A top Adobe exec explains how the $1.5 billion acquisition of Utah-based Workfront will fill a 'critical piece' in its mission to help businesses digitally transform

  • Adobe is growing its digital marketing business with the acquisition of acquiring Utah-based Workfront for $1.5 billion, in a deal announced on Monday.
  • Workfront makes work management software mainly used by marketing professionals — which makes it a natural fit with Adobe's own Experience Cloud product, which lets users manage their digital marketing outreach.
  • Workfront CEO Alex Shootman says the acquisition will give it access to Adobe's wide base of marketing professionals: "Adobe is the trusted advisor to CMOs."
  • Amit Ahuja, Adobe's VP of ecosystem development, tells Business Insider that Workfront will make Experience Cloud even more valuable and useful to customers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Monday, Adobe announced its intent to acquire Utah-based startup Workfront for $1.5 billion, in a bid to grow its digital marketing business. 

Workfront, which had raised some $95 million in venture capital funding according to Crunchbase, makes software to help its customers organize their projects, track processes, and automate common tasks.

Workfront CEO Alex Shootman told Business Insider that over 75% of its customers are marketing professionals, as that industry sees "a tremendous amount of transformation" in terms of modernization and digitization. 

That dynamic is exactly what Adobe liked about the company. It will augment Adobe's Experience Cloud business, which focuses on digitizing customer experiences in marketing and commerce, said Amit Ahuja, Adobe's VP of ecosystem development. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. 

"It's all about this notion of digital transformation," Ahuja told Business Insider. "It's all about 'how do we help our customers fundamentally create the best experience for their customers.'" A huge aspect of that is personalizing the content customers see, and this acquisition helps Adobe do even more for their customers, he added. 

Adobe's Experience Cloud business is one Adobe's three main product lines, in addition to the Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, and Document Cloud, which includes the Acrobat software. Experience Cloud gives marketing professionals tools to manage digital outreach to customers and e-commerce capabilities. What Workfront will do is connect Adobe's other businesses to its Experience Cloud and let users track their work across its products.

"The acquisition of Workfront fills a critical gap for Adobe, connecting Adobe's creative and design solutions with their digital experience technologies," said Gartner analyst Chris Ross. "This will mean that Adobe can support a full continuum of capability from content creation through work management to digital distribution and measurement." 

Ross adds that it will help Adobe reach other types of workers, and there will be "significant opportunities for integration of creative, work and experience technologies." 

For Workfront, founded in 2001, that combination is what made the deal attractive. Shootman said he thinks a work management system like Workfront should be standard in a company's technology stack, similar to Workday or ServiceNow. By joining Adobe, that mission is attainable more quickly. 

"Adobe is the trusted advisor to CMOs," Shootman said. "Adobe has incredible technology that CMOs are using across their entire organization and now when we come together, the workflows themselves can be managed inside of Workfront," he said. 

Both Shootman and Ahuja expect the acquisition to go smoothly because of how both companies already work together. With over 1000 joint customers (Workfront has 3,000 total, the company says), the existing integrations between their products will only get deeper and more robust.

As more companies go digital for all their work, the challenges they had before don't necessarily go away, Ahuja said. Instead they get exacerbated. By adding Workfront to its product line, Adobe will be able to provide more value to its customers, he said.

"The challenge in that is you've got to fundamentally think about the right set of data and the right set of content and to put that together to deliver the right experience," Ahuja said. "Workfront is a critical piece of that because these processes and all the work to get that done is getting more and more challenging."

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