Companies need to focus maniacally on the customer experience and they need to appreciate how difficult business transformation can be.

This was one of the key messages out of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen’s keynote speech at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas today.

To illustrate his point, he walked the 17,000 attendees through Adobe’s own journey.

“At Adobe we’ve seen this for the past few years as we’ve gone through our own significant transformation and one that’s touched every part of our organisation. Through the process, we’ve learned a lot.”

He said the experience and the lessons learnt were later applied to Adobe’s experience cloud development.

According to Narayen, “Adobe was the undisputed leader in creative desktop software. We sold software like Photoshop and After Effects and Illustrator and Acrobat. Mostly through distribution and resellers. And we were only able to deliver that fundamental innovation every 12 or 18 months.”

That model served the business well, but the leadership could see themselves at a crossroads, he said. While Adobe was profitable, there were clearly stormy seas ahead. He described a litany of looming challenges including;

  • Adobe wasn’t growing in line with the explosion of content that was being created.
  • Its product cycles were too slow to keep up with the pace of innovation that its engineers wanted to deliver.
  • It didn’t have a direct relationship with our customer to understand which features would have the most value.
  • They were struggling to attract the next generation of users. 

“We realised that despite all our success we had a unique opportunity to completely reimagine the creative product ecosystem.”

That involved examining their business model and their engagement with customers.

“We decided to turn our multi-billion dollar creative business on its head. [We wanted to be] innovative and offer fast updates, ditch the boxes, and move to a subscription-based business model, and in an entirely new way to reach our customers with creative platforms.”

The decision profoundly impacted and changed Adobe’s relationship its our customers, and how it operates as a business, he said.

“The subscription model put the customer experience front and centre. And we became a company that embraced the always-on reality of the digital business, delivering a continuous stream of innovation to our customers and focusing on building our customer’s business and trust every single day.”

The company began to understand and rely on data as much it had on creative in the past.

“We became a company that focused on customer intent so we could deliver a personalised experience at every single platform. In the end we became a more successful company.”

Shantanu argued that the success which followed was predicated on the core belief that digital transformation starts by re-imagining the entire customer journey.

“It’s engaging with the customers on the channel of their choice. It’s moving them from one step in that journey to the next through the deliver of a delightful experience. Measuring our progress, measuring our success, and perhaps most challenging of all, scaling the processes and personalising the journey, not just for one customer, but for tens of millions of customers.”

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