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Enterprising Insights, Episode 19: Adobe Summit Wrap-Up with Robert Kramer, Moor Insights & Strategy

Enterprising Insights, Episode 19: Adobe Summit Wrap-Up with Robert Kramer, Moor Insights & Strategy

In this episode of Enterprising Insights, The Futurum Group’s Enterprise Applications Research Director Keith Kirkpatrick is joined by Robert Kramer, vice president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, to discuss the announcements from Adobe Summit. The pair discusses the news coming out of the show, the state of SaaS applications, data management and governance, and the challenges faced by Adobe and others with incorporating and managing AI. The pair then close out the show with the Rant or Rave segment, where they each champion and criticize something from the enterprise software and CX market.

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Listen to the audio below:

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Transcript:

Keith Kirkpatrick: Hello, everyone. I’m Keith Kirkpatrick, Research Director with The Futurum Group, and I’d like to welcome you to Enterprising Insights. It’s our weekly podcast that explores the latest developments in the enterprise software market and the technologies that underpin these platforms, applications and tools. This week, we’re going to talk about the announcements and strategies coming out of the Adobe Summit, which is their annual user conference. It’s heavily focused on the application, content management and customer experience in the generative AI era. Then as always, I’m going to close out the show with the rant or rave segment where I pick one item in the enterprise software market and I will either champion it or criticize it.

But this week, we have a little bit of a twist. Joining me is Robert Kramer, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. Now Robert covers enterprise data and ERP, including data management databases, data lakes, data observability, data analytics and data protection. He has more than 30 years of proven experience with startups, IT companies, global marketing, detailed strategy development, business modeling and planning and working with enterprise companies. So I’m really pleased to have you here today, Robert. Welcome.

Robert Kramer: Thank you. It’s an absolute honor and hope I can live up to expectations. It sounds like a lot of fun and a lot of great things to talk about. Thank you.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Absolutely. Well, why don’t we get right into it? We were both at the Adobe Summit last week, which is their annual B2B focus conference, and there are a few things that I’m sure we both sat through in terms of keynotes and individual sessions. One of the things that jumped out at me right away were some of the enhancements that Adobe was making to Firefly, specifically Firefly services and Firefly custom models.

Now as we heard, these Firefly services, it sounds like what they’re really trying to do is make this generative AI technology available through a set of APIs and tools so they can do this in the flow of work as opposed to having to go out to individual applications. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is this something that you’ve heard from customers in terms of feature sets that they’ve been asking for, or what’s your thought on this?

Robert Kramer: Well, it’s a really good question because of the fact that a lot of this was done manually outside of Adobe and you had to piece it together, so it allows for that personalization, something that I think that they’ve been missing. It allows those marketing departments to customize these marketing campaigns by company, by region, by country, by also language versus before they were going out of the application to do it. So I think it’s a great enhancement.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Right. That’s something that I’ve heard from a lot of vendors recently is this incorporating generative AI within the flow of work so you’re not having to jump from application to application. I think we’ve both seen some studies out there where it’s, I think the average number of applications at a particular enterprise could be, I’ve heard upwards of 20, which is pretty nuts when you think about how much time you spend doing that, what is it, the alt tab in between applications?

Robert Kramer: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, there’s some studies out that there’s probably about 30,000 if not 50,000 different SaaS providers and in each company on a whole, but all the way through the company is using 130 applications and then if not more. Then what’s going to happen is these data sets that they have to get in order from a standardization standpoint, the structure of them to get it right is going to be a monumental task.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah. Yeah. It certainly sounds like it because if you’re trying to pull in data from just a variety of applications, different vendors, different formats, all of that kind of thing, and you and I talked about this extensively at the conference, data is really the enabler of all of this. We can talk a little more about what Adobe’s doing. They’re launching Firefly custom models, which apparently is designed to, instead of using a generic approach to generative AI, they’re actually making it so you can frame that data on an individual company’s use cases and data sets. So I’m just curious, am I right in characterizing this as a big lift?

Robert Kramer: I think it is because of the data stacks that everybody has, it’s a challenge because the anchors, the ERP and then you have all these other add-on applications. We just said that there’s tons of applications that companies are using. Then when you put that together, by the time you get to Adobe, who is enforcing this data structures to be intact, to be able to use it the way that they’re intended to be?

So when you see the great pictures and the stories and the features that they show to get there, what is the task? I think that’s left out, and I think that’s the misnomer that’s happening, but not just at Adobe, it’s happening at all the other companies. I was just at Salesforce a few weeks before that, to populate those dashboards of Salesforce, how do you get there? It’s the same story, I think.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Right. It’s interesting, Adobe actually released a product at Summit or announced a product called GenStudio, which I think what they’re trying to do there address some of that at least internally. So from what I understand, GenStudio is an all-in-one application that will allow marketers and other non-creative types to basically go in, create assets, manage that content flow and distribute it all from a single application and being able to pull functionality from individual products within the suite like Photoshop or Illustrator and that sort of thing.

So it seems like from that perspective, they’re getting the message of, “Hey, let’s make this process easier.” I don’t know whether it actually addresses the other issue which you raised is, what if their asset’s outside of their ecosystem?

Robert Kramer: I think that the GenStudio is a big play because it allows you to plan, create, manage, activate, measure, but it’s that content supply chain to absolutely captivate it, to control it, to be able to use it in the Adobe circle. But the platform itself is a win because of the fact that all these new features give you the ability to concentrate just on what you’re doing inside there. Like you said, you have to hit alt tab and go outside of it, so it allows for that, but it still does not handle the whole process of the data.

They showed some data ability to control the quality, but it’s not at the level that I’m talking about, and I think it’s a major issue with the data strategies that companies need to have, and I think that doesn’t even encompass the database issues. How many databases does every company need to have as things grow with these applications like Adobe, who’s going to control the data, the databases where these companies aren’t out of control with the amount of applications they’re using and which data is right. So I know I’m going on a tangent on the data management stuff, but I think it’s a problem that’s going to exist and compound as we keep on going on down the road with these new features that look fantastic. It’s like a shiny new car, right?

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Right. Well, it’s really interesting you bring that up because if you use that analogy of a shiny new car, well, you can talk about new features, a shiny new mirror or whatever, a nice looking dashboard, but it does come down to what is the underlying infrastructure there? What is in place to manage data that might be sitting in silos? Now, Adobe obviously has their CDP, but I’m just curious as to whether or not this is something that Adobe and others are really considering because I don’t know of any organization of any scale that has all of their data tied up in a nice little organized system.

Robert Kramer: It’s a big point because 25 years ago there was a company called Salesforce, if anybody’s heard of it, I’m joking, or NetSuite. So those companies started or some of the pioneers, not the absolute only ones, but 25 years ago the SaaS solution started. So when we had ERP, these types of solutions were modules, not Adobe per se, but CRMs were, so the core data was concentrated inside that ERP. So if you keep on stacking that data on top of the ERP and then keeps on compounding, which data is right? We’ve all used Salesforce in some way or some CRM where you go look and say, “Which customer number is ABC Chemical or ABC Manufacturing?”

So it’s entered multiple times, but that’s just a very small example, but it’s a major issue. So by the time you get to Adobe and you have all these different products put in, you have the pricing put in, and that’s what they’re really good at is the product catalogs. They’re fantastic. They look amazing.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right.

Robert Kramer: So it’s taking that information from somewhere and that somewhere where is it managed to get to Adobe and then who’s responsible, and it doesn’t even tackle the whole security issue with SaaS and who owns it at one end versus the other. I don’t bring up a lot of points, but these data management strategies are the cornerstone for the assets of the data for the long-term and to be somehow handled. So I think it’s going to be a big play at some point.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah, I think there’s two points there that you brought up that were interesting with respect to data management. One obviously is the technical angle. How are you handling all of that governance on a technical angle in terms of looking at what is the single source of truth, how do you update that? The second thing, and this is something that we deal with on a daily basis, like you said, you go into Salesforce, there are eight widgets Ink entries. It might all be the same company, maybe it isn’t. I would assume the same could be true if we’re talking about assets like content assets, which one is the most recent approved logo or approved image for a particular campaign? It sounds like that’s also a training issue in terms of working with this type of data.

Robert Kramer: Yeah, I think it’s everything you just said. These companies have to have what’s called change management, workflows that actually make sense to how you’re going to handle the data and main people who are handling that. Instead of the CISOs or the CTOs, maybe there’ll be a change management executive that’s going to handle the flow of data or a data management executive. Because of the fact this is such a big deal, how do you handle the documentation? How do you handle the training? How do you handle the assessment, the discovery, the fixes? Then, it has to be maintained. Once that whole lift, like you just said, is done, how is it done where it’s standardized and these structures can continue ’cause at some point, you get to go back in time and fix it.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right.

Robert Kramer: This is one of the reasons, and this gets into another story of why so much data is on-prem. We always talk about there’s 75% of the data is on-prem in these big ERP systems because to move them, not only is it expensive, but the win is not ROI. So when you asked the question how much data or how much of the features and functionalities are actually used in the ERP system, me and you talked about this, and I just took a guess, I think it’s like 50% maybe, if you have a big system. If you put a new one in and it’s off-prem in the cloud, what are you getting 5% or are you getting 25? So if you’re only gaining five, you’re not going to do it. If you’re getting 25, you’re going to do it. But that’s a big part of that shiny new car end result is to move it to the cloud, but companies aren’t doing it because of everything we just mentioned.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right. Absolutely. It’s interesting you mentioned, just circling back a little bit to Adobe, one of the interesting things that they’re trying to do, there’s a new feature that they announced called Federated Audience Composition, and this is something where we sat in a briefing together where they were talking about how they would be able to go out and pull, if not the data itself, signals from outside sources that could be used to inform a particular campaign.

I think the example we were talking about was let’s say you’re a healthcare company and you wanted to send out a campaign for people to get flu shots and they would go out and figure out, “Well, does this person, did they have any underlying conditions? When was the last time they got it?” They wouldn’t be looking at the data itself, but they’d be looking at the signals indicating that they were eligible. The question then is, again, let’s look at governance. Let’s look at management. How do we know that that data outside the walls is accurate? Because if it’s not, then all of these other nice little features and enhancements are really useless.

Robert Kramer: Exactly. I think the thought and the features of it are great, and as a marketing person, to be able to take that specific data that I only need and to grab it and use it and then act on it, so I only want to go after those people who need that shot, et cetera. But what are we going to do if the data is wrong? What do you do if you’re doing that and you say to all these people, “Go in and get your shot,” and then they’re not eligible?

Keith Kirkpatrick: Right.

Robert Kramer: So this whole data management strategy is, maybe it’s not talked about as much right now, but you can see as you go down into the future how much of a big deal it is to have that data right, because the concept of that feature that you just mentioned would change a lot of companies’ abilities to act on it.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah. Absolutely. To their point and speaking with, I actually asked the question of Adobe executives, “How do you manage this?” Their response was, “Well, whenever we work with partners, we try to let them know of the best practice for data governance and all of that,” and that’s great, but it’s still not quite the same as having some unified policy for management for vetting that data and making sure it’s accurate. To your point, how do you actually verify that so you don’t have a catastrophic situation like you mentioned there, what happens to someone who has an allergic reaction, they’re misclassified, what happens there?

Robert Kramer: Right. Right.

Keith Kirkpatrick: A lot of big issues there. So I’d like to just briefly touch on a couple other things there. As I’m sure you remember, Adobe also announced their generative AI assistant. Thankfully, as I’ve highlighted many times, I’m so glad they’re not calling it Copilot. It shocks me when companies call it the same thing. It’s-

Robert Kramer: They’re all doing that.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah.

Robert Kramer: Yeah.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Speaking of Copilot, they also announced a partnership with Microsoft to allow Copilot to actually access some of those Adobe features from within, again, if you’re working in Microsoft PowerPoint, if you’re working in Excel, if you’re working in Word to actually pull some of that Adobe functionality through, just wanted to get your thoughts. Do you think this is the way of the world now where everyone’s going to have to be interoperable when it comes to generative AI?

Robert Kramer: I think it’s a big deal, yes, and I also think the big deal is these ecosystems. So to have these partnerships, you want to be niche, but you can’t survive on that as a whole because of the fact you ’cause cannot be everything to everybody. So it’s good to carve out your swim lane, but also to carve out your players who’s going to handle the surrounding areas that you’re not able to, bring that technology the power that you need, I think it’s fantastic. I think the two of them working together is a big deal and it gives them the sense. As far as degenerative AI, I think having that assistance does allow for some of those efficiencies that they weren’t able to have to bring things to the attention that were manually intensive, but to the fact that using the resources to their fullest where they don’t need to be doing those mundane tasks, but it does hinge on the data.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s something that we’ve reiterated here. One other thing I’m curious about is if we think about Adobe, obviously they have some pretty incredible technology, but one other thing that they’ve done a great job of is really focusing on making their technology safe and reliable for Enterprise customers. I have to imagine that, you cover the space, you’ve been covering the space, that’s almost more important than the gee whiz feature sets because in the end, you’re not as a large enterprise, you’re not going to just take a flyer on something that looks really cool without having controls in place. Is that still a strength for Adobe particularly as a start based competition from companies like Canva, which seems to be trying to make a move into the space a little bit?

Robert Kramer: I think so. They told us at Adobe that they were moving more from, like you said, consumer to Enterprise and they have an amazing reputation. So we know that and the security that they have and they’ve talked about are a big deal because that’s a present tense situation. So I do agree with everything you’re saying. It’s an asset for them, and they have the credibility from previously and then aligning with some of these other companies, like you’ve mentioned, in addition to the security are major assets to them. So I agree with you. What do you think of the security that they have? What’s your thoughts?

Keith Kirkpatrick: It’s funny, I’ve actually been following this pretty closely. Particularly, as we hear about some of the faux pas and missteps of generative AI, we obviously talk about Microsoft with their Copilot issue, Google with Gemini and even with Adobe had a little bit of a hiccup there. Of course, Adobe said… I’ve received a statement that they said, “Firefly is not about generating historically-accurate images.” Ultimately, Adobe does a great job of trying to put in these guardrails. It’s never going to be perfect because of the nature of generative AI. It is not input A and get A out. That’s not the way it works.

It’s like a seesaw where it goes like this and maybe it goes like that, so I think they’ve done a good job. I think if there’s anything they need to really work on, it’s just reiterating that message that this is a core pillar of their offering, that this is what they’re built upon. All of the images that they use as a base for generative AI comes from their Adobe stock. It’s either commercially licensed or it’s in the public domain. I think that’s huge. If you think about an organization that might be using this as they kept talking about being able to create hundreds, thousands, even millions of variations of a particular image is going to be critical.

Robert Kramer: Yeah, I think that’s super important. I think that technology stack, knowing that it’s going to be the security is there and the lead with that, like you just mentioned, is a big deal. I’m not sure that companies are doing that as much as they need to because of the fact that the customers might not know that there’s insecure situations with these SaaS solutions. So I agree with everything you’re saying.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yeah. Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how the market evolves over time. Again, the most amazing thing is if you think back even what, 16 months ago, we were not talking about any of this.

Robert Kramer: I know, and it’s actually fantastic that the innovations going on in the IT world, in our world with the generative AI and then what we all think of what data is ’cause data, we can go back years and years ago, it was just a reporting mechanism. It was just a static number that we looked at, and now we’re seeing that it is really the source code for your company.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Absolutely. Well, in the few minutes we have left, I want to just ask you, was there anything related that stood out for you having been at Adobe over the past week?

Robert Kramer: Yeah, a couple of things. You mentioned the Federated Audience, and one, I think that’s what’s going on is, this a twofold, is the companies are making it a little bit more complicated than they to. For example, they came up with that name and I get it, but I don’t get it because from a marketing perspective, it doesn’t resonate and it makes it more complex. It should just be a feature of the CDP and so it’s making it more complex. Then if you look at the digital platform for Adobe, it’s very substantial, which is fantastic from a feature and functionality. But from a user perspective, you have users anywhere from light to medium to heavy.

The heavy users are going to love it, the light users are going to be intimidated. Some of these things should be a little bit more simpler to look at. This is only going to compound because everybody wants more features and functionality. But I think in the end, we have to find a way to reduce and consolidate versus always add. In the end, it’s only going to give more confusion and then have trouble getting to the point that you can be able to take advantage of these features and functionality ’cause you’re never going to be able to get to where you’re supposed to, so just a consideration.

Keith Kirkpatrick: No, absolutely. I think you’ve raised a good point. If you think about even just how obviously it’s their event, they need to highlight various new things that they’re putting into the platform. But again, as you said, a lot of these features either are becoming or should become table stakes when you really think about it. It’s how can you give your customers the most control over the data and using that data to actually provide business results?

Robert Kramer: Yes, I agree.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Yep. Yep. All right. Finally, as always here, Robert, I do this rant or rave segment at the end of the show. I would love to ask you, is there something either at Adobe, it could be the wider enterprise SaaS market data that you either want to rant about, complain or rave about, and sit there and give it the old golf clap?

Robert Kramer: I think this is an interesting point and great question, and I want to get your take on it. I think people or customers, they’re buying their product from the people, not the product. So the delivery of what you’re selling is from the actual person delivering it. So I think it’s customer service collaboration is the biggest thing going on today to get these organizations to work well together. So that’s my rave.

My rant is that I actually came home, and this is maybe IT related or maybe not, but these airlines on the layovers that they make you sit on. What I had to do is I had a layover in Dallas and I sat comfortably in the lounge. Then I go to the gate and there’s a four-hour time delay, and then I get on the plane. Then there’s another two-hour delay because the flight attendants were overbooked on their hours.

So this does relate to data that they’re not using the data accordingly to manage these airlines. What happens is, we’re treated like we’re not even like a customer. So two points is, treat us like a customer and in the face of your delivery is you’re buying from the product, not the product, but from the person. So just to see what you think about collaboration and data with that, and then actually buying product from the person, not actually the features. We talked about that a little bit too.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Look, Robert, I couldn’t agree more with the I don’t think anyone buys solely on features because when you think about it, features are, you might be here at the top, I don’t know why my background is messing that up, but-

Robert Kramer: I gotcha.

Keith Kirkpatrick: … next here. I think that’s the thing, it comes down to, what about implementation? What about service? What about working with you to make sure that the product not only meets your needs, but gives you a roadmap for where you want to go from a data strategy, from an application strategy? Ultimately, if we follow that all the way down, a customer experience strategy, because ultimately, that’s what 90% of this is really about.

Robert Kramer: Yeah, and I think the companies that are winning are selling their strategy in the implementation components in the sales initiatives, and they’re prepping those companies all the way through. Like you just said, there’s the phases and all the way through the service, but we all like to feel good about service because that’s how we buy it. We buy on trust. We buy on emotion. We don’t want to buy on features. We want to know that those features and functionality are there, but the delivery through that person that’s talking is giving us a sense of trust, and that’s super important. I don’t think some companies are necessarily doing that, not only in IT that we’re talking about, across all industries.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Well, to circle back on your rant, I think it’s one that a lot of us in this industry have with respect to the airlines. Again, to your point, I think it’s a combination of a data issue because clearly, you wouldn’t have a flight crew that was overscheduled if they managed the data properly, but then it comes down to non-technical issues about how do you treat your customers? Because honestly, if you had had a seamless experience, you wouldn’t even be mentioning it to me right now. That’s something that-

Robert Kramer: No, it’s horrible.

Keith Kirkpatrick: … I’m surprised at the airlines, because airlines telecommunications companies tend to get the most flack about this because if you think the outsized impact a bad experience can have on a particular customer, it’s surprising that this continues to happen. I think that one of the things that was very interesting, I think it was over the last year or so, some of the discount airlines said, “We’re going to no longer staff our call centers with humans. We’re just going to let you deal with the bots.” I find that interesting because for a very low-cost carrier, you expect very little, but for everybody else, we still have to interact with people. It’s a little that there are tools out there that could make the difference. Really, it’s just about looking into that data, analyzing what matters to the customer and then making those changes. Like you said, thankfully, I did not have a crazy layover delay, but I did get upgraded from an aisle seat to a middle seat, which makes me think they were not looking at my data.

Robert Kramer: To a middle seat, okay.

Keith Kirkpatrick: A middle seat-

Robert Kramer: That’s horrible.

Keith Kirkpatrick: It was, but that’s the way-

Robert Kramer: They made it challenging for us, so travel was not what it used to be. So that’s a whole nother topic, we can get into that some other time. But it was a fun time at Adobe, and I really enjoyed this session here and the data stories ’cause I think there’s a lot there.

Keith Kirkpatrick: Absolutely. Well, it’s certainly always a pleasure speaking with you, Robert, and hopefully, we’ll have a chance to chat again soon.

Robert Kramer: Thank you. My pleasure.

Keith Kirkpatrick: All right. Well, that’s all the time we have today, so I want to thank everyone for joining me here on Enterprising Insights. I’ll be back again next week with another episode focused on the happenings within the Enterprise application market. So be sure to subscribe, rate and review this podcast on your preferred platform, and we’ll be seeing you really soon. Take care.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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