Microsoft, Adobe CEOs detail latest data sharing efforts

Companies showcase Unilever as one of the first brands to take advante of their open data initiative to unify and share enterprise-wide data across Adobe, SAP and Microsoft platforms

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella (left) and Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella (left) and Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen


Intelligence-driven companies don’t just take CRM data and make customer management better; they take all the data they have and make all interactions better, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, says.

During this week’s Adobe Summit, the chief executive took to the stage with Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, to share latest updates to their joint Open Data Initiative ­with SAP as well as his insights on business transformation and tech innovation.

The Open Data Initiative (ODI) was launched by Adobe, Microsoft and SAP last September and is a commitment to a common, interoperable approach and set of resources enabling all three platforms to share operational and behavioural data in real time. The agreement extends across marketing technology stacks as well as wider enterprise systems such as product development, operations, finance, sales and human resources.

The ambition with the ODI is to make it easier for organisations to bring together transactional, operational, customer and Internet of Things data together in a common data lake order to better orchestrate consistent, contextual customer experiences.

“The greatest asset and most important asset everyone has in this room is the data, which is yours. Except it’s often locked up in silos,” Nadella told attendees. “The partnership with Adobe and SAP was to unlock this data and help each of you enrich this data. This is so all of what you do across the enterprise – from connecting with customers to improving your supply chain or driving sustainability - can be driven and informed using all of your data.

“The definition I have for an AI-first company is one that doesn’t just take CRM data and make customer management better. You have to take all the data you have, whatever the system, and make your interactions better.

“That ability to optimise outcomes using all your data is key and it’s only by doing ODI that we unlock the power of that data.”  

In the latest updates today, the companies said the data lake approach would allow customers to choose which development tools and applications to build and deploy services. The next step is the launch of a new approach for publishing, enriching and ingesting initial data feeds from the Adobe Experience Platform, announced at this week’s Adobe Summit, activated through Adobe Experience Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SAP C/4HANA, into a customer’s data lake. This is expecting in coming months. The capability then provides a foundation for new AI and machine learning enrichment with which to support customer experience management.

As an example of how the ODI is coming into fruition, Adobe showcased how Unilever is combining Adobe, SAP and Microsoft data sets and platforms in its martech platform to simplify business processes and drive its sustainability initiatives. Unilever has a mission to only use recyclable or renewable plastic in all its products by 2025.

In this case, the FMCG giant is bringing together disparate customer, product and resource data and using AI insights to reduce plastic packaging and encourage consumer recycling around this initiative. The onstage showcase saw Unilever tying together composition product data with supply chain data and uniting those with customer information in Adobe Experience Manager, to engage with defined eco conscious consumer audiences.

Unilever also used Microsoft Power BI to produce visualisations for teams which also showcased the attributes that went into creating the audience segments.

To help accelerate ODI, the vendor trio have created a partner advisory council of more than 12 companies across the vendor, consulting and implementation spectrum, including Accenture, Capgemini, Amadeus, Cognizant, EY, Hootsuite, Genesys, InMobi, Sprinklr, Finastra, Change Healthcare and WPP.

“All our customers are trying to integrate behavioural, CRM, ERP and other internal data sets to have a comprehensive understanding of each consumer, and they’re struggling with the challenges of integrating this data,” said WPP CTO, Stephan Pretorius. “We’re excited about the initiative Adobe, Microsoft and SAP have taken in this area, and we see a lot of opportunity to contribute to the development of the ODI.”

The latest data unification efforts come after years of partnership. Adobe and SAP have been working together as early as 2014, when SAP began reselling Adobe’s marketing platforms not long after acquiring ecommerce vendor, Hybris. The Adobe and Microsoft partnership meanwhile, harks back to 2016, and an initial agreement to use and resell each other’s cloud computing tools.

The partnership saw Adobe replatform its offering onto Microsoft’s Azure cloud, while Microsoft designated Adobe its preferred marketing service for its Dynamics 365 product.

And it was in 2016 when two companies flagged their commitment to collaborating on a standardised data model for their marketing and business applications leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and advance analytics that customers can use to create new data-driven sales and marketing capabilities.

“Adobe and Microsoft intend to make the data models extensible to enterprise customers, as well as third-party developers and partners, in order to foster innovation and development,” the companies stated at the time.

On stage this week, Nadella said the ambition of partnership was to “help our mutual customers get better at connecting with their customers”.

“I think of 24-hour Fitness, which has taken Dynamics 365, Experience Cloud, connected on Azure, to do member marketing that is super effective. Or Avianca airline… which is rethinking how it does marketing using all these tools,” he said.  

“These are real examples of how, by breaking down these silos, we’re bringing products together and putting capabilities in hands of customers so they are digital companies in their own right.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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