Adobe Partners Embrace Digital Services All the Way to the Bank

Inside the software vendor’s channel evolution.

T.C. Doyle, Senior Director of Content

April 11, 2019

8 Min Read
Digital services

Adobe Inc. is redefining partnership for a number of third-party business partners, some of whom have been aligned with the company for decades, others for less than a year.

Consider the company’s channel evolution: Just 10 years ago, you could walk into a Best Buy and buy a copy of Adobe Photoshop with your credit card. That’s a far cry from how the San Jose, California-based company goes to market today. Instead of product resale, Adobe partners focus on content creation, experience management and data analytics, just to name a few things.

In the aftermath of the recent Adobe Summit 2019, where the company introduced new technologies, partnerships and more, Channel Futures reached out for deeper insights on how the Adobe channel has evolved over the past few years and where it’s going next. That led us to Marybeth Gonzales, senior director of partner and program development.


Adobe’s Marybeth Gonzales

Gonzales is a member of the Adobe partner leadership team. Her background includes stints at a tier one accounting firm, a fitness company and a security company. When you think about it, it’s a perfect career path for someone who now work in partner enablement, engagement and operational excellence.

We start the Q&A with a deep dive into the size and scope of the Adobe channel.

Channel Futures: Let’s talk about recent activities and achievements. But first let’s get a sense of the Adobe channel. How do the 13,000 members of your partner programs break down by business model?

Marybeth Gonzales: With the addition of Marketo and Magento, Adobe brings together a unique ecosystem of organizations spanning the entire customer journey, from content to marketing to commerce. This expanded global ecosystem of nearly 13,000 members includes solution integrators and agencies as well as technology and marketplace partners. Partners range from small regional players to large global organizations, and everything in between, serving the needs of companies of all sizes.

CF: What’s the fastest growing part of your channel?

MG: We’re seeing strong growth across all parts of our partner ecosystem, especially in relation to strategic services for customer experience management (CXM) and business transformation. Among our technology partners, we’ve observed significant momentum in integrating with Adobe Experience Platform Launch for easy product activation and real-time customer engagement.

CF: In a recent blog entry, Adobe pledged more enablement. Are there sufficient numbers of partners to handle the demand for Adobe solutions? What are you doing to enable more partners and increase the overall talent pool of third-party Adobe professionals?

MG: We’ve seen tremendous growth in both the number of partner organizations as well as the number of Adobe-focused individuals within those partner organizations over the past year. We are actively investing in enablement to ensure our partners continue to hone their expertise in our solutions and deepen the talent in their practices. A few examples:

  • We’re offering more than 150 sales and technical training events focusing on hands-on learning.

  • This year we’re adding six new certifications (demonstrating individual expertise in a specific Adobe solution) and two specializations (signifying organizational expertise in deploying and running a particular Adobe solution) to our program; to date, our solution partners hold a total of 15,000 Adobe certifications and an additional 2,500 from Magento and Marketo combined.

  • We’ve created a new Technical Sales Professional credential program.

Our Adobe Exchange program for technology partners recently released …

… new features simplifying app creation and management, enabling Adobe to scale the app marketplace and support more partners.

CF: Talk about the evolution of the certification program…

MG: As Adobe continues to expand its technology stack, we’re evolving our certifications programs to support partner expertise and growth. We’ve diversified the roles aligned with our certifications in recognition of how partner practices are evolving. This includes sales accreditations to equip partners in selling roles to communicate the value of Adobe solutions; technical sales professional credentials that enable partners to accelerate deal cycles through demos and technical selling techniques; and professional credentials for technical delivery roles that serve as stepping stones to become an Adobe Certified Expert. Certifications are incredibly valuable for partners to recruit and enable the right skill sets as a part of their Adobe practices. We now offer 31 Adobe certifications and 8 specializations and will be adding more in 2019, including Magento and Marketo.

CF: You introduced partner program fees for 2019. What’s the strategy behind them?

MG: As we scale our partner business in line with Adobe’s growth goals, we also need to ensure we’re offering best-in-class benefits and continuing to deepen partners’ expertise. The introduction of modest program fees in 2019 allows us to reinvest in enablement and new offerings.

CF: Where is Adobe leading in innovation when it comes to your partnering efforts and where do you think there’s room for improvement?

MG: We are always looking for new ways to better serve and support our diverse and rapidly growing partner ecosystem. For example, our new Amplify program is sparking and rewarding innovation from our partners that solve customer business issues in a repeatable fashion. By showcasing their customer-tested and proven solutions built on Adobe Experience Cloud, we are bringing the best of Adobe + Partner to our customers.

Here are some Amplify Program examples:

  • Acxiom has built an innovative solution called “connected spaces” that enables traditional airports, malls, sports stadiums and auto dealerships to deliver personalized in-location experiences and drive higher conversions through relevant and timely offers to loyal customers as well as prospects.

  • AFTIA has helped streamline an entire forms-based business process resulting in higher efficiencies and reduced cycle times for customers.

  • Another notable one is an accelerated MLR (medico legal regulatory) compliance solution from Cognizant for life sciences companies that combines Adobe Experience Cloud with a third-party platform to expedite MLR review experience of digital marketing content, and ensures compliance of the published content through 360-degree digital assets view.

We are always open to new ways to better serve and support a diverse partner ecosystem. In addition to surveying partners each year on various aspects of the program and engaging in focus groups, we also use our Partner Advisory Boards as a means to solicit ongoing feedback.

CF: What are partners asking for that is new from past years?

MG: We’re seeing a growing number of requests for multi-solution sales plays and technical enablement as our partners look to leverage more of our technology stack. This is driven largely by …

… the customer experience management (CXM) discussions happening in every industry, among CIOs, CMOs, and of course, their strategic partners and suppliers.

Our partners want new levels of engagement from us as they drive business transformation with customers. We are continually looking to provide higher levels of service to our mutual customers.

CF: How do you see various partner types evolving? Who is on the rise and whose business model is under stress?

MG: As we all look to capture the CXM growth opportunity, we’re seeing convergence and consolidation of partner types. The old distinctions between SIs and agencies and other types are blurring. For example, some of the larger global partners are acquiring smaller niche players to expand their offerings or technology value propositions. It might be a management consultancy deepening its creative or design expertise or an ISV going into adjacent technologies, such as commerce, for example.

CF: When you look at your portfolio, you realize that it offers many different opportunities for partners. Cast your eyes forward: What new business models do you think will rise given the breadth of your tech portfolio?

MG: We are seeing the emergence of a market for strategic services for customer experience management (CXM) and customer-focused business transformation. Digital strategy is driving business conversations at the CXO level and impacts decisions on technology to solve business issues. Partners who provide digital strategy consulting may or may not be involved in the actual technology implementation.

We will most likely see an increase in services-only partners. These partners don’t necessarily “sell” license software to their customer base, rather they run the analytics practices and/or the marketing campaigns for the customer using Adobe solutions. We are seeing these types of services-only partners coming into an account that is run by a much larger Adobe partner which may not have the resources needed to operate and run the Adobe solutions at the scale the customer wants. These partners will not only be critical in helping the customer achieve the full value of Adobe solutions, but also in helping the customer expand their usage of existing solution features or in adopting additional Adobe solutions (perhaps with selling support from a co-selling Adobe partner or from Adobe itself). Services-only partners have the potential to significantly impact the lifetime value of a customer to Adobe through increased, longer term use of Adobe software.

Another trend surfacing is partners moving from more traditional services billing models to more outcome-based models with their clients.

As Adobe opens up key aspects of its solution stack — like Adobe Experience Platform, Adobe Runtime I/O and its Experience Data Platform (XDM) — partners and developers of all sizes have more opportunities to customize and extend Adobe solutions to deliver ever greater value to joint customers and to grow their own businesses.

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About the Author(s)

T.C. Doyle

Senior Director of Content, Informa

T.C. Doyle, is the Senior Content Director of Channel brands at Channel Futures, and is responsible for the editorial direction of A veteran technology writer, editor and video storyteller who has covered the IT industry for more than two decades, he was previously the Executive Editor at Channel Partners, and the Editor@Large with Cisco, where he traveled the world in search of stories that captured the social and technological transformations occurring in the economies of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. A frequent speaker at IT industry events and trade shows, he resides in Park City, Utah.

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