-ready platform.

Customer testimonials I could mention all stressed this particular aspect: before being able to begin the agile implementation and delivery of Adobe solutions, customers had to work on the underlying IT systems to make them ready. Hence the work done by Adobe to ease the integration of all its products together and to open up to IT partners and competitors.

First, Adobe has worked on its common data model, which guarantees a better integration throughout its suite of products and allows a much easier integration with third party products and developments. For instance, given the close relationship Adobe and Microsoft now have, they could work on an easy connection between Dynamics products and Adobe digital marketing products.

Second, Adobe is opening up its machine learning framework Sensei, so that customers and partners can build and monetize their own algorithms. Which is a clever move, as data and the ability to process it in real time is now front and center of the Adobe digital marketing strategy. The easier it is to connect to all available data usually held in siloes, and the richer the algorithm library is, the better the results. Which is what everybody expects from an artificial intelligence enabled software: to give the sharpest possible predictions.

The work Adobe’s doing in the AI space is also worth mentioning, as a way to ease collaboration between designers, marketers, data scientists, etc. Adobe’s taking a reasonable approach to AI, choosing to focus on what’s really useful for their customers. In Adobe’s vocabulary, this translates into 3 domains: creative intelligence, content intelligence, experience intelligence. Which means, respectively, helping designers in manipulating tools such as Photoshop (we had a great demo of voice interaction with Sensei creating Photoshop layers from a scanned hand-drawn sketch), helping marketers to find the relevant content, and to prepare messages, letting Sensei automatically crop and adjust images, and finally helping marketers analyze the data and perform large-scale personalization.

During an analyst briefing, an analyst raised a concern about the AI-enhanced analytical capabilities: ‘if every marketer on the planet follows A/B testing results, we’re all going to get the same message and the same picture’ she said. An Adobe representative replied that Sensei is actually just an intelligent assistant, it won’t decide by itself. In PAC's view, in a digital world, where everything can be customized, AI makes this kind of concern irrelevant. AI allows to multiply the messages, just as Netflix proves it everyday, by customizing not only the recommendations for each of its members, but also by customizing the content itself (prioritizing a character or a specific aspect of the TV show such as romance, intrigue, etc.). That’s what AI-enabled digital marketing is all about and Adobe is democratizing it. That is, if its sales teams and CMOs can convince CIOs that it’s the way to go.

Here comes the change in the way Adobe works with its partners. IT partners have become of a paramount importance, now, as they can have conversations with the CIOs and convince them that they’d better modernize the IT systems towards what Adobe describes as an « Experience system of record »: a revamped system of record, which will replace the traditional ones based on ERP system (1st generation) and CRM (2nd generation), and are ready to deliver customer experiences. Because, as Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said in his opening keynote, today customers don't want products, they want experiences (see photo). And I agree that every company's CIO out there should understand this and take the necessary actions to allow this to happen in his own company.