Adobe Summit 2017 — Conclusions and What You Should Do
There is one thing that is certain: Adobe is very much trying to push businesses into committing to better experiences and building those experiences with their clouds, and I think we have to ask ourselves: “Is Adobe just self-serving?” Is Adobe just wanting you to buy more stuff?
I’ll give you the answer: no, it is not. And here’s why:
Let’s take a totally different viewpoint here. I could stand to lose a few lbs. I should start running. You know who else wants me to start running? Nike. Getting good at running is good for Nike, yes. But it’s much better for me — this is my life, and I do not begrudge Nike one bit for the billions of dollars they have invested in R&D to help me get there through shoes, apparel, content and instruction, and even software.
Endgame here is that getting in shape is actually up to me: I am the one who has to get out of the armchair, just like our businesses have to animate into action, but Nike has made it simpler, more likely, more measurable, more fun, and has built a huge community that will empower me in ways I couldn’t help myself. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
What we are seeing in digital analytics is what I’ve referred to in the past as the “inchworm effect.” It describes this phenomenon that the head of the good intentions of a business can suddenly race way ahead of the booty of the company or even the industry, but must suddenly stop because the two are connected. The organization must then drag its rear end up to where the head is before the next step can be taken.
The head, in this use of the metaphor, is an investment, and the tail is excellence. Investment is the purchase of tools and technology, creating departments, hiring people, or making acquisitions. Excellence comes through exposure, experience, training, building deep and resilient competence in a variety of skillsets (namely communication abilities), and committing clear objectives, goals, and culture to this group of people, which is equivalent to aiming the organization at something meaningful.
While the exercise of aiming may seem trite or obvious, take into account the feedback we overwhelmingly heard at Summit: organizations are struggling to maximize the ROI of their existing technology investment, they feel a need to have more intentional strategies about what to do next, and they wish they had programs specifically addressing how to value their customers, create actionable segments, and launch superior experiences.
How do I know if this is an issue with me?
It is extremely important for a business or business unit to know which phase of the inchworm effect it is in, in order to make the best decisions about what to invest in. Investing in the wrong phase is not only wasteful and likely ineffective, it also can strain the culture of the business, result in nonsensical goals being set, and can have a major impact to morale — especially that of top-performers.
So, let’s make this real. Here is a diagnostic approach. Ask yourself which of the following categories you fit into, and start giving some thought to whether your current investments are appropriately matched:
The inchworm, when stretched out, looks like this:
“We have all of the tools and the people, but we aren’t getting the insights we are looking for.”
“We are not seeing ROI from our toolset.”
“Our organization or culture has not embraced analytics / testing / personalization / segmentation.”
“Goals across different departments can, at times, directly conflict with one another, and we have projects interfering with each other everywhere we look.”
“We have people working on different projects that are trying to solve the same problems, and not only are they not talking to each other, they don’t even want to talk to each other!”
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, it’s time to build capacity, expertise, and generate real-world wins from your prior investments. Whether that’s through working with someone like us or navigating through these waters on your own, it’s vital to make an adjustment right now, because it’s exactly what your competitors are doing. Whoever wins on these things wins.
When the inchworm’s rear is caught up, it sounds like this:
“How can we execute this success at scale? (new regions, industries, more widely across the enterprise, etc.)”
“How do we reach beyond the audiences we know about and can see today?”
“The leaps in testing and attribution have flattened, where’s the next jump in ROI going to come from?”
“We have segments, but the behavior within each segment is not consistent — are they really valid segments, and how can we get more precise?”
“What will our customers need from us next? What new product or service should we offer?”
In this phase, it’s time to talk about new technology, new products, new marketing channels or contexts, uprooting old systems, starting new departments, or even buying companies who are logical extensions of our strategy.
This is where it becomes vital to accurately analyze the investment opportunities available to you to understand potential ROI, a new investment’s ability to plug into your marketing architecture (and technical needs to achieve integration), changes in process or org that will facilitate a new arm of success, and ensure that the new investment shows early signs of success.
When I set out to write this, the goal was to be concise. When that didn’t work out, the goal was to dive deeper into why these things are happening and how the most successful businesses are looking at everything and reacting. The keys here are this:
- Choose the right people for the job: innovation and ease of use allow great people to do even greater things at greater scale. Putting important jobs on less-qualified people is not the answer to ease of use. Don’t ever skimp on talent in this arena: you’ll get passed like you’re standing still.
- Think in terms of architectures rather than products. Ecosystems win today, not features. Make sure everything in your experience and marketing stack is friendly with everything else, and that you have outlined the critical flows.
- Know the gaps you have in your fundamentals; never lose sight of them. Fix the gaps, and do it in the right order.
- If you aren’t the one setting the pace, benchmark yourself against the current and aspirational projects of other businesses who are setting a good example or already reaching the types of goals you have: you must catch up. If you are the one setting the pace, look well outside your industry to analyze the best in the world and borrow from their lessons, many of which were learned the hard way. If you are the best in the world, good job!
- You must understand which phase of the inchworm effect you are in to set the right goals and strategies for your organization. Please do not get this wrong; it will hurt.
This is the most positive I have felt about Adobe, ever, and that is saying a lot. Now, we are not at the destination yet: there is building to do, but it is clear that there are some very bright minds at the helm: the strategic shift toward the data platform and the emphasis on brands needing to focus on experience as a differentiator are clear signs that they are tapped into the zeitgeist and are building for the reality of marketing.
I’ll leave you with this:
We are in a very important time, with disruption everywhere we look. Spending time and resources in exactly the right places and in the right order is critical. I hope we get a chance to talk about your goals, and we’d love to help you reach them.
It was great to meet so many of you at Summit this year, and I wish you all the best, both professionally and personally.