Adobe’s service partners are what will make it a proper enterprise software company

Adobe's ecosystem is one of the top software portfolios in the digital experience market, but will lie fallow, unused, or underused without the contributions from service providers. Here are some observations from Forrester's evaluation of 12 of the most important service providers implementing Adobe software.

Adobe strives to be an enterprise software company with the same reach and influence as Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP. It successfully pivoted its creative tools business into a proper software-as-a-service offering. It built on that creative marketing and agency customer connection by acquiring Day Software, Neolane, Omniture, and more software vendors to enter the complex and rapidly growing marketing software category. But the Adobe Experience Cloud was always a specific solution designed for a single function: consumer marketing.

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That all changed in 2018 when Adobe made three important moves: 

  1. It acquired a B2B marketing company and a commerce software company; 
  2. It began to invest in data infrastructure and developer tools to attract enterprise attention; and 
  3. It hired experienced enterprise software industry executives to lead the developer efforts and eventually the entire product line.

Suddenly, Adobe was being viewed by CIOs and systems integrators as an enterprise software company. One signal of this has been the rise in attendance, role diversity, and sponsorship of its Adobe Summit. While Adobe Summit is still only a fraction of the size of Salesforce's Dreamforce juggernaut (170,000 attendees), Adobe's ecosystem is nonetheless one of the top software portfolios in the digital experience market. And in these COVID-19 times, where digital customer experiences are more important than ever, it's time for an enterprise-grade digital experience software supplier (or two or three of them).

But Adobe's software will just lie fallow, unused, or underused without the contributions from software and data vendors as well as from digital agencies, consultancies, and tech service providers. These domain and category experts are the go-to partners for CMOs and CIOs to get the most out of their Adobe stack. And nobody had systematically investigated or evaluated the Adobe service providers -- until now.

Late last year, my colleague Xiaofeng Wang and I took a look at 24 service providers offering Adobe implementation services in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, those that can serve global clients in their home geographies. And we recently evaluated 12 of the most important service providers implementing Adobe software: Accenture, Adobe, Cognizant, Deloitte Digital, Dentsu, HCL Technologies, IBM iX, ICF Next, Infosys, Publicis Sapient, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and WPP. 

We found some interesting and sometimes unexpected things along the way:

  • First, the general level of capability and quality was high. In some cases, we had trouble differentiating service providers on their abilities. That's good for enterprises. However, we found large discrepancies in the providers' ability to work with the newer products in the portfolio, for example, with Adobe Commerce (Magento) or Marketo Engage. We also found scant customer evidence for services for Adobe Sensei (AI) or the new Adobe Experience Platform (a customer data platform).
  • Second, there were significant differences in the buyers for different provider categories. While not unexpected, the traditional buyers for digital agencies, consultancies, and tech service providers were also the spokespeople for our 41 customer reference calls. And these buyers have different needs and perspectives on what matters. As an enterprise software company, Adobe will have to continue to bridge the gaps between IT, marketing, and business stakeholders. Service providers can help.
  • Third, this evaluation timing was coincidental with some important shifts among the service providers in their Adobe partnership and businesses. For example, IBM designated a global practice, and Accenture elevated its Adobe practice to the same business level as its other enterprise software businesses. Dentsu and WPP chose to brand themselves as holding companies rather than as individual agencies. And the tech service providers brought together executives from their acquired agency and native development practices for the briefing and discussions.

These are all indications that service providers are taking the Adobe enterprise business very seriously. They're making important commitments to Adobe and the market, and they're validating Adobe's role as an enterprise provider. But there's much work for all parties still to do: more repeatable, industry-relevant assets; more integration among the products; and much more customer data to create a more personalized customer experience.

A last thought is that firms should never buy software without a service provider at the table. That means enterprises should coordinate across IT, marketing, and business stakeholders to make sure they're working with the best provider for their needs. This is never more true than it is for Adobe software, which can be a cheetah or a house cat depending on how well you put it together and operate its machinery. Be sure to get the best help you can to be a cheetah.

This post was written by Senior Analyst Xiaofeng Wang and VP & Principal Analyst Ted Schadler and it originally appeared here