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Adobe CIO talks about watching users to enhance customer experience

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Technology should be harnessed to enable users to do things for themselves and to improve user experience, Cynthia Stoddard, chief information officer of Adobe, said during VentureBeat’s Transform 2021 virtual conference.

“I love technology, because I love the impact that it has on businesses and [on how people work],” Stoddard told Noelle Silver, founder of the AI Leadership Institute. “[The] outcomes and the contributions that we can make by some of the most simple changes and applications of technology are just amazing.”

The past year has illustrated the importance of giving people the tools that they need to be productive, so that they can do their jobs while simultaneously managing their family lives. Stoddard described the idea of giving people the tools they need as self-service in business, similar to how self-service in the cloud lets users take care of certain tasks without waiting for IT.

The data-platform-as-a-service is a good example of giving people what they need, Stoddard said. Different people on Stoddard’s team had varying levels of comfort when it came to accessing data. The data scientists wanted to do everything themselves, and others had no interest in dealing with formulas. The pre-built services gave business users the flexibility to download the data and create their own formulas to create their own data views, or just load a dashboard and nothing else.

“We’ve created the data-platform-as-a-service that really caters to all the different personas,” Stoddard said. “You can have a dashboard, or you can download [the data] and create your own data mart.”

Customer experience is key

A valuable way to improve customer experience is to get close to the customer, Stoddard said. At Adobe, the team puts themselves in the shoes of those customers to understand the pain points of using Adobe products and services. The kind of help the user would need, or the kind of tool they would prefer, would vary depending on whether the user was a power user or a more mainstream one. A team looks at the experience — not the user interface — from end-to-end to understand how people of different skill levels are engaging with Adobe products.

“Can you help more with customer support? Can we inject some new features into the total product? Can we inject product help?” Stoddard asked. She listed examples of many different results that come out of analyzing customer journeys, which the company can incorporate into enhancing the user experience. In addition, she said that considering diversity in the customer’s workforce also helps Adobe to make sure the help they provide is specific to the group that needs it, especially in cases when it might be different from the mainstream design trend.

“We’ve invested a lot in experience,” Stoddard said.

Learning as the driving force

“Innovation can come from anywhere,” Stoddard said, adding that’s what her team and organization believes in. Within the organization, teams have embraced a lot of open sources to work on automation. Members work together to see how they can take artificial intelligence and machine learning and apply it to the company’s framework products. The team looked into particular areas for the product to self-heal and attempt to use automation to fix it. “It used to take 20 minutes-plus. They take seconds or minutes now,” Stoddard said.

Going forward, Stoddard sees her CIO role expanding and continuing to add value to the team. Her advice for others in the tech industry is to keep learning from their peers. “The connections really help you get connected to the industry in many different ways,” she said. She believes it’s important to stay connected both within the organization and to other industries, since that will bring new ideas to people and teach them how to do things differently.

Meanwhile, Stoddard prides herself on being a mentor to her team. “I love seeing them grow, get broader, and get deeper,” she said. “The mentoring aspect, and helping people be successful, makes me smile.”

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