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Shantanu Narayen on why Adobe has pinned its future on ‘experience’

For Adobe, it has been an action-packed journey that has seen its business that was rooted in desktop publishing, transformed with cloud. Along the way, it recognised various elements, such as marketing or analytics as underserved, and built business streams around it. As part of this ongoing evolution, Adobe has now stepped up to a broader vision around experience. It has aligned all its offers so that it can enable enterprises to transform by offering the best experiences to their consumers.

“The experience cloud is the larger opportunity and we are excited about it. What makes this even more special is that it comes from interactions with our customers,” said Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe while addressing 12000 delegates at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas.

Challenging status quo
Mr Narayen set the tone of the discussions while tracing the Adobe journey, and why it was important to not preserve status quo in order to attain growth. In early 2008, Adobe’s products like the Acrobat, Creative Suite, Illustrator and Photoshop were leading in their category, but the company’s growth was stagnated. “Mobile was upending our software desktop business. While we were focused on tools, organisations building with scale were passing us by.”

The seismic shift for the company came when it moved its creative and document business to the cloud, creating Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise and Adobe Document Cloud for Enterprise.

As Mr Narayen points out, just when companies think they have understood their consumers or have aptly articulated their digital strategies, the industry landscape changes again. The process never stops, and neither did Adobe. “This shift underscores another tenet of global modern business – transformation or digital disruption is all or nothing.”

Adobe moved forward in its journey with that in mind, and by Mr Narayen’s own admission, some consumers were unhappy and the company got a few things wrong. This, however, did not stop it from persevering and persisting. “We reinvented systems and processes from product to front office. Everything had to become agile and consumer focused. Leaders at all levels stepped up to be champions of change and evangelise it, breaking silos,” he said.

The result is an integrated structure that is poised to deliver end to end solutions to its consumers. In addition to the Creative Cloud and the Document Cloud, Adobe has introduced the Adobe Experience Cloud. Within this, the company has three core areas of focus – Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Analytics Cloud and Adobe Advertising Cloud enabled by the recent acquisition of TubeMogul.

Why ‘experience’ matters
If in its earlier avatar, Adobe connected with the C-suite in companies, in the new avatar, the attempt is to put Adobe on the CEOs table. One of the reasons that Adobe had to reinvent its own business was to be critically important for its clients in their creative and digital journey. This move, that puts the spotlight on experience, is a step in that direction.

“Experiences are not standing still, neither is customer expectation. Advancement in cloud tech has fundamentally transformed the landscape and new forms of experiences are in reach today. Very soon, more will emerge. To become an experience business, we have to tame an array of system challenges,” Mr Narayen observed.

A multitude of areas need to be targeted from customer acquisition to personalised content, and there was a need to streamline this. “To get a unified view of the customer, we need a common language to define every function. Content, data and machine learning have to define businesses at the core. The experience led architecture needs a modern platform and new standards have to be set in creative, content and customer data,” Mr Narayen explained.

The Asia proposition
Various markets in the Asia Pacific region are at different levels of digital maturity, posing the question how much will experience matter when some consumer sets may well be focused on just the product. Mr Narayen quotes the Adobe example to explain that in emerging and mature markets alike, there is significant interest on what an experience business means. “Asia is perhaps leading the change in some of the industry categories,” he said.

From financial services and airlines to e-governance and from MNCs to local companies, various players are proponents of these solutions. The experience business wave is a global phenomenon. The industry story may be different but the fundamental factors driving the initiative and the wave are consistent.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.