Sep
16
2019
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Ten years after Adobe bought Omniture, the deal comes into clearer focus

Ten years ago this week, Adobe acquired Omniture for $1.8 billion. At the time, Adobe was a software company selling boxed software like Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop to creatives. Many people were baffled by the move, not realizing that purchasing a web analytics company was really the first volley in a full company transformation to the cloud and a shift in focus from consumer to enterprise.

It would take many years for the full vision to unfold, so you can forgive people for not recognizing the implications of the acquisition at the time, but CEO Shantanu Narayen seemed to give an inkling of what he had in mind. “This is a game-changer for both Adobe and our customers. We will enable advertisers, media companies and e-tailers to realize the full value of their digital assets,” he said in a statement after the acquisition became public.

While most people thought that perhaps this move involved some sort of link between design and data, it would turn out to be more complex than that. Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, tried to figure out the thinking behind the deal in an EContent column published a couple of months after it was announced.

“Going forward, I think the real action will continue to revolve around integrating management and metrics, less so than integrating design and metrics. And that’s why I also think that Adobe isn’t done acquiring yet,” It was pure speculation on Byrne’s part, but it proved prescient.

There’s something happening here

Sep
10
2019
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Latest Adobe tool helps marketers work directly with customer journey data

Adobe has a lot going on with Analytics and the Customer Experience Platform, a place to gather data to understand customers better. Today, it announced a new analytics tool that enables employees to work directly with customer journey data to help deliver a better customer experience.

The customer journey involves a lot of different systems, from a company data lake to CRM to point of sale. This tool pulls all of that data together from across multiple systems and various channels and brings it into the data analysis workspace, announced in July.

Nate Smith, group manager for product marketing for Adobe Analytics, says the idea is to give access to this data in a standard way across the organization, whether it’s a data scientist, an analyst with SQL skills or a marketing pro simply looking for insight.

“When you think about organizations that are trying to do omni-channel analysis or trying to get that next channel of data in, they now have the platform to do that, where the data can come in and we standardize it on an academic model,” he said. They then layer this ability to continuously query the data in a visual way to get additional insight they might not have seen.

Adobe screenshot 1

Screenshot: Adobe

Adobe is trying to be as flexible as possible in every step of the process, and openness was a guiding principle here, Smith said. That means that data can come from any source, and users can visualize it using Adobe tools or an external tool like Tableau or Looker. What’s more, they can get data in or out as needed, or even use your their own models, Smith said.

“We recognize that as much as we’d love to have everyone go all in on the Adobe stack, we understand that there is existing significant investment in other tech and that integration and interoperability really needs to happen, as well,” he said.

Ultimately this is about giving marketers access to a full picture of the customer data to deliver the best experience possible based on what you know about them. “Being able to have insight and engagement points to help with the moments that matter and provide great experience is really what we’re aiming to do with this,” he said.

This product will be generally available next month.

Aug
09
2019
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Adobe’s Amit Ahuja will be talking customer experience at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise

As companies collect increasingly large amounts of data about customers, the end game is about improving the customer experience. It’s a term we’re hearing a lot of these days, and we are going to be discussing that very topic with Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s vice president of ecosystem development, next month at TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise in San Francisco. Grab your early-bird tickets right now — $100 savings ends today!

Customer experience covers a broad array of enterprise software and includes data collection, analytics and software. Adobe deals with all of this, including the Adobe Experience Platform for data collection, Adobe Analytics for visualization and understanding and Adobe Experience Cloud for building applications.

The idea is to begin to build an understanding of your customers through the various interactions you have with them, and then build applications to give them a positive experience. There is a lot of talk about “delighting” customers, but it’s really about using the digital realm to help them achieve what they want as efficiently as possible, whatever that means to your business.

Ahuja will be joining TechCrunch’s editors, along with Qualtrics chief experience officer Julie Larson-Green and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to discuss the finer points of what it means to build a customer experience, and how software can help drive that.

Ahuja has been with Adobe since 2005 when he joined as part of the $3.4 billion Macromedia acquisition. His primary role today involves building and managing strategic partnerships and initiatives. Prior to this, he was the head of Emerging Businesses and the GM of Adobe’s Data Management Platform business, which focuses on advertisers. He also spent seven years in Adobe’s Corporate Development Group, where he helped complete the acquisitions of Omniture, Scene7, Efficient Frontier, Demdex and Auditude.

Amit will be joining us on September 5 in San Francisco, along with some of the biggest influencers in enterprise, including Bill McDermott from SAP, Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Aparna Sinha from Google, Wendy Nather from Duo Security, Aaron Levie from Box and Andrew Ng from Landing AI.

Early-bird savings end today, August 9. Book your tickets today and you’ll save $100 before prices go up.

Bringing a group? Book our 4+ group tickets and you’ll save 20% on the early-bird rate. Bring the whole squad here.

Jul
29
2019
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Adobe’s latest Customer Experience Platform updates take aim at data scientists

Adobe’s Customer Experience Platform provides a place to process all of the data that will eventually drive customer experience applications in the Adobe Experience Cloud. This involves bringing in vast amounts of transactional and interactional data being created across commerce platforms. This process is complex and involves IT, applications developers and data scientists.

Last fall, the company introduced a couple of tools in beta for the last group. Data scientists need familiar kinds of tools to work with the data as it streams into the platform in order to create meaningful models for the application developers to build upon. Today, it made two of those tools generally available — Query Service and Data Science Workspaces — which should go a long way toward helping data scientists feel comfortable working with data on this platform.

Ronell Hugh, group manager at Adobe Experience Platform, says these tools are about helping data scientists move beyond pure data management and getting into deriving more meaningful insights from it. “Data scientists were just bringing data in and trying to manage and organize it, and now we see that with Experience Platform, they are able to do that in a more seamless way, and can spend more time doing what they really want to do, which is deriving insights from the data to be actionable in the organization,” Hugh told TechCrunch.

Part of that is being able to do queries across the data sets they have brought into the platform. The newly released Query Service will enable data scientists and analysts to write queries to understand the data better and get specific answers based on the data faster.

“With Query Service in Adobe Experience Platform, analysts and data scientists can now poll all of their data sets stored in Experience Platform to answer specific cross-channel and cross-platform questions, faster than ever before. This includes behavioral data, as well as point-of-sale (POS), customer relationship management (CRM) and more,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool.

In addition, the company made the Data Science Workspace generally available. As the name implies, it provides a place for data scientists to work with the data and build models derived from it. The idea behind this tool is to use artificial intelligence to help automate some of the more mundane aspects of the data science job.

“Data scientists can take advantage of this new AI that fuels deeper data discovery by using Adobe Sensei pre-built models, bringing their existing models or creating custom models from scratch in Experience Platform,” the company wrote in the announcement blog post.

Today, it was the data scientists’ turn, but the platform is designed to help IT manage underlying infrastructure, whether in the cloud or on premises, and for application developers to take advantage of the data models and build customer experience applications on top of that. It’s a complex, yet symbiotic relationship, and Adobe is attempting to pull all of it together in a single platform.

Jun
28
2019
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Enterprise SaaS revenue hits $100B run rate, led by Microsoft and Salesforce

In its most recent report, Synergy Research, a company that monitors cloud marketshare, found that enterprise SaaS revenue passed the $100 billion run rate this quarter. The market was led by Microsoft and Salesforce.

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that these two enterprise powerhouses come in at the top. Microsoft reported $10.1 billion in Productivity and Business Processes revenue, which includes Office 365, the Dynamics line and LinkedIn, the company it bought in 2016 for $26.2 billion. That $10.1 billion accounted for the top spot with 17 percent

Salesforce was next with around 12%. It announced $3.74 billion in revenue in its most recent earnings statement with Service Cloud alone accounting for $1.02 billion in revenue, crossing that billion-dollar mark for the first time.

Adobe came in third, good for around 10% market share, with $2.74 billion in revenue for its most recent report. Digital Media, which includes Creative Cloud and Document Cloud, accounted for the vast majority of the revenue with $1.8 billion. SAP and Oracle complete the top companies

SaaS Q119

A growing market

While that number may seem low, given we are 20 years into the development of the SaaS market, it is still a significant milestone, not to be dismissed lightly. As Synergy pointed out, while the market feels mature, if finds that SaaS revenue still accounts for just 20 percent of the overall enterprise software market. There’s still a long way to go, showing as with the infrastructure side of the market, things change much more slowly than we imagine, and the market is growing rapidly, as the impressive growth rates show.

“While SaaS growth rate isn’t as high as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service), the SaaS market is substantially bigger and it will remain so until 2023. Synergy forecasts strong growth across all SaaS segments and all geographic regions,” the company wrote in its report.

Salesforce is the only one of the top five that was actually born in the cloud. Adobe, an early desktop software company, switched to cloud in 2013. Microsoft, of course, has been a desktop stalwart for many years before embracing the cloud over the last decade. SAP and Oracle are traditional enterprise software companies, born long before the cloud was even a concept, that began transitioning when the market began shifting.

Getting to a billion

Yet in spite of being late to the game, these numbers show that the market is still dominated by the old guard enterprise software companies and how difficult it is to achieve market dominance for companies born in the cloud. Salesforce emerged 20 years ago as an early cloud adherent, but of all of the enterprise SaaS companies that were started this century only ServiceNow and WorkDay show up in the Synergy list lumped in “the next 10.”

That’s not to say there aren’t SaaS companies making some serious money, just not quite as much as the top players to this point. Jason Lemkin, CEO and founder at SaaStr, a company that invests in and supports enterprise SaaS companies, says a lot of companies are close to that $1 billion goal than you might think, and he’s optimistic that we are going to see more.

“We will have at least 100 companies top $1 billion in ARR, probably many more. It is just math. Almost everyone IPO’ing [SaaS company] has 120-140% revenue retention. That will compound $100 million or $200 million to $1 billion. The only question is when,” he told TechCrunch.

SaaS revenue numbers by company

Chart courtesy of SaasStr

He adds that annualized numbers are very close behind ARR numbers and it won’t take long to catch up. Yet as we have seen with some of the companies on this list, it’s still not easy to get there.

It’s hard to develop a billion dollar SaaS company, and it takes time and patience, and perhaps some strategic acquisitions to get there, but the market trajectory continues to move upward. It will likely only grow stronger as more companies move to software in the cloud, and that bodes well for many of the players in this market, even those that didn’t show up on Synergy’s chart.

Jun
20
2019
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Transitioning from engineering to product with Adobe’s Anjul Bhambhri

Many roles inside of startups and tech companies are clear: marketers market, salespeople sell, engineers engineer. Then there are the roles like “product manager” that seem obvious on the surface (product managers “product,” right?) but in reality are very fuzzy roles that can be highly variable across different companies.

A few weeks ago, TechCrunch editor Jordan Crook interviewed J Crowley, who is head of product for Airbnb Lux and was formerly at Foursquare. Crowley came up in the consumer product world without a technical background, and he spoke to overcoming some of his own insecurities to become a leading product thinker in the Valley.

This week, I wanted to offer another perspective on product from Anjul Bhambhri, who is Vice President, Platform Engineering at Adobe, where she and her team conceived Adobe’s new Experience Platform for real-time customer experience management.

Across Bhambhri’s more than two decade career straddling the line between software engineering and product, she has worked on deeply technical, enterprise projects at Sybase and Informix as startups, big data infrastructure at IBM, and now at Adobe.

We discuss the challenges and opportunities of moving from an engineering career into product (and management more generally) as well as the ways she thinks about building compelling products that are sold B2B.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity

Scaling out product after product

Danny Crichton: Anjul, thanks for joining us. One of the major initiatives that we’ve been doing as part of Extra Crunch is to interview experts in their fields, talking about how they go about doing their job, and how you think about the decisions that come up on a day-to-day basis in the work that you do. So to start, I would love to talk a little about your background.

Anjul Bhambhri: Very nice to meet you, and happy to share my journey, Danny. I have been in the software industry now for really almost 30 years. I’m an electrical engineer, and basically, my entire career has been in data, databases, and big data analytics.

Jun
18
2019
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Salesforce Customer Data Platform begins to take shape

Salesforce announced it is making progress toward releasing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) this week at Salesforce Connections in Chicago. While the company is talking in greater detail about the platform, they are calling Customer 360, it won’t be available for pilot customers until this Fall.

The idea behind the CDP isn’t all that different from good old-fashioned CRM, but instead of using a single source of data in a single database, Salesforce’s bread-and-butter product, it draws upon a variety of sources. Martin Khin, SVP for product strategy at Salesforce Marketing Cloud says that the company found that the average customer uses 15 significant sources of data to build a much more comprehensive picture of the customer.

In the 1990s, tracking customer data in a CRM was a fairly straightforward process. You had basic information like company name, address, phone number, main contacts and perhaps a listing of what each customer purchased, but as it has become increasingly crucial to gather enough data to fully understand the customer, it takes a richer set of data.

This whole area of creating a central database like a CDP is something that Salesforce, Adobe and others have begun to discuss in the last year. When you’re dealing with multiple sources of data, it becomes much more than a customer tracking problem. It becomes a serious data integration issue as the data is coming from a variety of disparate sources.

Khin says it comes down to pulling three main areas together. The first is identity management, in the sense that you have to be able to stitch together who this person is as he or she moves across the different data sources. It’s crucial to understand that this is the same individual in each channel and interaction, regardless of the system where the interaction occurs, and even if the customer started out without identifying themselves.

Once you have that identity foundation, which is the key to all of this, you can begin to build that 360 degree picture in the CDP, and with that, you can engage with the customer across multiple channels in a more intelligent way, based on actual detailed data about the person.

If the idea is to provide increasingly customized interactions, it requires as much data as you can gather to offer customized messages across each medium. The danger here is that you’re building a complete picture of each consumer in a central database, which in itself becomes a central point of failure. If a hacker were to breach that database, the prize would be a huge treasure trove of personal customer information.

Khin says Salesforce recognizes this of course, and cites Chairman Marc Benioff’s trust mantra. If that happened, it would be a huge breach of customer trust (and of their customers) and while it’s impossible to full protect any database, Salesforce considers security a huge priority.

The other issue is privacy around this information, especially in light of GDPR customer privacy rules in Europe, and other privacy initiatives coming down the pike in other countries. Khin says Salesforce customers have permission toggles they can turn on or off, depending on the region they are in.

For now, the Salesforce CDP is taking another step towards becoming an actual product. On the plus side, it could mean more meaningful, highly targeted marketing, but on the negative side, it’s a lot of personal information sitting in one place, and that’s something that every vendor building a CDP needs to take into consideration.

Apr
16
2019
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Adobe launches an Adobe XD accelerator to woo developers

The design world is in a state of full-fledged competition. Never in history have designers and their respective teams had so many options from which to choose. As both demand and supply grow, design players are working to build out the most comprehensive experience possible for their users.

Adobe, the incumbent in the space, is today launching the Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator. Essentially, individuals and teams interested in taking some time to build out plugins for Adobe XD can get themselves three months at Adobe’s HQ, access to Adobe’s product, design and engineering team, as well as a $20K per person stipend to offset expenses.

To be clear, Adobe is not taking equity in these projects and participants will leave Adobe HQ with 100 percent ownership over their built IP.

The Adobe Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator is supported by Adobe’s Fund for Design, a $10 million venture fund launched in May 2018. Both the fund and the accelerator are meant to open up Adobe, which has historically been a more closed ecosystem.

“For a company like Adobe, we’re flexing a new muscle by working with outside parties, in house, at Adobe Headquarters,” said design principal at Adobe Khoi Vinh. “It’s a real change of thinking from the Adobe of five or 10 years ago, but we’re embracing the community’s energy here.”

It was less than a year ago that Adobe opened up Adobe XD to integrate with other tools, such as UserTesting and Airtable, among others.

Vinh says that, for now, Adobe isn’t sure exactly how many teams or individuals it will be accepted into the accelerator. As it’s the first time the company has done something like this, it’s not adhering to a specific number of participants or a rigid curriculum. Vinh says that some teams might have a clear vision of what they’re building and simply seek one-to-one advice from the engineering or product teams, whereas others might want a more collaborative environment to brainstorm and build out the idea itself.

One thing that is clear, however, is that Adobe is looking for hyper-early-stage projects.

“What ended up happening with the Fund for Design is that the grants and investments made a lot of sense for people who were founders and already had companies,” said Vinh. “The Plugin Accelerator is meant to target people who are even earlier-stage than a founder and maybe not ready to start their own company.”

The hope is that teams of one to three will have the chance to build great plug-ins for Adobe XD, making the platform more attractive to clients as Figma and InVision make a run for those same users.

Adobe isn’t the first design tool firm to launch a venture fund. InVision launched the $5 million Design Forward Fund in late 2017.

Folks interested in the Creative Cloud Plugin Accelerator can apply here.

Mar
29
2019
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Marketing tech vendors need to find right balance between digital and human interactions

As I walked the long halls of Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas and listened to the company’s marketing and data integration story, I thought about the obvious disconnect that happens between brands and their customers. With tons of data, a growing set of tools to bring it together and a desire to build an optimal experience, you would think we have been set up for thrilling consumer experiences, yet we all know that is not always what happens when the rubber meets the road.

Maybe part of the problem is that data sitting in databases doesn’t always translate into employee action when dealing directly with consumers. In many cases, the experience isn’t smooth, data isn’t passed from one source to another and when you do eventually reach a person, they aren’t always knowledgeable or even nice.

It’s to the point that when my data does get passed smoothly from bot to human CSA, and I’m not asked for the same information for the second or even third time, I’m pleasantly surprised, even a little shocked.

That’s probably not the story marketing automation vendors like Adobe and Salesforce want to hear, but it is probably far more common than the one about delighted customers. I understand the goal is to provide APIs to connect systems. It’s to stream data in real time from a variety of channels. It’s about understanding that data better by applying intelligent analytics, and to some extent I’m sure that’s happening and there are brands that truly do want to delight us.

The disconnect could be happening because brands can control what happens in the digital world much better than the real one. They can know at a precise level when you interact with them and try to right wrongs or inconsistencies as quickly as possible. The problem is when we move to human interactions — people talking to people at the point of sale in a store, or in an office or via any communications channel — all of that data might not be helpful or even available.

The answer to that isn’t to give us more digital tools, or more tech in general, but to work to improve human-to-human communication, and maybe arm those human employees with the very types of information they need to understand the person they are dealing with when they are standing in front of them.

If brands can eventually get these human touch points right, they will build more loyal customers who want to come back, the ultimate goal, but right now the emphasis seems to be more on technology and the digital realm. That may not always achieve the desired results.

This is not necessarily the fault of Adobe, Salesforce or any technology vendor trying to solve this problem, but the human side of the equation needs to be a much stronger point of focus than it currently seems to be. In the end, all the data in the world isn’t going to save a brand from a rude or uninformed employee in the moment of customer contact, and that one bad moment can haunt a brand for a long, long time, regardless of how sophisticated the marketing technology it’s using may be.

Mar
26
2019
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Adobe announces deeper data sharing partnership with Microsoft around accounts

Microsoft and Adobe have been building a relationship for some time, and today at Adobe Summit in Las Vegas the two companies announced a deeper integration between the two platforms.

It involves sharing Marketo data, the company that Adobe acquired last September for $4.75 billion. Because it’s marketers, they were duty-bound to give it a new name. This data-sharing approach is being dubbed Account Based Experience, or ABX for short. The two companies are sharing data account data between a number of sources, including Marketo Engage in Adobe Experience Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, as well as the LinkedIn, the business social platform Microsoft bought in 2016 for a whopping $26.2 billion.

Microsoft has been trying to find ways to put that LinkedIn data to work, and tools like Marketo can use the data in LinkedIn to understand their account contacts better. Steve Lucas, former CEO at Marketo, who is now senior vice president and head of the Marketo team at Adobe, says accounts tend to be much more complex sales than selling to individuals, involving multiple decision makers. It’s a sales cycle that can stretch on for months, and having access to additional data about the account contacts can have a big impact.

“With these new account-based capabilities, marketing and sales teams will have increased alignment around the people and accounts they are engaging, and new ways to measure that business impact,” Lucas explained in a statement.

Brent Leary, principal at CRM Essentials, who has been working in CRM, customer service and marketing for years, sees this as a useful partnership for customers from both vendors. “Integrating Microsoft Dynamics and LinkedIn more closely with Marketo gives Adobe’s Experience Cloud some great data to leverage in order to have a more complete picture of B2B customers,” Leary told TechCrunch.

The goal is to close complex sales, and having access to more complete data across the two product sets can help achieve that.

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