Adobe’s first enterprise offerings will face some challenges



On October 12, 2002, Adobe Systems announced Adobe Document Server, which enables enterprises to generate and modify PDF files automatically. Document Server accepts data from business applications and coordinates workflow. Document Server will become available by year-end 2002 and its price will start at US$20,000 per CPU. Adobe also announced Adobe Document Server for Reader Extensions, which enable enterprises to automate e-forms. This offering aims to help enterprises conduct workflows for both customer-facing and partner-driven supply chain applications. Reader Extensions will become available by year-end 2002 starting at US$75,000.

First Take

This announcement shows that Adobe intends to follow through on its acquisition of Accelio earlier in 2002. In entering the corporate e-forms and workflow market, Adobe has several advantages and challenges. Adobe’s strengths include the near-universal acceptance of PDF as a document standard among enterprises. In comparison to most competitors like Cardiff and Shana, Adobe is a large software vendor with advantages in brand recognition, cash, marketing and sales force size. Adobe brings expertise to document publishing that Accelio did not. The Document Server is designed not only to coordinate workflows but also to enable rich and complex document creation, and will integrate with application workflow from vendors such as Documentum and SAP.

However, Adobe faces challenges in execution because it has historically provided shrink-wrapped software and has not focused on selling to the enterprise and providing solutions. How Adobe adjusts its sales organization, practices and tactics will largely determine its success. Adobe will have to gain an understanding not only of the enterprise market it is entering but also of the content management market as a whole. Numerous established vendors will challenge Adobe, which does not have a track record of providing solutions for complex workflows like claims processing.

Time will also pose a major challenge for Adobe. Adobe wants to address e-government opportunities such as those that resulted from the U.S. Government Paper Elimination Act. Federal agencies must comply with it by October 2003. Thus, within a year, Adobe must introduce a product, educate its sales force and convince the market it has the right product in a shortened sales cycle. In addition, the procurement process for federal agencies often takes a long time – six to nine months at a minimum. Adobe may find that many agencies have already made plans for, or purchased, competing e-forms offerings.

Enterprises should examine Adobe’s offerings for e-forms and workflow with the understanding that this new endeavour will likely provide challenges for Adobe.

Analytical Source: Garth Landers, Gartner Research

Recommended Reading and Related Research

“Find Out Adobe’s Plans for Accelio” – This acquisition means that Adobe will be one of the largest software vendors to enter the distributed output management market. By James Lundy, Mark Gilbert and David McCoy

“E-Forms: Dramatic Changes Highlight Demand” – Enterprises should weigh their workflow and electronic-signature requirements heavily as these two components can play a large part in determining the complexity and cost of a proposed solution. By Garth Landers

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