Adobe Summit 2019 offers digital transformation advice from Microsoft, Ersi and . . . Reese Witherspoon

Adobe Open Data Initiative ODI
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“I had this siloed-off experience. I wasn’t engaging with them . . . there wasn’t empirical data. (Social media) has expanded my idea of storytelling and the ability to reach a larger, but more specific audience.”

The comments above were not made by one of the many B2B CMOs attending Adobe Summit in Las Vegas this week in reference to her customers and prospects. They came from Reese Witherspoon — Oscar-winning actress, star of TV’s Big Little Lies, retail entrepreneur and now the driving force behind an emerging firm in the entertainment business.

Witherspoon was on stage to discuss Hello Sunshine, a media brand focused on creating content by and about women, and she served as an example of the kind of professional who has had to adapt quickly to changes in the way brands of all kinds operate. Whereas studios and other creative teams in the past might have looked at box office receipts or critical reviews as a way to measure their performance, for instance, Witherspoon noted how technology has created new opportunities to improve a film, a TV show or other digital piece of content.

“Data has been the biggest change in our industry,” Withterspoon said, citing streaming as a specific example. “You can finally see what people are watching, and get a sense of what they want to see.”

For many of the B2B firms at Adobe Summit this week, however, the challenge is bringing different data and applications together in a way that can answer their biggest questions. That’s why Adobe, along with its partners SAP and Microsoft, announced more details about the Open Data Initiative (ODI) they launched in September. ODI will allow joint customers of the three firms to bring in data from Adobe’s Experience Platform, along with tools such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Office 365 and SAP”s C/4HANA.

In an onstage demonstration featuring Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe execs walked through a scenario in which Unilever would be able improve its efforts around environmental sustainability. The company would be able to bring in supply chain and inventory data from SAP, for example, as well as information about the materials used to make its products and then use Microsoft’s CRM and Adobe’s Experience Platform to manage how sustainable products are marketed and sold within a given region.

Nadella said ODI will mean organizations will be in a better position to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) applications like machine learning, which is difficult when information is siloed across the enterprise.

“It’s so nice to see the data is not being locked up,” Nadella said. “We’re not thinking about processes narrowly, but much more end to end.”

While ODI holds promise, others presenting at Adobe Summit indicated they’re already working hard to overcome the lack of integration across their martech stack.

Geographic information systems (GIS) specialist Esri, for example, embarked on a digital transformation journey back in 2014 after recognizing that it wasn’t able to effectively tie together 15 different data sources.

According to Esri head of martech Steve Schultz, the firm was unable to reach new audience or offer any ability to personalize its marketing efforts. While it had some tools, such as CRM, it lacked a real marketing automation platform other than what he described as an “e-mail blasting” engine that was delivering a click-through rate of only two per cent.

“There was no transparency into what campaigns were in flight. There was a lot of finger-pointing,” he said. “You could just feel the frustration from that team.”

Schulz and Mike Miranda, Esri’s senior director of demand generation, have since consolidated more than 90 point products while cleaning, enriching or standardizing 20 million pieces of data. A web site that once had more than 20,000 pages has been winnowed down to 1,500 and rendered in a more immersive design.

The results include an increase in page view to its site of 500 per cent and a 29 per cent increase in form submissions. Perhaps most significantly, the team says it has seen a 6,900 per cent year-over-year increase in marketing-sourced revenue, “which means we’ve finally been able to track it,” Miranda said.

Whether using Adobe’s products or taking advantage of initiatives like ODI, Nadella suggested digital transformation should begin with a “no regrets” outlook that recognizes the trial and error involved.

“We look at this within our team now: How quickly are people rewarded for disproving their hypothesis?” he said. “That’s as much a culture as a system.”

Adobe Summit 2019 wraps up Thursday.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.