Webster defines a community as "a unified body of individuals," but that may not be the case when the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) community convenes at EVOLVE'14 in San Diego on Monday.
While AEM customers all use the same cross-channel content management system, some attendees are grumbling about the pace with which Adobe is integrating AEM with the five other areas of its high-profile marketing cloud -- analytics, campaign, media optimizer, social and target.
The conference, sponsored by Adobe but produced independently by 3 SHARE, is a chance for AEM users to get training, share tips and air gripes. It's also an opportunity for Adobe to strengthen ties with its customers, many of whom have yet to adopt version 6.0 of AEM, which shipped in May.
"I'm very interested in pushing Adobe to offer much better integration for all their offerings," said Sean Browne, senior director for web marketing at SuccessFactors, a cloud-based human resources company that is part of SAP. "That's why we went to Adobe. They promised they had all these things that they're offering. You want to see them start to integrate them better."
To be sure, Browne, who will be one of the presenters at the gathering, told CMSWire he's "100 percent" committed to AEM and that he has integrated "a lot of cool things" into his own sites. Still, he thinks Adobe's cloud could be tied together better, and he's not the only one.
Another presenter, Jacqui Kearns, senior vice president for digital, operations, analytics and technology at Dunn & Bradstreet, complained there's "no easy way to go between areas," which complicates things when setting up the system for business users in different departments. "It's not a real good flow," she said. "It feels like a bunch of things that use to be separate are now just umbrella-ed."
Adobe, once best known for creativity software like PhotoShop, has assembled the pieces of its marketing cloud through a multibillion-dollar shopping spree over the past five years. AEM itself stems from the $240 million acquisition of Day Software in 2010.
Other purchases include $1.8 billion for Omniture, now called Site Catalyst; $600 million for Neolane, aka Campaign; $120 million for Auditude, a video ad platform; Efficient Frontier, a privately held cross-channel ad-buying tool; and Demdex, a privately held data management platform.
Understandably, it takes time to wire all that technology together into a unified system. In an interview last March, Jeff Allen, director of product marketing for Adobe Analytics, explained that Adobe doesn't rush the deep integration of its acquisitions. "We let them come in and live inside Adobe for a little while," he said. "Then after a year, we’ll begin to figure out how to rationalize the deeper stuff."
Working On It
Cédric Hüsler, group product manager for AEM who joined Adobe as part of the Day Software buyout, is well aware that the community is eager for advances. In a keynote address on Tuesday, he plans to outline new features that have become available since 6.0 went on sale. Some of those advances, he said, were originally scheduled for 2015, but "because we're finished, we're already shipping those," he said. Another feature pack is due out in January.
"Some of those packages have already been released, and others will be announced shortly," he told CMSWire. "I will be pretty open, given this is a community event, about the things we've done and what we're going to do."
Hüsler said Adobe is working diligently and spending money to improve integrations. "We're not talking too much about what we're doing," he said. "Behind the scenes we're bringing all these solutions together ... We're starting to really interlink these things."
That will certainly be welcome news at the conference, but it isn't the only challenge Adobe faces in the wake of its acquisition spree. Kearns, for example, said she's also struggling with "ease of use" issues and with the fragmented Adobe sales team.
"The one thing they do that is a disservice to Adobe is to have separate sales reps on those products. That makes it really hard" she said. "It's five different people coming at five of my leaders, and it doesn't make it easy."
Sharing and Learning
There will, of course, be benefits at the conference for AEM loyalists in terms of sharing their successful strategies and experiences with other members of the community.
"It'll be great to hear what everyone else is doing," said Browne, who is eager to learn the latest on personalization in content delivery. "That's kind of hogging the spotlight in the world I'm trying to support," he said.
Kearns said she hopes to come away with a better understanding of how others use AEM in their day-to-day roles: "Are they like me as a business lead? Or are they on the dev side? Or are they trying to determine if this is the right tool because they're not a day-to-day user?"
She was pleased to hear Hüsler will update the group about new products.
"I think that's huge in terms of making easy for us to understand and digest and produce an environment. Right now, that's our struggle," she said. "I literally have to schedule and put people on teams based on how fractured it's been. They've done a better job at trying to get it together on the user experience side, but that generally doesn't hold through" the rest of AEM.