Adobe: In the weeds, in the zone (part two)

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OK, this section, part two of the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit has been weighing on my mind for weeks. I’ve been procrastinating in part because Adobe is such a damned complex company. And now that they bought Magento for e-commerce, even though that wasn’t discussed at the Digital Marketing Summit, I have to discuss it here, because it has a potential bearing on one of the things that I’m going to bring up, making this even more complex.

Read also: Adobe: Experiencing the experiential (part one)

First, to recap:

In Adobe part one from a couple of weeks ago, I ran you through two different “tracks”: First, how did Adobe do when it came to their actual event? Then, how do you distinguish the kinds of customer experience out there, and which one is Adobe actually focused on? That was important to set the context of Adobe’s current and next phase — where they are, where they are going, and what they need to do to get there.

I hope, after you read part one (and this part), that you’re clear on why I wouldn’t typically support a technology company’s messaging around customer experience, especially since time and time again. I’ve railed against the whole idea of customer experience technology under the umbrella trope — “You can’t enable how someone feels” — via technology, which, not so incidentally, I still maintain.

However, that said, I am going to actually do something that I literally told Adobe was a bad idea about 10 years ago and support their messaging around the Adobe Experience Cloud (the experience part, not the cloud part so much. Explanation to follow).

But let’s dig in based on what I saw and learned from both the Digital Marketing Summit 2018 and what has been supported/supplemented by the acquisition of Magento, which I am feeling a bit mixed — though mostly positive — about right now.

Open Ecosystems and Platforms: Wave of the… Present

To explain why the Digital Marketing Summit was of pivotal importance in Adobe’s evolution in the market, I have to reiterate something that I think was the most important pronouncement that Adobe made — and they made it in 2016, too. Adobe CTO, Abhay Parasnis, spoke with analysts about a major turn that Adobe would be taking that involves knitting the Document Cloud, the Digital Marketing Cloud (now the Adobe Experience Cloud), and the Creative Cloud into a single platform, and at the same time, building what he called an “open ecosystem.” That meant systematically defining what Adobe’s customers and (I hope, though he didn’t say this) their potential customers needed, identifying Adobe’s core capabilities to-be as a platform from end to end, what they were willing to build, what they needed to partner on, and, interestingly enough, if there were things that their competitors did better than they did, and thus, possible partnerships with them as a result — all in the interests of the customer-driven “open” ecosystem.

Read also: How Adobe moves AI, machine learning research to the product pipeline

It was a bold move and, honestly, unexpected since Adobe never particularly seemed to be a candidate for thinking about ecosystems. They seemed content to be a leader in the B2C markets. Comfortable in their domain — and, when it came to it — willing to extend their capabilities within its own confines, but not much beyond that. But announce it they did in 2016 to the analysts, and by 2017, it was a much more well-known strategic imperative at the company — both internally and publicly. It was one of the reasons that Suresh Vittal, an industry star, was elevated to run all the Experience Cloud’s product. The platform and the ecosystem were front and center at Adobe by 2017 and he was one of the people there best qualified to handle that effort — and the thinking that goes with it.

The implications of this kind of thinking are considerable. First, it takes you to markets that you have never been. Second, it identifies gaps that you didn’t realize you had. Third, it forces you to rethink everything in terms of overall business transformation from the perspective of the domain you are in, without losing the broader focus of the total needs of a customer, including those you can’t possibly meet, which, of course, means that you need to consider fulfilling those needs via partners, which means a partner program that gets beyond just Value Added Resellers (VARs) and marketplaces/exchanges. Partner ecosystems are strategic because they are focused around partners who are part of the core company offering. That means a strategic relationship — a true partnership — that involves co-creation, mutual investment, and go-to market strategies. That means that the sales teams of each company are trained to sell the partner’s particular offering and the sales people of each company are compensated for that.

If you look at Adobe’s behavior the last couple of years since the announcement, one thing is clear — they are sticking to plan and sticking the landing as they proceed to execute.

I’m going to detail that with proofs of concept. But, to set the stage, I need to show you how Adobe is (successfully) repurposing their company and gaining market ground (I don’t mean that as a substitute for market share).

Livin’ the Dream…

If you haven’t guessed it by now, enterprise-focused companies, especially tech companies, when it comes to how to be a competitive success, need to be thinking about platforms and ecosystems. Customers are no longer just demanding products and services, but they are looking to companies to provide them with consumable experiences and they are looking to feel valued as a customer. That means that not only is it important to provide the fundamentals — products and services, but also the kind of personalized knowledge of the customer that makes them feel as if they are important to the company. In order to do that, you have to provide as a company the range of products, services, experiences that the customer expects from a company like yours. Plus, the customer has to be able to perceive your company as a place that he or she cares to return to for whatever it is you provide for them when they are in the market. That means the environment, the vibe, the context, the feeling about the company has to be, to keep it super simple, warm and comfy enough for the customer to feel good about the return visit to you. When they are involved with you, they need to feel as if, and this may be the most important point of all, the interactions they are having are convenient. And I do mean “convenient,” which is the most important “experience” that any company can actually offer a customer.

Read also: Adobe patches critical vulnerabilities in Flash, Creative Cloud

To provide the appropriate things that the customer is looking for from end to end, the company needs to do what I said above, figure out who is going to provide what that the core company is offering to the customers. Will it be (in this case) Adobe or one of its strategic partners? Will it be Adobe and a strategic or even point solution partner? Regardless of who the provider is, customers are expecting a range of choices that pretty much need to be available, or those customers will begin to look elsewhere for what they need.

Adobe in 2016 claimed that they were working toward this idea — and given their unique kind of B2C audience — they also wanted to address the needs of a different B2B audience at some point too. But, intent and outcomes are two very different things. Once Adobe announced its intent, the verification of the commitment to this significant change in model, structure, and outlook was signaled by their announcement jointly about their partnership with Microsoft. And the intent of the company went from speculative and important to game changer.

Ecosystems: Adobe and Microsoft — and Magento?

In 2017, Adobe and Microsoft announced their relationship. Rumor had it, it was driven by the friendship of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, who were college mates and have been friends ever since. Whatever the reason, I liked what I saw and how it was presented.

Read also: Adobe updates Experience Manager for marketers and developers

Microsoft Dynamics got something it desperately needed in two areas: An enterprise-grade, highly competitive marketing automation solution that was evolving toward an experiential marketing solution, which played well with (but wasn’t identical to) Microsoft’s messaging around intelligent customer engagement. It was also an entrée into the B2C market, which, by no means was Dynamics’ forte, but it was still somewhere they needed to go. Adobe was getting the muscle of Microsoft. More importantly, they got a significant addition to the customer-facing operational portion of their ecosystem — sales, service, and the engine behind it, plus an enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure. And some traction in the B2B market. Little did I know that this burgeoning strategic friendship would quickly blossom into something so deep that I now call it the “Get a Room” partnership. I can tell you, after conversations with Dave Welch, the vice president and Solution Leader Microsoft Solutions at Adobe, and also due to my own investigations, that Adobe and Microsoft are deeply committed to the partnership, and it is arguably one of the best strategic partnerships I have ever seen. I am not saying that lightly.

Briefly, I was able to see the willingness of each party to actually work with the other to sell into the market. That means committing dollars to co-marketing, training the sales teams to sell each other’s products as part of an overall solution set, and compensating accordingly. It also means several real deals won under their belt so that it’s a partnership both in name and deed.

But there was one other piece that was powerful enough to be viscerally striking — the depth of and collaboration around the technical integration between the Adobe Experience Cloud, and not only Microsoft Dynamics products but Azure as the infrastructure wrapper. The teams at both companies involved in this were working night and day to get the integration of the two solutions and Azure so compact and tight that it was metaphorically down to the object level — and, if I knew enough about the technical side to ask, possibly actually down to that level. This is not an easy task because Microsoft Dynamics was making strong technical improvements on a regular basis (e.g. a common data model), and for Adobe Digital Marketing to work, those improvements had to be taken into account as they occurred.

They were and are to this day.

An interesting new wrinkle was thrown into this particular mix about two weeks ago, when Adobe acquired SMB e-commerce platform Magneto. The reason that I think makes the most sense for this is actually posited in the TechCrunch article by the awesome journalist Ron Miller. Between Ron Miller and analyst/influencer Brent Leary (you heard from him here last week), the condensed version of the argument goes like this (all completely paraphrased):

Magento was acquired because it is an e-commerce platform that plays in both B2B and B2C and was a missing piece for Adobe and their experience cloud. They now have an opportunity to close the loop so that what began with Adobe digital marketing can end with the transaction via Magento e-commerce.

E-commerce technology plays the role of being the core transactional piece of a larger customer engagement technology matrix, the same way CRM is the core operational piece. So, there is a larger strategic value, too.

It does raise interesting question for the Microsoft Adobe partnership. Microsoft, even more so than Adobe, in order to compete with Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle, had a major deficiency — and that was e-commerce. Even though their e-commerce needs might be better served via partnership with companies in their existing partner ecosystem like Episerver, the intriguing thing is that Magento could potentially work. However, Adobe is going to have to scale Magento to make this a truly worthwhile acquisition. because they play a lot in the upper end of small business and lower end of the midmarket — not at the enterprise, and Adobe is an enterprise company. But I will leave you, and me, and Adobe and Microsoft with this question: Is this going to also help Microsoft? I don’t know the answer, only the question.

But all in all, this was big evidence of Adobe following through on building their ecosystem. What about the platform? They did promise both, you know.

Platforms: Adobe Banks on the Consumable

I had a conversation with Adobe about seven years ago (If my memory serves me) where I told Adobe that positioning themselves around being a customer experience technology wasn’t the smartest move. That’s the polite version of the story. Needless to say, they didn’t listen to me. You would think since I still firmly believe when it comes to the greater customer experience outlined in part one of this post a few weeks ag, that you can’t enable how a customer feels. But that goes to the definition of the broader customer experience (i.e. how a customer feels about a company over time). In other words, technology cannot support the manipulation of the customer’s feelings about a company. What drives that is much more complex and has far more to do with the way that the company treats the individual customer than it does what technology it uses.

Read also: Adobe and Nvidia expand partnership for Sensei AI

However, why I’m glad that Adobe didn’t listen to me is because they did figure out — recently — what you can do with technology in service of customer experience(s). You can create them, distribute them, and let them be consumed. These are the modular experiences that Joe Pine posited all the way back in 1999 when he showed how mass customization had evolved and what that meant in his seminal work, The Experience Economy. Plus, they fully understand because of the way they built their technology, that there is a symbiosis between customer experience and customer engagement. That means, simply put, that the more effectively you engage customers in an ongoing way, the more they feel good about your company, which then impacts the interactions with you they have and the behaviors they manifest when it comes to your company. So. if you provide them with the consumable kind of experiences that, at the end of the day, make them happy in some way and makes them want to engage further, then, over time, they become increasingly positive toward you. That said, if they are not that positive, a bad interaction or a poor immediate experience can lead to customer churn because the overarching experience is already negative.

I’m not going to dwell on this. The point is that Adobe is cognizant of the difference, which makes their approach to customer experience(s) on point.

What this led to originally when it came to Adobe product strategy was to transform Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) from what it was — a very good digital asset manager — and not much else — to a platform and toolset to both create experiences and manage the assets. The name became a true product description rather than the name. The asset management became features identified in AEM as AEM Assets. This meant the place to identify, share, and/or use the Create Cloud assets (e.g. photos, videos, other graphic pieces) for the creation of the content (i.e. the experiences). In fact, with the new release of AEM Assets 6.4 announced at the Digital Marketing Summit, they were able to include 3D models, VR, and panoramic properties. But what made this DAM different than in the past was the in the past, while it was cool to see, the tools weren’t really there to assemble the consumable experiences except in a painstakingly tedious way. For example, watching an earlier incarnation of AEM at, I think, the first Adobe Digital Marketing Summit I ever attended in 2014, they showed us a split screen of a site at their HQ in Utah and a Times Square Jumbo Video Screen. They then showed someone removing the existing video playing in Times Square and swapping it into the same location within AEM and the video changed at Time Square. While it was a genuine “oooh ahhhh” moment, it was still just swapping out one video for another — meaning it was managing a pair of digital assets — with Adobe’s level of flare. But it was DAM, nothing else.

But what I saw at the 2018 Digital Marketing Summit, it was not only “oooh ahhh” but “oh yeah” when I realized that Adobe, within the past year, had built what had been the missing piece: Platform proof of life. They showed the approximately 14,000 attendees how to build a specific experiential “campaign” using Creative Cloud, Experience Cloud, and ultimately Document Cloud, with the glue being Adobe Sensei. Here’s a pic that shows you what they were doing.

adobesummit2018 1493 Adobe: In the weeds, in the zone (part two)

Adobe demos the platform — the intersection of Campaign, Experience Manager, Sensei.


Source: Adobe

Here is a link to the video demoing this amazing solution based on the new platform. I highly recommend you watch it.

There are two things of importance related to Adobe Sensei.

First, the strategic implications. Sensei is being treated as both a layer in the platform and — via what will seemingly become a ubiquitous blue button in Sensei activated applications — Sensei will be easy to use, though I’m not sure how easy it will be to deploy. Setup can’t be as simple as its made out to be. But its strategic importance is the first consideration. This is the first evidence I’ve seen that Adobe is realizing their promise that they will be “merging” the clouds into a single platform — just as they said they would. What makes this even more exciting is that it is being realized via actual output — and that the output is based on outcomes and specific use cases that are visible manifestations of the platform in production, not just action. I like this; I like this a lot.

Ecosystems and platforms, baby. Ecosystems and platforms.

Second, Sensei is among the most mature, most advanced AI platforms I’ve ever seen. While I don’t pretend to be “the” AI expert, I know enough about what the vendors are doing with AI and where they are in the fulfillment of their promise and promises to make that statement. Sensei in action is both elegant and substantial. It is fast, for example, via Adobe Smart Tag, processing, and identifying the handful of the millions of images that are appropriate to the creation of a specific campaign; it is remarkable in how effectively it learns the environment it needs to operate in and acts accordingly. There is a Sensei-powered feature in AEM called Smart Crop that can take any image, identify the focal point (i.e. point-of-interest) — say, a picture of you in the middle of bungie jumping — and, regardless of screen size, bandwidth, device type, and optimizes the size, resolutions, and compression of the single image so that it never loses its focal point and is fully optimized to lose zero visual acuity, though there can be up to 70 percent image size reduction (slow bandwidth, etc). This is all done at breathtaking speed, too. It seems to be instantaneous, yet if you think of the number of calculations going on via the Sensei algorithms, it is a truly amazing feat.

Sensei’s most interesting application — though they are all fascinating — is not with the Creative Cloud’s images, videos, and illustrations and content, but is how it is applied with what Adobe calls “experience intelligence” (in line with their messaging and narrative — see below for more on this). Adobe claims that Sensei is already capable of the following (within varying products e.g. Target, Campaign AEM), some of which is table stakes and some of which is leading edge (watch parentheses here). Note, it is interesting that these are being offered as services that have been created via the Sensei AI platform.

  1. Attribution AI Services: Determining the incremental marketing impact “driven by owned, earned, and paid media” (table stakes); determining best allocation of spend across channels (table stakes); and understanding the demographics of your customers being converted via marketing (table stakes).
  2. Customer AI Services: Customer individual and group churn propensity (table stakes but hard to do well); personalized nurture campaigns for individual prospects “based on behaviors and interests” (claimed by many but mostly on road maps, done by Adobe); and upsell propensity (table stakes).
  3. Journey AI Services: Personalize the timings of emails for both prospects and existing customers (table stakes but done by a very few); knowledge of individual customer behavior for predictive insights i.e. individual likelihood of email open and clickthrough (table stakes); and predictive messaging cadence (leading edge).

Are there missing pieces? Sure. I think the Journey AI services are far too focused on email to call this journey AI services, since there are so many other components of what constitutes a holistic look of a dynamic customer journey. But what they do offer on the core marketing side, focused behavioral insights that are based on continual and deep learning — in other words, that are supporting dynamically engaging the customer as the conditions, behaviors, and contexts change — are a helluva start to something a year ago seemed to be more of a dream to be than a reality, and its now a delivered reality, not just a demo fantasy.

The other interesting aspect of Adobe’s drive to platform is their expanded personalization offerings via Sensei, as manifested via Adobe Target. This is more “pedestrian,” but it’s a really sharp dressing pedestrian. What Adobe delivers as their personalization offerings are mobile, scalable, and, of course, optimized — a cornucopia of industry buzzwords that, despite their vast overuse, are meaningful. Meaning, if you promise them, you’d better deliver them or you are full of —. Adobe does deliver all three. The most interesting particular piece is their Personalization Insights Report, coming to you thanks to Adobe Target. Here is the Adobe blog MarTech speak weeds description: “The algorithm’s analysis of all profile attributes of each individual visitor over time produces exponential conversion lift, along with a deep analysis — equivalent to the results of hundreds of concurrent tests — in real time and self-optimizing over time.” What this ultimately means is that their algorithms are able to isolate the most important aspects of a customer’s behavior and deliver optimized offers — offers tailored to that individual’s most apparent desires and interests. This was determined by how the individual was behaving. What makes this particularly useful is that it can be done in real time and scales to concurrent thousands and even millions of users.

A momentary aside…

In the same blog post that I found the prior quote I also found this one and this goes to something that I think is extremely important and has nothing to do with Adobe, except as one of almost all companies who make the same fundamental mistake. It is one that reflects what I think needs both a clarity of definition and a more active discussion in the industry and beyond. Here’s the quote, “There’s a discussion across the industry that algorithms used by AI are very accurate and valuable, but they are also highly complex and not human readable… To solve for that, we’ve created a patented algorithm that sits on top of our AI-based personalization used in Auto-Target and Automated Personalization. The algorithm, which is cutting edge data science, generates human understandable insights from the from the output of AI-driven activities.” So close.

What I’m hinting at rather broadly here is that there is a significant difference between personalization and humanization. I’m not saying that the technology companies I deal with daily don’t get it. In fact, I would say that the quote above shows that they do distinguish between that. The work going on with chatbots (here’s a brand spanking new white paper I did on chatbots for Pitney Bowes that might be of interest) shows that the difference is understood. But the use of personalization is often misunderstood to be humanization, and it isn’t the same. To put it simply here (and I will write a post on this very, very soon): Personalization is associated with the best possible promotion/offer to a customer given the digital — and occasionally digital behavior of that customer and customers like him or her. It allows the customer to make a meaningful individual choice. This is not humanization. Humanization is an interaction between a real or computer generated representative of a company, and a customer that feels real and warm enough to that individual customer and has enough of a truly conversational flow to make it seem as if it is a real human being. The “feeling” of the customer is that this is someone who understands me and gets what I’m looking for. And speaks to me in my metaphor.

A customer’s idea of value is feeling valued. Humanization, because it means that “you” are concentrating on “me,” is part of the path to that customer feeling valued in a world that is nonstop more mobile and digitally driven and more demanding of the human touch, as it seems to be getting more and more away from us.

That’s kind of the awkward version of the difference. I will refine this a great deal, but I want you to know what I’m thinking now because I think humanization and thus all the technologies that are necessary to “humanize at scale” is a next big leap that is greatly aided by conversational interfaces, chatbots, AI, machine learning, and NLP-related activities — and, of course, actual people.

Its also Adobe’s next big step and opportunity. But let’s not go there quite yet.

Narrative: Purpose Built for the Experience Business

OK, Dr. Watson, we see concrete evidence of both ecosystem (Adobe-Microsoft partnership) and platform (Creative Cloud, Experience Cloud, Sensei working in unison) as significant progress to the evolution of the company. But this is a company that is both deep in the technical weeds and broad in the creation of brilliant creative art. How do you reconcile this progress, these rather disparate sets, into a single corporate narrative that reconciles the sets, increases the trust of the market and the once and future customers in the company, and sets the stage for the business value proposition that Adobe offers? What’s the story, morning glory?

Read also: Adobe adds more AI, customization, transparency in Adobe Target update

Well, they are onto it, but not quite there. It’s a charming but awkward attempt. It is a pirouette but without the elegance of the turn being fully realized.

They call it “The Experience Business,” which is, in reality, the (consumable) experiences business. Its actually a pretty good name for what they do and kind of a repurposing or, more accurately, a strengthening of the company’s brand and purpose. It is also what distinguishes the company from its competitors. They are arguably the only company who can make this claim genuinely at the enterprise level (or at any level really). They have changed the name of the Digital Marketing Cloud to the Adobe Experience Cloud — a solution set, so a cloud works, though oddly, they haven’t changed the name of the user conference to The Experience Cloud Summit, which they really should for 2019. They are also creating Experience Data Models (XDM) that are designed to create and support reference-able common semantics across all data, platforms. and channels. In fact, Adobe calls XDM “a formal standard, published in JSON schema, enabling data interoperability in Adobe Cloud Platform”

So far, so good. They are aligning their mission and vision with their strategy and the evolution of their technology — as Adobe always does down in the weeds. They also have an appropriate — to them and in reference to the markets — message and positioning.

Where I’m still not sold, though Adobe makes a compelling case is on their idea of an Experience System of Record. Let’s say I’m open to listening but I’m not convinced.

The components of the Experience System of Record seem to be:

  1. All relevant customer data (as Brad Rencher, EVP of marketing at Adobe defines it) from behavioral to CRM (with the intent to make it actionable).
  2. Define a common taxonomy for all the data regardless of where it is sourced from and defining specific treatments for personal (individual) data.
  3. Apply machine learning geared to specific business cases — again, in Brad Rencher’s words, “attribution analyses, audience segmentation, customer scoring and journey prediction” what he calls the “fundamentals of the experience business.” (Source: DMN)
  4. From this develop a constantly refreshed unified experience cloud profile for the individual customers so that responsiveness can not only be almost instantaneous, but can be contemporary and relevant.

Here’s why I’m skeptical — none of what he said, except one thing, is all that different than the many systems of record I see in CRM and in related areas. CRM data — the transactional and operational data — is not all that’s stored in CRM related systems of record. Social data, conversational data, journey data can all be centralized in what is dismissed by Adobe as a CRM system of record. If the system of record is NOSQL, the ability to handle high volume and real time transactions is there, so this is not a convincing argument. Plus the application of machine learning doesn’t have to be endemic to the system of record. The data from the system of record has to be made available and the machine learning can be applied. I’m not a technical person, so I may not be expressing this in the best possible way but what I am saying is that this is not the thing that makes me or should make anyone go “wow.”

But it’s the “one thing” that makes me willing to listen. Adobe’s creation of a common “experience” taxonomy and the special but related taxonomies for individual data. That is where something different is going on and, to my knowledge, Adobe is the only company doing it. But I need to investigate this further to see if they can actually show me something. Also, if they are doing this, it would be an important step for high degrees of personalization at scale and honestly, a first step toward humanization at scale too. Possibly. But more on that humanization thing some other time.

So, I’m listening but not convinced.

Chto Delat: What is to be done?

There are two things that I think that Adobe has to do. One is simple, the other not so much.

Read also: Adobe XD for Windows review: A powerful but usable design tool

The simple one: Change the name of the Digital Marketing Summit to Adobe Experience Cloud Summit or something much more creative than that. It is no longer about marketing for them. I found this really good article by DMN Editor-in-Chief Kim Davis. He makes this point incredibly concisely:

“Adobe offered what was, by common consensus, the first marketing cloud; and what was then regarded by influential analysts as the best, with Salesforce coming up hard on the rails. And it still exists today, in the sense that its main components — Experience Manager, Target, Campaign, etc — still pull together to drive marketing operations. Rencher gives it a brief nod, with his habitual remark that ‘we created the category.’

That’s about all you’ll hear about a marketing cloud at an Adobe event. The customer experience, the thinking goes, exceeds marketing (and advertising). It encompasses sales, service, loyalty, of course, but ultimately, it’s more than that. It’s about brand affinity; potentially lifetime brand affinity. That’s where all the themes of the conference — including data protection and privacy — come together.”

So, new name. If marketing is no longer the focus, then they need to change the name of the summit. Not even an option. A necessity.

The other thing, and I never thought I’d say this when it came to Adobe, they need to step up the thought leadership on customer experience(s). They are not in the “how-a-customer-feels-about-a-company-over-time” Experience Business. They are in the “create-distribute-consume” Experience Business. But their thought leadership isn’t geared to this — or anything about the customer experience. Case in point — go to CMO.com right now and tell me what your view of their landing page suggests. I can tell you what it gives no indication of really at all. Customer experience. A classic CRM thought leadership page could be identical. And, as an aside, given the May 31 featured post, How the Sharing Economy is Transforming Travel, no one calls it the “Sharing Economy ” anymore. Its pretty much the Gig Economy. Because it isn’t a sharing economy. No one is sharing anything. You are paying people who have the time to do something for a service that they can provide via site that aggregates similar offerings. They drive for Uber or Lyft — and you pay for the ride. No sharing. You rent an Airbnb property. They aren’t sharing with you. They are renting to you.

Aside over.

Regardless of bad feature headlines, Adobe needs to revamp the overall content and the look and feel and patina of their main distribution site for thought leadership, if they are seriously realigning their entire company around customer experience. And they need to be clear what kind of experience they actually provide — or rather, they are pretty clear I think in their own heads — they need to make it clear to the world on what kind of experience they provide tools for. They have an opportunity to be the runaway market leaders in this area and even to “make” a market and establish a category in an area that I thought a decade ago was impossible to do. Now, I’m older and wiser, and Adobe’s actually starting to do it. Though are not by any means there yet.

But all in all, the journey they started two years ago actually is moving quickly to realization of its earliest stages — and that is a lot to be proud of. I’m not in awe of them, since I’m rarely in awe of companies, but I do applaud them for not just laying down a vision and then stepping all over it but instead building the highway to the mission and to the execution of that vision. Take care of the things that I lay out at the end here and this company that is deep in the weeds and at the same time the most creatively bright company I’ve seen in the industry so far might just pull this off and make me say, “I stand corrected.” Might. I’m tough.

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