Business talk with Mala Sharma
Vice President & General Manager of Creative Cloud Product, Marketing and Community, Mala Sharma has been a key leader on Adobe’s Creative Cloud business since its inception. In this interview, she sketches out the future of Creative Cloud in four key areas: mobility, asset workflows, marketplace, and developing enterprise solutions on a single Adobe Cloud platform.
The 2012 launch of Creative Cloud stands out as a critical inflection point in Adobe’s history. By connecting Adobe’s leading applications to mobile apps, services, the Behance community and a marketplace, Creative Cloud is helping to change the way people design and create content, express their ideas, and work together.
“Creative Cloud has already seen three major evolutions since our first step of introducing desktop subscriptions,” said Mala. “We added integration of services like cloud storage and syncing of files, Typekit fonts and Behance for community. Our next step was to introduce the concept of connected creativity, with mobile versions of our applications, Touch workspaces and a mobile SDK which allows anyone to connect their mobile apps to our platform. The companion mobile apps, such as Photoshop Sketch, Illustrator Draw and Comp CC, extend the power of our desktop tools so users can work on mobile and desktop or conduct the whole creative process – from start to finish – on mobile. In 2015, we introduced asset workflows powered by CreativeSync along with our first marketplace with the introduction of Adobe Stock through our acquisition of Fotolia.”
Adobe’s vision is to empower people to create – to enable anyone with an idea to communicate it effectively and efficiently to their audience. Looking forward, Creative Cloud will build on its strong foundation to deliver even greater customer value in 2016 and beyond.
A success story
The market has responded well to Adobe’s strategy. Creative Cloud now has more than six million subscribers, with new members and paid subscribers joining every day. “We are very proud to have added another 798,000 Creative Cloud subscribers over the first quarter of 2016,” said Mala. The mobile applications are also quickly winning users over: “We now have over 23 million Adobe IDs who joined us first from mobile,” she added, which includes a significant increase of an additional nine million users acquired via the mobile apps since Adobe MAX. This business momentum is being driven by strong demand for Creative Cloud across all of Adobe’s offerings and routes to market. Mala also emphasized the importance of international markets for Creative Cloud, which now account for more than 40 percent of subscriptions.
Developing Creative Cloud to meet the challenges of the digital era
The trend towards digital is a key part of how Mala views the drivers of the future opportunities for Creative Cloud. “All of us are keenly aware that the world around us is being disrupted by digital trends, which is resulting in numerous challenges for our customers,” explained Mala. “These trends include a massive growth in the number of connected consumers – people who use several devices for getting online and expect a homogeneous and uninterrupted user experience when interacting with brands – wherever they are and whatever device they are using. In parallel, we are experiencing an explosion of data flowing through these ecosystems, and all of this together creates a major digital disruption for businesses as they try to adapt to these changes,” she added. In order to offer the experience customers expect, companies will need to deeply understand their target audiences, continually assess a product’s relevance, analyze data from heterogeneous sources, and potentially overhaul their entire business model in the context of this digital revolution.
“Companies who don’t make the user experience the key component of their digital strategy are taking a major risk,” believes Mala. But what exactly defines a successful “user experience”? “Most importantly, the experience has to be compelling and dynamic to draw the customer in. It also has to be personal and useful – it needs to know who the customer is, where they are, and what they like — so people can get things done faster. And users expect their experience to be the same everywhere they are – whether it’s at the store, on their mobile device, or in their car. Businesses need to be there for their customers.” she pointed out.
So how can Adobe Creative Cloud help customers deliver on these new expectations?
Creating on the move
The first key area Adobe is innovating on is the process of content creation. Today, Creative Cloud is a platform for creating and sharing, where individuals or members of a project team can share and exchange creative assets, style guides or files stored in the Cloud and intelligently synced through CreativeSync so they can be accessed everywhere. However, the primary creation workflows are still centered around the desktop. “Imagine a world in which the workflow is Cloud-first. Where it’s just as easy and straightforward to create content on a mobile phone or tablet as it is on a desktop, and where all your assets and every change you make are available to you wherever you are,” said Mala enthusiastically, “Our vision is to have the mobile and desktop experiences work interchangeably across phones, tablets and desktops.” As is the case with Lightroom, where customers can work seamlessly on their photos within and between the desktop, mobile and web apps, people will have access to the same breadth of functionality and a consistent experience tailored to the device they are using across Adobe’s applications. Mala added: “Beyond today’s asset workflows for sharing libraries, Creative Cloud can also be a platform for collaborating with others during the creative process.”
Video is also getting a makeover with Creative Cloud. “We are proud that our video technology is being used by video professionals and that Adobe is the leader in professional video with customers in Hollywood and Sundance. We intend to expand this solution to a broader audience as well. We want the YouTube generation to be able to easily create, cut and edit their digital creations using Adobe magic,” said Mala.
One of the most exciting new areas for Creative Cloud is experience design. “The digital trends we’re experiencing are putting increasing pressure on businesses. Standout and effective experiences are more critical than ever for companies to break through the noise and make an impact. In fact, we have seen more than 52 percent growth of UX projects on Behance in 2015, making it the fastest-growing content segment on Behance. When we looked at the most appreciated projects in this field within Europe, the UK, France and Germany are the most prolific in UX design and the average age of designers of these projects is under 35 years old”, said Mala. To address the challenges that customers face in the experience design workflow, Adobe recently introduced Adobe Experience Design (or Adobe XD) as a Preview. As the only end-to-end solution in the market for designing, prototyping and sharing this sort of work, Adobe focused on building it for speed, so designers can work on hundreds of artboards for every screen size in the same project without compromising on performance.
A radically improved marketplace for users
Last year, Adobe launched the Adobe Stock marketplace within Creative Cloud. Designed to radically simplify the process for buying and using stock content, the integration with Adobe Stock enables designers to grab photos, graphic components and video right from within their favorite CC desktop app. Since the launch, Adobe Stock has been rapidly growing to a library of over 50 million royalty-free, high-quality photos, videos, illustrations, and graphics. “We want to be the provider of the broadest range of content – to take it beyond photos, videos and graphics to deliver fonts and new content types like 3D,” said Mala, “And, Adobe has the opportunity to up the quality of stock content by enabling our customers to contribute directly from the CC apps.” She also added her thoughts on how the marketplace experience would change in the future: “Adobe can also bring all of our imaging science to the Adobe Stock service, to allow customers to immediately find the most relevant image – right from within their workflows.”
Extending the Creative Cloud offering to new users
Mala expanded on Adobe’s vision as she spoke about Adobe’s strategy to reach consumers through solutions that enable anyone to express their creativity. Adobe launched Creative Cloud Photography, which includes mobile and desktop versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, to target consumers interested in photography. Beyond photography, it is targeting the next generation of creators and storytellers with new mobile applications such as Adobe Voice, Adobe Slate and Adobe Post. Mala hinted that Adobe is expecting to have these as part of an integrated Web solution later this year. This new service targets social-savvy youth who want to communicate their ideas or a social cause with impact, as well as young entrepreneurs wanting to reach their audience through social marketing.
Meeting the needs of businesses
Looking beyond Creative Cloud, Mala also talked about Adobe meeting businesses’ challenges in a digital world: “Our approach involves connecting the value of Creative Cloud, Document Cloud and Marketing Cloud to provide solutions for enterprise customers as they address the challenges digital disruption is creating for their businesses. That way, we can meet companies’ needs with a streamlined workflow across the entire content lifecycle – from when content and user experiences are created through to when marketing data is analyzed on a single cloud platform,” she explained. Companies will soon have an optimized working environment in which they can create their content and analyze their digital marketing strategies. For example, they’ll be able to create their user experience with Adobe XD, connect content from Experience Manager to produce content for mobile and Web platforms and use Marketing Cloud to assess their brand’s digital experience. “Adobe has the opportunity to bring content together through our Cloud platform to address the three key areas in the content lifecycle – how customers make, manage and measure their digital experiences,” she stated.
In conclusion, Mala wrapped up her presentation by reinforcing the four core areas of focus in 2016: mobility, asset workflows, Adobe marketplace and enterprise solutions.
About Mala Sharma, Vice President and General Manager, Creative Cloud Product, Marketing and Community Adobe
Mala Sharma serves as vice president and general manager of Creative Cloud Product, Marketing and Community. Creative Cloud delivers the world’s best creative apps and services that allow anyone to create their best work.
Sharma has led the Creative Cloud GTM and business strategy from its inception, and championed the business transformation from selling boxed Creative Suite software with perpetual licensing. Today, Sharma’s team creates data-driven customer experiences that directly impact how users discover, learn, try, and buy Creative Cloud. She is also responsible for Behance, the world’s largest and most vibrant creative community.
Prior to joining Adobe in 2005, Sharma was at Creative Lab for nine years where she was last director of product marketing for the Americas.
She is a passionate advocate for the creative community and for making Adobe’s tools widely accessible to youth and a broader base of users. Sharma is a board member of the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, and actively promotes the importance of Creativity in Education.
Sharma holds a Bachelor’s degree in business and an M.B.A. from universities in India.