What do you think of when you hear the word Adobe? Many folks immediately think of the open standard Portable Document Format (PDF) that was created by Adobe Systems for document exchange. PDFs are everywhere and so is Adobe’s free PDF readers, so it is commonly the first thing that comes to mind.
But things have been changing fast in that company and the dramatic changes they kicked off in the digital publishing world in the 1990′s are being duplicated in the collaboration, content management and application development worlds. This post provides a few opinions on those areas.
(NOTE: As a disclaimer, I’d like you to know I really like Adobe and act as an adviser to them from time to time. I’m proud of my bias towards them, but if you need to make decisions I encourage you to check them out yourself- which all good CTOs would do anyway!).
- I’m not sure what the largest single collaborative environment is, but a contender must be Defense Connect Online. DCO has about 150,000 registered users and does about 20 million meetings per month. This system scales well. DCO is based on Adobe’s flaship collaboration tool, Adobe Connect. Connect works via your web browser. It is built to leverage the Adobe Flash player that is probably already in every browser you have. It provides well thought out web conferencsing, eLearning, web seminars, document sharing, application sharing, video and of course audio. There are a couple varieties of Connect. And, if you have a small firm like mine, there is an online version you can use for free at acrobat.com (see my previous post on “The New Acrobat.com vs The New Acrobat Connect“).
- By the way, this post was drafted using Connect’s collaborative capabilities, and I used Acrobat.com to ask some friends to check it out before going final.
- So, Adobe has built a collaborative tool that has been proven to meet the needs of the smallest and largest groups.
- Adobe continues to enhance Adobe Acrobat and many other capabilities related to content creation, development, dissemination and rights. PDFs can now contain 3D renderings, videos and all sorts of other content. The Army sends GeoPDF DVDs to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan already, and many advanced 3D modeling and mission rehearsal capabilities are provided right in PDFs now. Flash and Flex can also be used in PDFs (see section below on Application Development).
- Adobe’s enterprise class content management and business process system is Adobe LiveCycle. LiveCycle and PDF together have a comprehensive solution for solving many content deployment issues including security, accountability and need to share. LiveCycle provides an end to end solution for creating, editing and sending info forward to others using defined policies where there can be confidence in the identity of senders, the authentication of the receiver, the authorization of their user, the logging/auditing of their activity, and the enablement of their offline use.
- LiveCycle enables workflow development and deployment that goes across boundaries in your organization, as well as to other organizations outside your firewall (customers, suppliers, clients, users, employees). LiveCycle software is a server based solution that blends data capture, information assurance, document output, process management and content services to help create and deliver applications.
- Adobe also builds in enhanced document security for information sharing and content management. Imagine having information you provide to a customer and then when you want to remove that customers ability to read that info, for what ever reason, you do so. Or you give info to a customer or external partner and want to limit who else can see it. That can be done as well, which, although this sounds counter to information sharing guidance, actually will increase the amount of info that can be shared, since now there will be less fear of compromise.
- For years, Adobe has provided web developers with capabilities for rapidly developing and fielding applications to any user with a browser. Flash has an incredibly low barrier to entry and low cost of deployment and low total cost of ownership.
- But Adobe now provides development solutions that are changing things in even more positive ways. Adobe Air, for example, allows developers to use the same skills they learn in web development to field desktop applications. It is a runtime environment that lets developers build rich Internet applications that run outside the browser in multiple operating systems. Adobe Flex is a free open source framework for enterprise applications that is based on the same application development and deployment principles as Air– Flex dramatically accelerates the ability to deploy applications in an enterprise (I have built Flex applications myself- it is really easy to work through examples and tutorials provided in the SDK).
- While on the topic of application development I should mention the fact that there is no such thing as perfect code. Even code you write might need to be updated or patched one day to deal with a new threat. So, even good code like those provided by Adobe needs a good management system in place to ensure it is well maintained and, when required, patched.
The “So-What” for CTOs:
- Adobe has adopted a philosophy of being able to work with every other capability in the IT stack. So if you are using Sharepoint or Oracle Fusion Middleware or Java or Endeca or whatever else, Adobe is likely going to work just fine.
- It is certainly ok to think of PDF when you think of Adobe. It is a great, open format. But think also of the other great enterprise-class capabilities they are providing.
- Stand by for change. We IT folks are used to change. But Adobe is helping kick off change that goes far beyond the IT department. When users are empowered with capabilities like these they quickly learn that they can band together to serve the mission in ways that their bosses never predicted. This can produce significant workflow changes. User empowerment is coming, and once this revolution gets underway it will set off second order requirements we should be anticipating now: like the need for always on five-nines comms to every device everywhere. No one is going to want to be disconnected ever again. Tolerance of IT department performance “issues” will become lower and lower and lower.
- Stand by for faster application development/deployment. Imagine deploying applications in a third the time you used to.
- Get ready for new ways to empower decision-makers. For example, consider using these content management systems to create dynamic dashboards for decision-makers. A dashboard that auto-synchs with a server can provide decision-makers with always updated information.
There are some big moves afoot in the enterprise IT world. Enterprises everywhere, including, the federal enterprise, are making pushes to be more open and transparent on items that should be open and more secure and protected on items that need to be kept private. These mega trends are important factors that will keep driving IT forward. Adobe seems well positioned to serve as these trends continue.