A dive behind the scenes of Adobe IT

CIO and IT expert Cynthia Stoddard uses her insights to shape the future direction of one of the world’s most prominent IT companies: Adobe. Cynthia Stoddard joined Adobe in June 2016 after holding the same position at several large companies, including NetApp.

“I was immediately attracted to this idea. [d’Adobe] to have an end-to-end experience, which goes from applications for creating content to applications for sending this content to recipients,” he confessed.

Develop enthusiasm for change

For Cynthia Stoddard, mid-2016 was an opportune time to join Adobe. Many strategic planning sessions were taking place during that time, which allowed him to see firsthand and quickly how the management team interacted.

At the same time, the new DSI talks to the IT teams, but also to the business teams to find out what they expect from the technology. “I like to know what works and what doesn’t. So I met a lot of people,” he summarized.

Cynthia Stoddard,

Adobe CIO

All these interviews helped him set a clear framework for his approach to IT service innovation. An advocate of co-development, Cynthia Stoddard mobilizes the entire IT team to realize her vision, asking questions like: what do we want to be? What should this service bring to Adobe?

To model the answers to these questions, Cynthia Stoddard used innovative methods. For example, he created a scatter plot of employees in a forecourt outside the building to show the distance between the IT team and each employee’s goals.

“This chart showed us the status of our alignment with those needs, as well as what to focus on. Then we developed our vision to improve the experience of each of our collaborators,” said Cynthia Stoddard, considering that a lot has been accomplished in the five years since her arrival at Adobe. “It’s been fun to see how things have evolved. and the team matured, and all the efforts it made to be as close as possible to the requirements of the trades”.

While some projects are large-scale initiatives that span several years, others – such as implementing robotic process automation (RPA) within a business function – deliver significant productivity gains in a specific sector. Cynthia Stoddard explained that this permanent movement and passing from one site to another generated a lot of enthusiasm within the IT team.

Reorganize the feature function

Recently, Cynthia Stoddard even renamed the IT department “Adobe Technology Services.” Recently renamed, this service is divided into three groups.

The first covers traditional IT, which takes care of IT projects linked to the back office that support Adobe’s business operations.

“It’s great to see how the team has developed and matured, and all the efforts it has made to be as close as possible to the requirements of the trades”

Cynthia StoddardAdobe

The second – “reliability engineering” – works with editor software (such as Photoshop). This group provides and maintains the tools Adobe engineers use to create and develop products offered to customers.

Finally, the third group, under the responsibility of Cynthia Stoddard, deals with cloud operations, and more specifically with maintaining relationships with Adobe’s main cloud providers, such as Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon ( AWS). This group also manages “technology efficiency” to ensure the smooth operation of the company’s IT infrastructure, including internal data centers and the network.

“These are the three main pillars,” he sums up. “I also have a cross-functional view of the activities that are the responsibility of the CIO, especially the management of projects and suppliers, so that our IT department functions as a true business entity. There is also a shared services organization in India, which provides many services, not just to corporate IT, but to all of Adobe’s engineering groups. »

Business transformation through technology

Cynthia Stoddard is particularly proud of two IT department results in two key areas: cloud adoption and the development of an “internal CX” (internal user relationship).

“We had a motto: incorporate the qualities of the cloud into our DNA,” he recalls. “I am especially proud that my group has taken this approach and been able to offer many self-service accesses to business users. We have moved some of our existing applications to the cloud. »

According to Cynthia Stoddard, the focus on managed self-service allows the business user to work with cloud application data with confidence. And the focus on on-demand IT means that engineering also thinks in cloud mode when developing new applications… which is what Adobe is aiming for today.

Adobe CX tools summary table
Adobe Experience Cloud, Adobe’s CX suite

Another big development has to do with experience. Cynthia Stoddard explained that Adobe has always made many CX (Customer Experience) tools available to its external customers to help them improve their experience. Shortly after his arrival, his team quickly learned that it was important to provide internal users with similar tools.

“I took all the employee’s belongings and put them together in one unit. We brought together the support, the collaborative tools, the telephony – all these elements that, in a traditional organization, have a link with technology – and thus formed the employee experience team,” he said.

“Our team sifted through all the tools we have within the organization, and looked at how they relate to the different profiles of our employees. Then, we adapt these tools and solutions according to each of these profiles. And that has enabled us to provide our internal customers with an exceptional experience during the Covid-19 crisis. »

Use innovative ideas

Cynthia Stoddard also highlights her transformation team’s successes. His philosophy here is to “present problems to the team, to give them space to think and explore – and if necessary, fail – to let them come back with great solutions”.

“I’m not proud of myself: I’m proud of my team. I am the only coordinator who facilitates. »

Cynthia StoddardAdobe

A good prime example is the application of RPA in various businesses. Adobe began working with UiPath to explore how RPA could be used in a variety of situations, including automating the finance function (contracts, procurement, and even acquisitions), before extending it to many more. ‘others.

Cynthia Stoddard also talks about using open source to create a “self-healing” infrastructure that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify problems and fix them automatically. For example, if a data set is likely to run out of space, the infrastructure identifies the problem and provides additional capacity on the fly to ensure continuous operation. “The whole question is how to deal with some of these recurring problems,” he continued. “One person can fix them in 25 to 35 minutes, this self-repairing network will find a solution in less than a minute. »

Cynthia Stoddard is pleased with the advantages these have brought to Adobe. But he didn’t pull the lid on him: “I’m not proud of myself: I’m proud of my team. I’m just the coordinator who facilitates. »

Drive rapid change

Like her CIO counterparts at other companies, Cynthia Stoddard admits the past 18 months have presented some unusual challenges.

March 2020. Adobe has put all of its staff on telecommuting for a weekend. “Knowing that things can always go wrong, on Monday morning I expected to receive a ton of vengeful messages. But no. “, he said. “The changeover went without a hitch. And the more I manage our Slack channels, the more I see internal communities develop.”

This process will continue today. According to Cynthia Stoddard, the pandemic has taught all leaders important lessons. Above all, he says, this harrowing experience has given executives a boost in their skills, as well as how they keep employees productive and how they support them.

“In my opinion, the past 18 months have put the people skills of business managers and CIOs to the test. The whole question is how to continue communicating with others, and being together even when we are far away. We had to pay attention to their needs, while listening to our bosses and making sure the business was moving in the right direction,” he said. “We also had to focus on the tools we made available and make sure they worked properly , adjusting them as necessary. It is also necessary to ensure that staff are given the opportunity to speak and recommend changes. »

Enhance the employee experience

Cynthia Stoddard said that over the next two years she will focus on four key areas: continued reliability of external products and internal services; using data to facilitate business innovation and growth; use of RPA and business process reengineering; and finally using technology to improve the experience on both the employee and customer side.

“As we move toward a hybrid workplace, how do we view the experience inside and outside the office? And how can we ensure that we do not lose what we have gained during the pandemic? he wondered.

According to Cynthia Stoddard, the cloud collaboration platform made it possible to communicate and share ideas. Now that offices are reopening, it’s important to take advantage of these advantages. He explained that in fact, managing the experience is the main goal to continue, because there is a lot to do in this area.

“And there were so many strangers,” he recalled. “Let’s imagine that we go back to the office and another variant appears, then we have to work remotely again. The ability to move from one context to another while maintaining tools and documentation, I think, is at the heart of reflection. »

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