Workfront+Adobe: Why this is nothing but GREAT news

Since the announcement of the impending acquisition, many clients have asked our perspective. Though we have no inside information, this blog reflects our thinking.

Marketing Resource Management (MRM) emerged in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the MRM category was never able to deliver on its promise of an end-to-end closed loop marketing department.

Since that time, new vendors have successfully solved for the same requirements in different ways: Some have narrowly focused on creative operations; some have broadly focused on marketing; and others are more agnostic on the areas of the enterprise they automate.

Broadly speaking, Workfront is the provider that has proven it can support converging digital operations across the enterprise described by Scott Brinker.

Big Ops: Converging Digital Ops Domains


For marketing departments large and small, Workfront has led the way in recent history in a category related to MRM that it calls Work Management. While Workfront does Work Management outside of marketing, it is by and large considered the standard for marketing, the beachhead MRM once claimed but didn’t prove out.

Announced on 11/9, Adobe’s acquisition of Workfront makes good sense for marketing—some would say it makes great sense. For those who keep tabs on this space, most are wondering what took so long.

Acquisitions and partnerships can make for strange bedfellows. Vendor consolidation and converging digital ops will always trend toward simplification of the technology landscape, which is only a good thing for marketing technology buyers. Service providers to marketing who can create the vision for a customer engagement platform that transcends organizational boundaries to deliver a personalized, high-quality customer experience will continue to have the advantage.  

With this background, this blog will cover the following:

  1. How can Workfront extend Adobe’s automation of marketing operations? What are the use cases?
  2. Beyond marketing, how will Adobe better connect to the enterprise via Workfront? How will Workfront fill its own gaps with Adobe’s reach?
  3. What resources are available to leverage the strengths each solution brings to the table to deliver personalized experiences?
Why Workfront makes sense for Adobe

Imagine every component of the marketing stack is a chocolate chip, with each morsel representing key applications like DAM, financial management and data visualization.

Adobe’s acquisition of Workfront now bakes in Work Management to be the batter that holds everything together. The chips and the dough become a cohesive cookie. Workfront, connected to the other solutions across the IT infrastructure, is now the platform for human collaboration from planning to activation lifecycles.

For marketers committed to Adobe, the acquisition advances from the existence of two separate things—a pile of rich morsels (Adobe) + a high quality batter (Workfront)—to this complete package that packs a big punch. For marketers who aren’t particularly partial either way, well, they get to lick the bowl. Workfront offers its enterprise connectivity strategy (via Workfront Fusion)—a clear advantage for Adobe and for the marketing organization.

From a platform perspective, for now, we know:

  • Emanating from creative, then to marketing, then the transcendent customer experience—Adobe knows marketing, and Workfront fills gaps in Adobe’s otherwise complete offering for marketing.
  • Salesforce and other platform plays do not offer Work Management capabilities. Point solutions such as and Atlassian, will need to fill their gaps.
  • Adobe’s 2016 partnership with Microsoft takes on a new importance, threading together enterprise level Work Management to the desktop to the customer experience.

In 2016, Adobe made Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform, and Microsoft made Adobe its preferred marketing service for Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition and its next generation of intelligent business apps for the enterprise. With Microsoft’s connections into Accounting, Finance, IT and Sales, and Adobe’s connections into Marketing, Agencies and Vendors, integration may be deployed into virtually any company, scaling up and down for marketers of all types.

Platform Benefits

Why transformation starts with the customer experience, then design of marketing’s operating model

The customer experience has been the competitive battleground for the last four to five years. Across the board, Sales, Marketing and Operations are working hard to deliver seamless interactions across touchpoints; manage non-linear buying journeys and personalization across channels; and predict customers’ needs.

Now, the addition of Workfront to the Adobe Experience Cloud automates the enterprise’s content supply chain that then fuels the customer experience across all channels in as personalized a way to the extent the marketing operating model will allow. Digital transformation requires seamless execution of strategy. This recent acquisition just moved us closer.

Marketing Operating Model – Distinguish marketing’s logical design from the tech design

Why platform and automation make a difference

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.), 3rd-party data integration, etc.

A view of technology

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.

For marketing, the Adobe + Workfront 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 3rd-party customer data … and leverage Microsoft’s unique adjacencies in collaboration and productivity tools.

How you integrate the enterprise

Because of the silos, automation is a challenge within enterprise buyers. Decision makers may be aware of one another, but often work on independent processes. Personal political capital must be invested (put at risk) to refer a vendor across operational lines.

Anywhere processes overlap or connect are potential for automation and adoption of an Adobe platform. Marketing’s links with sales, products, accounting, and finance create immediate adjacencies in campaign management, product marketing, events, and financial management

Process and Organizational Adjacencies

Why these platform advantages matter

As companies select technologies to further sales and marketing in the next three to five years, fusing Adobe + Workfront + Microsoft, some compelling pros emerge:

  1. End-to-end workflow and visibility: In the digital age where content is king, the content supply chain is finally adequately managed.
  2. True enterprise connectivity: Marketing (and customer engagement) is off the island. The perspective is no longer fragmented.
  3. Marketing system-of-record (finally!): Pre-built integrations with top vendors can now be leveraged for quick time to value.
  4. Big Data (for marketing): A pre-built analytics platform on top of MS’ advanced Azure platform can now enable for extreme sophistication and innovation.
  5. Power to end-user: Users can now integrate with desktop and collaboration tools and give access to data and data visualization to those on front lines, drawing on all touchpoints.
  6. Time to value: Lower integration cost and time to achieve benefits from analytics platform and individual applications is now a reality.
  7. Hammer for every nail: Microsoft, Adobe and Workfront ecosystems are extensive with robust APIs, and now with high quality iPaaS options, users have access to a broad set of applications to solve business problems and avoid lock-in traps to a single solution.
Why the ability to execute depends on solution partners

In the end, the technology is only as good as its deployment.

In 2020, 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 have to change their organizational structures to meet the needs of the business the next three to five years. And they must improve skills around marketing operations, technology and digital engagement.

In response, marketing’s service providers will need to help. With continued digital transformation as the backdrop, service providers will be required to offer expertise that does not readily exist in the Adobe partner ecosystem. IT-, content management-, and marketing automation-oriented partners have to decide whether to expand to new areas or remain focused.

Figure 6 - Current Adobe partners have limited MRM (Work Management) expertise. Partners will need to deepen understanding of marketing processes and evolve delivery models.

Partner Know-How

All the while, traditional agencies and consultancies will continue to converge. New types of service providers will evolve new delivery models. They’ll acquire or develop 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.

Why we’re elated that the cookie’s fully baked

The coming together of the cookie—with every ingredient added and all working as a whole—is truly great news. As a Workfront Partner of the Year for the past two years, with Workfront deployments of greatest depth and breadth, we are confident that the groundwork’s been laid to deliver on a new and far better promise of #BigOps. One that empowers marketing, unites the enterprise, and (finally) delivers what customers want.

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