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Moving the IT conversation from cost to value

Martha Heller | March 26, 2014
Gerri Martin-Flickinger, CIO of Adobe, offers practical advice.

Convergence is Key

Educating the executive committee on the budgetary difference between operational and strategic investments is one way to shift the dialogue to value; getting IT out of the back-office is another.

A few years ago, Martin-Flickinger and her team moved Adobe’s back office functions to a services oriented architecture. “We run 15 different approval systems which created a lot of complexity for our employees,” she says. “We wanted to present a unified experience for our employees whether they were working on travel and expense, recruiting, or purchasing approvals.”

So, Martin-Flickinger and her team built an SOA model that provides a buffer between employees and a large number of back-office and SaaS solutions.  The simple user interface is delivered across platforms, so employees can do a range of approvals from their mobile devices in one interface with a simple click.  Taking this approach has allowed the IT department to evolve their back-office systems and move more to SaaS offerings, while not disrupting their user community.  “Employees love the interface for its ease of use,” says Martin-Flickinger.  “IT loves it because it gives them increased architectural freedom.”

Having built a single successful SOA-based solution coupled to Adobe’s back office functions, Martin-Flickinger and her team realized that they could do more.  They could build a services layer that could be used right inside the Adobe product.

“Traditionally, our product engineers have been responsible for any functionality that goes into the product,” Martin-Flickinger says. “But today, Adobe’s IT organization is providing a services gateway that handles all e-commerce transactions across Adobe Creative Cloud products and services.”

When customers enter Adobe’s Creative Cloud, everything they see on their screen was developed by the Adobe product engineering team. But when they get to the point where they enter their credit card information to buy the product, it looks from a user experience perspective that the e-commerce functionality is embedded right in the product. “But it’s not,” says Martin-Flickinger. “It’s actually being delivered by a web service that’s run by IT.  We put IT offered services right into the product.”

With IT providing this functionality to the Adobe product, product engineers have time to focus on customer-facing features. “It’s a win-win-win,” says Martin-Flickinger.   “IT engineers are providing functionality that helps product engineers deliver products to market faster, which makes our customers happy.”

Adobe’s business operations team is delighted as well, because all of the core systems are also consolidated; there are no shadow systems. “This kind of work shifts the mindset among our executives about the value of IT,” says Martin-Flickinger.

Some advice

Take your time:  According to Martin-Flickinger, you have to deliver before you ask permission to play at the bigger table.  “Do not rush into these innovative initiatives,” she cautions. “You have to make that back-office sing before you move closer to the product.”


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