Microsoft and Adobe prepare to take on the “experience” world – together


Adobe and Microsoft have been pals for a while. But at last week’s Adobe Summit, they took their partnership to another level by unveiling new integrations. Barb reviews the implications from the marketing side, including the questions customers should be asking about this partnership versus Microsoft’s partnership with Sitecore. Barb also shares a subplot to watch.

Microsoft and Adobe were already buddies, but the new integrations and partnership on a new semantic data model for experience data are telling a bigger story of how the two may be hedging their bets on each other to take out the rest of the crowd. Of course, that hedging has the potential to hurt some innocent partners, at least on Microsoft’s side.

The strategic relationship between Adobe and Microsoft

Last fall Microsoft and Adobe announced a major strategic partnership where Adobe said it would make Microsoft Azure its preferred cloud platform, and Microsoft said it would make the Adobe Marketing Cloud its preferred marketing solution for Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition.

The two companies have now made good on that partnership by announcing several important integrations:

  • Integration of Dynamics 365 and Adobe Campaign (part of the Marketing Cloud) – providing a 365-degree view of the customer using data from the CRM and marketing automation solutions. The goal? Improved personalized through a deeper understanding of the customer’s relationship with the company.
  • Integration of Adobe Analytics (part of the Adobe Analytics Cloud) and Microsoft Power BI – providing customers a way to look deeper into customer interactions and data, using interactive visualization. Adobe said this integration gives marketers a better view of the most effective touch points and helps Marketing prove its value to the sales pipeline.
  • Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) on Microsoft Azure – providing fully managed services and support for AEM in the Azure Cloud.

None of these should be surprising. Each is a sign of how technology providers need to work together to enable their companies to create stronger customer experiences.

It’s also clear that this is how Microsoft and Adobe are attempting to stand out from competitors like Salesforce and Oracle. Salesforce provides both marketing and CRM cloud-based services, Oracle, the same. But Adobe doesn’t have its own CRM; it has chosen to focus its suite of tools on the digital marketing side, in addition to continuing its “ecm” capabilities such as file sharing and document management.

Microsoft, on the other hand, tried to get its digital marketing strategy in place and failed to succeed. Microsoft gave up quite a long time ago on the idea that SharePoint might become its answer to the digital marketing world and its acquisition of MarketingPilot didn’t pan out. Instead, it has looked to major digital experience players in the market that build on the Microsoft stack to fill in the gaps – Sitecore and EpiServer being the two biggest.

With this new push to support Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, you have to wonder how it will affect Sitecore, Adobe’s biggest competitor. Sitecore announced its own strategic partnership with Microsoft last summer, announcing its support for Sitecore on Azure and a major investment in joint commerce solution development that joins Dynamics for Retail with the Sitecore Experience Platform.

Here’s what Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft, said about the Adobe partnership:

We believe the combined power of our technologies will allow enterprise businesses to harness their data in new ways, unlocking critical business insights and actionable intelligence… Together, we are delivering compelling and personalized experiences that will drive brand loyalty and growth.

And here’s what he said about the Sitecore partnership:

Microsoft is proud to expand our alliance with Sitecore in an effort to bring more compelling digital experiences to our joint customers… By combining the power, scale, and rich platform service offerings of Azure with Sitecore’s customers, together we will drive digital transformation for our customers and help them achieve more.

The words are different; the outcomes are the same. Can Microsoft support both experience platforms equally? Both have strong B2C offerings and support B2B. From the Adobe news, it sounds like the preference is shifting to Adobe over Sitecore. This may change if a Microsoft customer wants to be only on the Microsoft stack, in which case Sitecore would be the better choice.

There’s another wrinkle in the story

Another part of the partnership between Adobe and Microsoft is the development of a new Standard Data Model (also called the Experience Data Model – or XDM). This is a data model that will provide a common language for marketing, sales and service data and will be used in Adobe core services, like Profiles and Assets.

The idea of this semantic data model is to make it easier for the different applications within an experience suite to talk to each other and share content, data, and intelligence.

Development of this standard data model seems to have been in the works for a while and has included partners and customers like Acxiom, AppDynamics, Mastercard, Zendesk, Dun & Bradstreet.

Although there are no real details on this common language, Adobe has said that the model will be extensible by customers, third-party developers, and partners. Which means they aren’t developing something that only works for Microsoft and Adobe (but will, of course, work best for Adobe and Microsoft).

Adobe and Microsoft aren’t the first companies to talk about a standard data model for experience management. A few years ago, a number of web content management providers (including Sitecore and Adobe) attempted to define a standard for web experience management, but it didn’t materialize. There’s also the OASIS technical committee studying personalization and identity management standards called the OASIS Context Server (CXS).

Microsoft’s growing commitment to open standards could mean the work being done on XDM is a good thing, at least for its products. It’s certainly a good thing for Adobe to have all of its products talking well together, and with Microsoft Dynamics, but will this standard become something bigger that others will buy into?

My take

I certainly wouldn’t argue that a partnership like this between Adobe and Microsoft isn’t a good thing. It certainly helps both companies in the battle against Salesforce, although they are aiming for a much higher enterprise level market, whereas Salesforce supports a wider range of customer sizes.

I do wonder what all this news really means for Sitecore. Sitecore has been the darling of Microsoft-based experience management technologies and Microsoft’s seemingly favorite platform for experience management. If it’s losing its place in Microsoft’s heart, that could spell bad news for the company.

The data standard model is what caught my attention in all this news. Details are expected to come in May at the Microsoft Build conference, and I’m keen to hear more about what exact this standard will support.


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