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Adobe’s Partner Challenge


Just a little while ago I spent time at Adobe’s annual summit in Las Vegas. The event was filled with great stories and news about Adobe products, customer success stories, and partner achievements. The software company has come a long way in the past few years with some of its biggest hurdles: further integrating products within its marketing cloud, keeping up with its fast pace of growth, and taking on the new world order of focusing outcomes on customer experience.

At the summit, Adobe put a large focus on customer success – ‘great Adobe products supported by amazing Adobe partners.’ We heard from big brands such as McDonald’s, Mattel, Cirque du Soleil, and Qantas – among many others. What we didn’t hear enough about was how the best Adobe partners are contributing to customer success. I don’t mean product updates or the latest marketing cloud features. What I mean is – how is Adobe working with customers to enable success beyond the products?

When you consider how digital projects and initiatives are coming to life, many factors contribute to customer success. Customers must buy the best-fit technology for their current and future needs, they must enable the right strategies to gain the best value from those products, and they must empower the right people to ensure those visions come to life.

Digital partners are often undervalued in this sense. Companies tend to choose technology first, partner(s) second – despite the fact that the wrong partner can do way more damage than the wrong technology. And while Adobe partners were widely featured throughout Summit 2016, their importance in customers’ success stories were underscored far too little in my opinion.

So what’s at issue?

Adobe has recently changed its partner program, so that about a dozen premier (global) partners that were once at the highest level have been reclassified to the middle tier of ‘business partner.’ The long tail of community partners is mostly unchanged. This is happening at a time when software ecosystem partners are becoming increasingly important – not only to ensure successful implementations, but also to guide clients in a strategic direction to ensure project success.

For instance, at Summit, a partnership between DigitasLBi, Qantas, and Adobe was showcased. Australia’s largest national airline is going through a 3-year transformation project, focusing on building out its digital capabilities, putting a heavy emphasis on personalization and improving communications with customers both through their travel journeys and while away from the Qantas brand. While the relationship between the three stakeholders appeared to be symbiotic, there was a lack of discussion surrounding the way those three companies worked in tandem to achieve Qantas’ desired outcomes. Adobe technologies are playing a huge role in providing the baseline capabilities required to achieve their goals, but it is DigitasLBi’s experience and expertise that is bringing those Adobe technologies to life.

The ecosystem at Adobe and, likewise, at other software companies, is on the verge of a power shift: technologies are important, but those software products will only take companies so far. Service providers are increasingly necessary to shepherd buyers through the maze of customer experience, customizing and fitting buyer organizations’ unique needs. So in this equation, partners are a vital component to customer success, in the triangle of technology-service provider-buyer organization. Adobe did a great job of demonstrating its product strengths at Summit but perhaps the company will see higher project success rates if it starts promoting its partners’ importance more overtly, knowing all too well that a majority of organizations need both stakeholders (Adobe & its digital partners) to ensure customer success.


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