Key Words for Digital Transformation

Adobe, the Silicon Valley stalwart, has transformed itself — and expanded its sources of revenue and market share — by embracing technologies that could have put it out of business.

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The forces of the digital revolution have shaken company after company. Industries have been transformed. Entire media and product forms have vanished. Pity the enterprise whose fortunes are tied exclusively to the analog world, be it producing film, renting videos, retailing books, or selling packaged software.

By many rights, one might have expected to find Adobe on the register of companies disrupted by digital. And yet the 35-year-old software developer has persevered. Really, it’s done more than that. Adobe has excelled, and it has done so by embracing the very technological forces ― think cloud, mobile, platforms, IoT ― that could very well have been the harbingers of demise for a legacy producer of packaged software designed for the desktop.

Adobe exceeded $100 billion in market cap and joined the Fortune 400 for the first time in 2018, while ranking No. 13 on Forbes’ Most Innovative Companies list. Adobe Chairman and CEO Shantanu Narayen found himself similarly positioned on Glassdoor’s list of top CEOs of large U.S. companies.

In conversations via videoconference and email, MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman asked Narayen to share his thoughts on nine key words related to Adobe’s journey.


Narayen: Adobe’s mission is to change the world through digital experiences and, in that context, we have two strategic initiatives: empowering people to create and helping businesses transform.

The world without creativity would be a really boring place. We think everybody has a story to tell. We enable people to tell their stories by connecting them with the right technology at the right time with the right intuitive interface.

Look at an area like education, where there’s a lot of talk about the importance of STEM. That’s true. But we like to talk about STEAM. In addition to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the arts are an important part of what makes not just education but the entire world such a special place.

I also think you attract the best and retain the best when people connect with the mission and respect the values that you have as a company. Our mission enables us to attract and retain a very talented work base that looks at the role of creativity in enabling people to tell their stories with a lot of pride.

Artificial intelligence.

Narayen: Every decade or so, there seem to be big, tectonic shifts in technology.



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