CIO Interview with Cynthia Stoddard, Senior Vice President of IT and CIO at Adobe

BrandPost By Lafe Low
Jan 24, 2018
IT Leadership

The ongoing confluence of emerging next-gen technologies and a younger workforce of digital natives is changing the face of the modern enterprise. Cynthia Stoddard gives us a glimpse at how it’s changing the workplace at Adobe.

What are some of the most compelling next-gen technologies evolving at Adobe?

We’re driving cutting edge artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve design and delivery of digital experiences. We have an AI/ML framework called Adobe Sensei, that tackles complex challenges, such as image matching across millions of images. We’re also using it to run internal operations better. ML and AI transform how you’re doing things. For mundane tasks, intelligence takes care of it for you.  

What are the technological and customer expectation shifts driving these next-gen technologies?

It’s a symbiotic relationship between the shift of technology and customer expectations; each influences the other to drive disruption.  

Customers expect the same level of digital ease and personalization in their professional lives that they experience in their personal lives. 

At the same time, advancements across technology are driving enterprise digital transformation and is a game changer for how we run the business. How do you look at end-to-end business processes? How do you map to the journey and have a continuous experience? How do you engage with employees? How do you evolve skill sets? Those are the four pillars of disruption coming together within the enterprise.

Has the shift to cloud computing platforms truly been one of the largest transformations?

The cloud is absolutely a huge shift. It lets us do things we’ve never been able to do before because we are no longer constrained to internal toolkits. Because it’s a critical backbone for next generation technology and innovation; it is a true strategic advantage. The powerful architecture enables us to leverage best-in-class SaaS solutions to build and deliver services and improve the customer experience with seamless, tailored, and targeted solutions. 

How are expectations from younger workers changing workplace dynamics?

The Millennials in our workforce—the digital natives—want to be able to consume information on their own time. They’ve grown up with digital experiences, so they expect to get everything done digitally. We need to be able to enable those digital workflows and self-service experiences. The way I like to put it is take IT out of the equation. That doesn’t mean eliminate IT, just eliminate the need to go to IT for a service that can be handled via a self-service model.

And now people want to bring their own device to work and their expectation is the workplace will integrate with their device seamlessly.

The younger workforce also puts a high premium on the design and ease of use.  To enhance their productivity, they want a straight line from A to Z, without having to go through the whole alphabet of steps. 

Lastly, they want open, collaborative workspaces and an environment where they are inspired.

What are the true impacts of a younger, more tech-savvy workforce and next-gen technologies?

A lot of enterprises have focused on digitizing the customer journey. The next challenge is to bring those insights into internal systems, the business processes, and employee engagement. We refer to that as “Advancing the Inside.” We’re looking at how we’ve engaged with customers externally and how do we use that to engage with employees? How do we personalize our tools for a better collaborative environment? How do we take the mundane tasks and replace them with intelligence? We’ve actually categorized personas with Adobe—builders, enablers, communicators, and customer-facing—and we’re trying to develop tools to fit each persona.

What sort of “next” next-gen technologies would you expect to see evolving in the future?

There are definitely going to be heightened automated and personalized experiences. A lot of companies are starting to achieve that level of engagement. With a new workforce coming in, it will be something you have to do to differentiate yourself.  It will be critical to create work environments tailored to employee roles, and increased automation to remove mundane tasks where people can focus on building intelligence instead of fixing a problem.