Star of the Show: Adobe Announces Launch at Summit 2017
If you attended the Adobe Summit last week and are anything like me, a second year in Las Vegas did nothing to cure the longing I felt last year for more of a focus on digital analytics rather than experience (I still really missed the ski day, too). But seeing how tag management seemed to capture everyone’s attention with the announcement of Adobe Launch, I had to write a blog post anyway. I want to focus on 3 things: what Launch is (or will be), what it means for current users of DTM, and what it means for the rest of the tag management space.
Based on what I saw at Summit, Launch may be the new catchy name, but it looks like the new product may finally be worthy of the name given to the old one (Dynamic Tag Management, or DTM). I’ve never really thought there was much dynamic about DTM – if you ask me, the “D” should have stood for “Developer,” because you can’t really manage any tags with DTM unless you have a pretty sharp developer. I’ve used DTM for years, and it has been a perfectly adequate tool for what I needed. But I’ve always thought more about what it didn’t do than what it did: it didn’t build on the innovative UI of its Satellite forerunner (the DTM interface was a notable step backwards from Satellite); it didn’t make it easier to deploy any tags that weren’t sold by Adobe (especially after Google released enhanced e-commerce), and it didn’t lead to the type of industry innovation I hoped it would when Adobe acquired Satellite in 2013 (if anything, the fact that the biggest name in the industry was giving it away for free really stifled innovation at some – but not all – of its paid competitors). I always felt it was odd that Adobe, as the leading provider of enterprise-class digital analytics, offered a tag management system that seemed so unsuited to the enterprise. I know this assessment sounds harsh – but I wouldn’t write it here if I hadn’t heard similar descriptions of DTM from Adobe’s own product managers while they were showing off Launch last week. They knew they could do tag management better – and it looks like they just might have done it.
How Will Launch Be Different?
How about, “In every way except that they both allow you to deploy third-party tags to your website.” Everything else seems different – and in a good way. Here are the highlights:
- Launch is 100% API driven: Unlike most software tools, which get built, and then the API is added later, Adobe decided what they wanted Launch to do; then they built the API; and then they built the UI on top of that. So if you don’t like the UI, you can write your own. If you don’t like the workflow, you can write your own. You can customize it any way you want, or write your own scripts to make commonly repeated tasks much faster. That’s a really slick idea.
- Launch will have a community behind it: Adobe envisions a world where vendors write their own tag integrations (called “extensions”) that customers can then plug into their own Launch implementations. Even if vendors don’t jump at the chance to write their own extensions, I can at least see a world where agencies and implementation specialists do it for them, eager to templatize the work they do every day. I’ve already got a list of extensions I can’t wait to write!
- Launch will let you “extend” anything: Most tag management solutions offer integrations but not the ability to customize them. If the pre-built integration doesn’t work for you, you get to write your own. That often means taking something simple – like which products a customer purchased from you – and rewriting the same code dozens of times to spit it out in each vendor’s preferred format. But Launch will give the ability to have sharable extensions that do this for you. If you’ve used Tealium, it means something similar to the e-commerce extension will be possible, which is probably my favorite usability/extensibility feature any TMS offers today.
- Launch will fix DTM’s environment and workflow limitations: Among my clients, one of the most common complaints about DTM is that you get 2 environments – staging and production. If your IT process includes more, well, that’s too bad. But Launch will allow you to create unlimited environments, just like Ensighten and Tealium do today. And it will have improved workflow built in – so that multiple users can work concurrently, with great care built into the tool to make sure they don’t step on each others’ toes and cause problems.
What Does Launch Mean for DTM Customers?
If you’re a current DTM customer, your first thought about Launch is probably, “Wow, this is great! I can’t wait to use it!” Your second thought is more likely to be, “Wait. I’ve already implemented DTM, and now it’s totally changed. It will be a huge pain to switch now.”
So if you have decided that Launch beats DTM and you want to switch, the next question is, “When?” And the answer to that is…”Soon.” Adobe hasn’t provided an official launch date, and product managers said repeatedly that they won’t release Launch until it’s world-class. That should actually be welcome news – because making this change will be challenging enough without having to worry about whether Adobe is going to get it right the first time.
What Does Launch Mean for Tag Management?
I think this is really the key question – how will Launch impact the tag management space? Because, while Adobe has impressively used DTM as a deployment and activation tool on an awful lot of its customers’ websites, I still have just as many clients that are happily using Ensighten, GTM, Signal, or Tealium. And I hope they continue to do so – because competition is good for everyone. There is no doubt that Ensighten’s initial product launch pushed its competitors to move faster than they had planned; and that Tealium’s friendly UI has pushed everyone to provide a better user experience (for awhile, GTM’s template library even looked suspiciously like Tealium’s). Launch is adding some features that have already existed in other tools, but Adobe is also pushing some creative ideas that will hopefully push the market in new directions.
What I hope does not happen, though, is what happened when Adobe acquired Satellite in 2013 and started giving it away for free. A few of the the tools in the space are still remarkably similar in actual features in 2017 to what they were in 2013. The easy availability of Adobe DTM seemed to depress innovation – and if your tag management system hasn’t done much in the past few years but redo its UI and add support for a few new vendors, you know what I mean (and if you do, you’ve probably already started looking at other tools anyway). I fear that Launch is going to strain those vendors even more, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Launch spurs a new round of acquisitions. But my sincere hope is that the tools that have continued to innovate – that have risen to the challenge of competing with a free product and developed complementary products, innovative new features, and expanded their ecosystem of partners and integrations – will use Launch as motivation to come up with new ways of fulfilling the promise of tag management.
Last week’s announcement is definitely exciting for the tag management space. While Launch is still a few months away, we’ve already started talking at Analytics Demystified about which extensions our clients using DTM would benefit from – and how we can use extensions to get involved in the community that will surely emerge around Launch. If you’re thinking about migrating from DTM to Launch and would like some help planning for it, please reach out – we’d love to help you through the process!
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center