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January 22, 2020updated 20 Jul 2022 8:53am

Q&A: Adobe’s Engineering VP on “Experience Manager” Going Cloud-Native

"Developing an enterprise-grade digital experience that’s AI-enabled, personalised to customers at scale, across every device and platform, has traditionally taken months"

By CBR Staff Writer

Earlier this month Adobe made a significant pivot in how it offers its huge bundle of marketing and web analytics tools, Experience Manager, opting to offer it on a cloud-native software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis: a major shift for large enterprises used to running the software on-premises with fixed upgrade cycles.

With typical marketing hyperbole, the company promised the ability to “supercharge brands’ ability to deliver personalised omnichannel experiences”, roll out production-quality CMS and DAM (digital asset management) environments in minutes, and go live with dynamic content “in just a few weeks, not months.”

Jean-Michel Pittet, VP of Engineering, Adobe

Computer Business Review had questions… not least why in 2020 delivering personalised experiences was still taking months to roll out for the enterprise. We tracked down Adobe’s Jean-Michel Pittet, VP of Engineering, to answer some questions.

Experience Manager Turns SaaS: Why Make the Pivot Now? 

The process of re-architecting Experience Manager to take advantage of cloud-native technologies started several years ago due to the massive shift in how consumers were interacting, and continue to interact, with brands daily.

Customers are prepared to move from one brand to another far quicker than they would previously. They are consuming more content than ever before and expect brands to engage with them in ways that are personalised.

Brands have responded by growing their websites and digital properties at an exponential rate, but they have struggled with the larger volumes of content they are dealing with, the pace at which that content needs to be delivered across increasingly sophisticated consumer touchpoints, and importantly, with how to connect that content with commerce.

We saw the need for an enterprise-level operation that gave brands the option to launch a digital presence quickly across multiple channels – from mobile to desktop, online to physical, interactive screens and IoT – and which gave them flexibility to customise the look and feel to a high degree without the restrictions or limitations commonly associated with other SaaS solutions currently available to them.

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You say that with the SaaS, “New Site Experiences can be Launched Quickly and Act as the Foundation for Future Customer Experience Innovations.” What does this Mean?

New site experiences can be anything from microsites that need to be developed and spun up quickly, through to content that works across connected devices. Previously, developing an experience on a new channel from scratch took a long time, but now a new location online can be spun up in a matter of minutes.

Typically, enterprise clients would run on an annual or longer release cycle due to the time and effort required to update to the latest version [of Experience Manager]. This cycle means that often there is a big gap between the functionalities they have and the functionalities that are available in the newest version.

With Cloud Service, clients can access the latest developments through the platform instantly, so they can quickly create new experiences and spend more time creating great content, rather than updating their systems.

Have Customers been Concerned at all about Adobe Having Access to both their, and their Rivals’, Customer Datasets in One Cloudy Place?

We have robust data governance protocols in place and have been delivering cloud services across our portfolio of digital media applications for almost eight years, counting some of the world’s biggest companies as our customers. This is something we will replicate in the move to cloud for  Experience Manager.

Why, Until Now, Has Delivering Personalised Experiences Taken Months?

Developing an enterprise-grade digital experience that’s AI-enabled, personalised to customers at scale, across every device and platform, has [indeed] traditionally taken months. This is due to the number of developers required to build something bespoke that pulls together disparate data sets and leverages this data to target customers with bespoke content which reflects the culture of the company.

Despite the time taken to develop, this option is typically preferable for enterprises over mid-market solutions that provide them with a rigid ‘cookie cutter’ website where, for example, layout and CMS options are limited to a handful of templates – even if these sites can be rolled out much faster.

By being cloud native, Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service, offers brands the best of both worlds. We have introduced an off-the shelf blueprint that provides brands with a framework for an enterprise-grade website in an instant. The Platform-as-a-Service infrastructure enables brands to configure, edit and build on the blueprint in the same development environment as is used to create them.

How are you Pricing this SaaS?

The pricing model for Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service is made up of two elements: page views and number of users.

The advantage of a cloud-native Adobe Experience Manager, is that customers will no longer have to pay for those annual, or bi-annual, costly upgrades – all product innovation is delivered on a regular schedule via the cloud

If I’m a Business Wanting to Make the Shift, What Do I need to Do?

We have a clear step-by-step process covering provisioning, onboarding, implementation, right through to product adoption.

At the provisioning and onboarding phase, we make sure we’re integrating with existing systems and ensuring the right data is flowing to the right places – a process made much swifter if the customer is running Adobe Experience Platform as the two applications integrate natively.  At the implantation phase we have blueprints to help companies get up and running quickly. Then moving to provisioning, this is all about enablement and skill building.

Do You Face Vendor Lock-In Concerns?

At the core of our beliefs as a company, is believing an open data initiative – to enable full transparency.

As well, one of the benefits that a cloud service provides to customers is how stable, agile and available the solution is to any given problem that may occur. Previously, upgrade cycles gave people pause for thought because the cost to upgrade for those who have particularly long upgrade cycles was comparable to the cost to switching to another provider.

Through [this pivot to cloud] the gap between market requirements and technology capabilities is far tighter because the biggest driver to change is minimised, enabling customers to focus on creating and launching the best content and campaigns.

Read this: Brands Seek Data Control as Frustration Grows with “Walled Garden” Ad Platforms

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