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?

How to commit to getting better at Digital Expe­ri­ences — the “inch­worm effect.”

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.

In Conclu­sion

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.

Announcements and What They Mean

What We Heard From The Attendees

Conclusions and What You Should Do

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