Adobe’s CIO Provides Insight on Changing Digital Infrastructure to Support the New Normal

BrandPost By Aaron Goldberg
Nov 17, 2020
IT Leadership

fireside chat
Credit: Adobe

CIO Online recently interviewed Cynthia Stoddard, Senior Vice President and CIO of Adobe, as part of IDG’s CIO 100 Virtual Symposium. The theme this year was “The Innovation Reset: Resilience, Endurance, and Renewal.” In discussing how Adobe has responded to the pandemic, Stoddard provided thoughtful input for CIOs as well as IT teams in general. As CIO of a technology company, the workforce she supports is particularly demanding, reinforcing the need for innovative thinking.

Adobe, like most companies this year, had to respond virtually overnight with a move to remote work. Fortunately, the company had put in place a substantial remote work plan, built as a response to the California wildfires of 2018 and their potential impact on working in the office.  While not every firm was this lucky, Stoddard emphasized the importance of IT teams putting plans in place for different contingencies that can be implemented quickly.

Looking ahead, there are still actions that more organizations must take. Balancing the network and ensuring it can support geographic changes in workloads is an important first step. Second, there must be a focus on improving security, and the use of a Zero Trust model is an approach that has long-term benefits. One interesting project that Adobe undertook was to build a better tech support system for remote workers. There is now a Slack channel to provide remote work support, and Adobe is using AI and automation within Slack to help improve the self-service capabilities of the channel. It’s an effort worth emulating.

“Since the pandemic, Adobe employees have more than doubled the time spent virtually with colleagues,” Stoddard said. “They’re collaborating and using messaging services 60% more, and they’ve maintained the same engineering productivity. I believe we’ll see a lot of innovation and creativity in collaboration technology.”

One of the most important changes at Adobe, and crucial to successful remote work, is moving as many systems as possible to a digital foundation. Business processes that required human interaction had to be reworked. A key focus has been digital documents and digital signatures, and Adobe continues to deploy online solutions for both employees and customers.  The goal, Stoddard said, is to make processes “touchless.”

Another important change was to focus on ensuring information delivery, which is more than just implementing file security. It includes delivering complex apps that can be used remotely and providing the necessary performance for both apps and file transfers. 

As a “customer-facing” CIO, Stoddard interacts regularly with other CIOs. A common question she receives is how to fund new digital projects or initiatives. Her advice is to use efficiencies gained from digital processes to self-fund new activities. And savings are often found in deploying digital enhancements in the customer journey. Cost reduction from integration and efficiencies are common.  In addition, better integration and building a digital environment that supports the entire customer journey not only improves CX, but also offers multiple ways to reduce existing costs.

In closing, Stoddard offered some practical advice for other CIOs. To start, put yourself in the shoes of your internal and external customers. Where are the friction points? What processes are laborious?

“This kind of empathy allows you to more quickly find and fix problems,” she said. “The key to success is being honest with yourself and the organization. Once you know the issues, build a roadmap, and start the improvements.”

To view the complete interview, click here.