Adobe will make Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, the Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Document Cloud; and Microsoft will make Adobe Marketing Cloud its preferred marketing service for Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition, Microsoft’s next generation of intelligent business apps for the enterprise.
This announcement signals Microsoft’s transition from a relative point solution provider in the marketing space to a more comprehensive and deliberate alternative. The partnership with Adobe also strongly shows commitment by Microsoft to include robust marketing capabilities demanded by enterprise customers into the Dynamics offering.
Integrating Adobe functionality into Dynamics and jettisoning Dynamics Marketing is a bold and necessary move by Microsoft to help enterprise companies embrace digital transformation. DynamicsCRM and Dynamics Marketing customers have endured some uncertainty and have had questions. They want to know what the partnership means to them, and how to best navigate within the newly announced scenario:
Others can weigh in on competitive dynamics among SaaS and cloud provider partnerships: This blog focuses on practicalities specific to Dynamics users. Suffice it to say that through this partnership, Microsoft provides companies looking for CRM solutions with credible alternatives to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. And by filling app gaps in the cloud offering, Microsoft and Adobe can be sold into virtually any company, agency or vendor … no requirement will remain unmet.
Given the non-exclusivity of the partnership, time will tell if demand will drive development of the durable integrations that could accelerate the market’s ability to overcome early integration and standardization challenges.
From a marketing point of view, it is not news that Microsoft has explored the marketing space in the last 5 or so years, but most would concede it has not yet built or acquired a “franchise” in marketing applications as other enterprise platforms have. Marketing cloud providers each have some mix of applications comprising their marketing offerings including Resource Management (project management, workflow, financial management), Digital Asset Management, Enterprise Content Management, Marketing Automation, Web Content Management, Social/Mobile, Programmatic (DMPs, SSPs, etc.), third-party data integration, etc., whereas Microsoft has focused its marketing capability around B2B CRM marketing automation use cases.
Dynamics CRM users have a range of profiles, and have been free to adopt marketing tools that made sense for their unique needs in the absence of a Microsoft cloud. In reality, there’s been an underlying uncertainty among Dynamics CRM users to know where to turn to meet marketing’s needs. For the most part, SMBs have sought lighter solutions such as MailChimp, ClickDimensions, or even MS’ own solution, Dynamics Marketing. Enterprises have the mix of Adobe, Salesforce and IBM marketing clouds to choose from, along with Marketo, Act-On and other robust marketing automation solutions. with the recent announcement, SMB and Enterprise have clarity.
The customer experience is the new battleground, Dynamics customers included. Across the board Sales and Marketing are trying to deliver seamless interactions across touchpoints, manage non-linear buying journeys, channel agnostic personalization, and predict their customers’ needs. The buyer now has the power, and it’s the marketer’s job to better understand and personalize interactions along the customer experience—using tools to automate and optimize the process.
For both SMB and Enterprise, current platform providers have not yet been able to fulfill all of marketing’s needs to overcome fragmentation and achieve personalization. The challenges for Dynamics users have been to connect Sales and Marketing and overcome fragmentation brought on by misalignment between the two organizations, and IT. Without its own marketing cloud, the success of integrating sales and marketing solutions in a Microsoft environment has been tied to the level of technical integration to sufficiently leverage Dynamics API, and few have invested in the process and technical work needed to make a comprehensive sales and marketing solution successful.
For those on the front lines, threading together solutions that drive marketing’s most contemporary challenges, the goal is increasingly personalization, which can only be achieved by getting into the nitty gritty of data and designing a unified solution unique to each company.
With Dynamics 365, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to apply the intelligence needed for personalization across a broad set of enterprise apps.
"The app [Dynamics 365 Customer Insights] collects and analyzes data from a variety of sources, including Microsoft's own productivity software ecosystem and third-party CRM, ERP, social and internet of things (IoT) systems, to generate a "360-degree view of all a customer's information ..." (eWeek).
For marketing, the Adobe and Microsoft super solution will need durable integrations that leverage all of the advanced analytics and machine learning to enable a personalized customer experience. Integrations will need to be built on best practice use cases (by vertical), applying foundational application areas (CRM, Content Management, Customer Engagement, Planning/Workflow), and integration with third-party customer data… and leverage Microsoft’s unique adjacencies in collaboration and productivity tools.
As companies select technologies to further sales and marketing in the next 3 to 5 years, fusing Dynamics and Adobe Marketing Cloud has some compelling pros:
In the end, the success of the partnership will be the ability to execute within the Microsoft and Adobe partner channel ecosystems to address these areas.
By 2016, most marketers have the prerequisite digital marketing and sales tools, but lack the needed architecture, data models, and will to change across their organizations. They continue to be challenged to deliver omni-channel experiences. They will need to change their organizational structures to meet the needs of the business the next 3 to 5 years, and will need to improve skills around marketing operations, technology and digital engagement (Economist, Rise of Marketer, 2015).
Marketing’s service providers will need to help fill the gaps. With digital transformation (aka modernization) as the backdrop, service providers will need to offer expertise that does not readily exist in the Microsoft partner channels. IT and CRM-oriented Partners will need to decide whether to expand to new areas or remain focused.
Traditional agencies and consultancies will continue to converge. New types of service providers will evolve new delivery models. They will need the skills to set broad organizational context, offer comprehensive architectures for global asset creation, design metadata/ taxonomies, have vertical specific knowledge, and design integrations with adjacent content tools to realize maximum business benefits.
SaaS partnerships make for strange bedfellows. Consolidation and convergence will trend towards simplification of a marketing technology landscape, which is only a good thing for marketing buyers. Service providers that can create the vision for a customer engagement platform that transcends organizational boundaries to deliver a personalized, high-quality customer experience will win. Will be interesting to see this unfold.