#AdobeSummit Takeaways: Adobe Marketing Cloud
I’ve written several posts with different reflections on my Adobe Summit 2013 experience. You can see a list of all of them by going to my Adobe Summit tag.
Summit was Adobe’s opportunity to tell the Adobe Marketing Cloud story in multiple ways to a large and captive audience. They did a good job, including an ambitious “megademo” that followed a hypothetical scenario all the way across all five components of the full suite. I’m not going to try to explain the platform — Adobe has lots of content that does that well, and I’m not really qualified to comment on several of the major components. Rather, I’m going to cherrypick some specific observations.
The story behind Adobe Marketing Cloud includes a lot of “breaking down the silos” ambitions (between creative and analytics, between analytics and marketers, between marketers and agencies, between analytics and testing, etc.). Those silos need to be broken down, so it’s great that Adobe is talking about that and evolving their products with that in mind. Having said that:
- Adobe is a technology company — their bias towards “breaking down silos” is to lead with “tools” for that. That’s great! Rolling out single sign-on for all of their products and employing a common interface and “collaboration space” where users of the various tools can post/pin/share content from the different tools is an attempt to provide supporting technology for collaboration.
- People and process are still key — it’s not that Adobe doesn’t acknowledge that. They do! But, I don’t think they’re thinking they will get into the business of helping companies with the “people” aspect of what’s needed here. And, my sense is that they somewhat see “the tools” as being “the process,” which it’s not. (One of the big reasons I joined Clearhead was that the vision for the company was heavily focused on the “people and process” aspect of analytics and optimization…so I’m not going to complain that Adobe is not diving full-bore into that space!)
- How clients are managing collaboration now — in one of the optimization panels I attended, a member of the audience asked the panelists, “What tools do you use to manage the optimization process itself?” Very interestingly, Autodesk and Dell said they use Sharepoint, and Symantec said they use a heavily customized implementation of Jira. All three panelists indicated these were clunky and imperfect solutions. Which brings me to…
- Adobe…or someone else? — (at least) two exhibitors at Summit actually play in the collaboration space to some extent: SweetSpot Intelligence and Insight Rocket. Granted, these are focused on the “digital insight management” aspect of collaboration, which has a narrower focus than the full “Marketing Cloud” scope. But, there’s something to be said for focus! (And kudos to Adobe for having both vendors in their Community Pavilion — kudos for the event itself are the topic of a different post).
I absolutely love that this conversation is getting elevated.
How Integrated Marketing Cloud Components Will Be Is Unclear
Adobe has introduced single sign-on across the entire Marketing Cloud, which is an impressive technical feat, and a necessary first step in truly providing an integrated experience across the platform. I actually left unclear as to how deep that integrated experience currently goes. Each of the components of the Marketing Cloud has subcomponents, and each subcomponent, at one time, was a standalone product. So, we’re talking a massive effort to truly unify the user experience across the full platform:
- Basic palette and visual elements — this would be a basic level of experience unification that would at least show that all products are “Adobe.” I don’t think this will be a trivial effort in and of itself, but it would be great to see it happen.
- User experience consistency — this is the real whopper, because the different components/subcomponents are doing fundamentally and drastically different things. And, they’re not going to have a ton of users jumping across from, say, Adobe Analytics products to Experience Manager products. But, oh, man, if Adobe tackled that with “consistency of the interfaces to the full extent possible” on their 3-year roadmap…that would be pretty freakin’ admirable and cool!
Adobe Analytics — Simplification of Options
From some backchannel exchanges, Adobe thought they had clearly articulated this simplification in the opening keynote. But, also from the backchannel, non-Adobe employees were scratching their heads. I actually got a really clear explanation from an Adobe consultant I know late in the day on Thursday. And it’s simple (and fantastic):
- Adobe Analytics Standard — includes SiteCatalyst, Data Warehouse, Discover, and Genesis (the connectors — NOT services to get them working , if needed)
- Adobe Analytics Premium — same as Standard, but also includes Insight
Simple, right? I suspect that means the “base cost” for Adobe Analytics will go up a bit. But, clients will no longer stretch their budgets to get SiteCatalyst…and then realize 3 months later that they need Data Warehouse and Discover (and agency analysts will no longer be told by their clients: “Yes, we have Discover, but we only have 3 seats, so we don’t let agencies access is to answer the questions we’re asking them to answer.”).
Adobe Social — Encouraging Progress
I actually didn’t get to attend any of the Adobe Social breakouts (I couldn’t justify it given the sessions they competed with). I’ll cover this again in my “regrets” post.
What I did see is that they’re continuing to be serious about “getting the data” (I’m sure the breakout sessions covered that they’re now part of the Gnip partner program, but I missed that in the keynotes) and integrating with Adobe Analytics, and they’re working hard to seamlessly incorporate Context Optional. They’re also, it seems, pushing themselves to figure out truly effective visualizations for the data they present. More on that in the next section.
Data Visualization — It Feels Like Adobe is “Half Pregnant”
Okay, so you can’t be “half pregnant.” I sorta’ feel like Adobe might be trying to, though, when it comes to information visualization.
The good news is that Adobe seems to be really be expecting to overhaul the user experience for their products. To be as polite as possible about it, I abhor the current SiteCatalyst interface, and it has pained me to watch very smart, long-time SiteCatalyst users (and Omniture/Adobe employees) defend it. It’s been a blind spot that has generated bulging veins on my forehead more than once. Specifically, the lack of flexibility in how data gets visualized (the SiteCatalyst dashboards allow some customization…but are still wayyyyyyyyy on the “rigid” end of the flexibility spectrum; this is the case for all web analytics platforms).
What is still really unclear is how much of a serious investment Adobe is making in truly giving their products the ability to natively visualize information.
It was super-telling (to me) that both the NFL and Vail Resorts panelists in the “Rock Stars” session had tips specifically about using Report Builder to actually build reporting and analysis deliverables. Doughnut charts kept popping up in various new feature demos, which, to me, say, “We know pie charts are bad, so we’re not using them.” Which, of course, completely misses the point of why pie charts are evil.
I’d love to have Adobe set their sites on Tableau Software as a company they treat as a competitor they need to take seriously — just tasking a few people with doing serious competitive research of Tableau would open some eyes on the product team (as would getting a few people to read Stephen Few’s Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data).
What Were Your Product Takeaways?
There is very little in this post that I can claim as an original observation — tweets and conversations with attendees certainly contributed (unfortunately, not directly and discretely enough that I can properly provide attribution). I’d love to pick up some other thoughts and observations from the “product” aspect of the conference in the comments below!