Last week I had the opportunity to go out to Adobe, meet with some heads of heads, and represent a set of growing concerns from the Partner community.
There have already been some post-meeting responses from Jason, Phil, Brett and Brendon. . . I have not read them yet in hopes that I can keep my commentary from my point of view - so if I repeat things that have already been said, please forgive me. I waited a few days to write this reflection so that I could allow any “fanboyism” to fade and I could provide a real account of how the meeting should effect our businesses moving forward.
The idea of this meeting was “accountability and action” - something that Jason Tinnin of SF had presented as a roadmap to get us all on the same page. I wasn’t alone on the trip, there were a few other Partners that made the journey as well:
To be honest, it seemed from the Linkedin group that there was both support behind the Partners chosen to attend this all day and a little descent. A lot of Partners thought that the Linkedin thread was the first time a lot of this conversation was being brought up, however, I want to shed light on the fact that there was a several month push that also played a big factor in the when and why of this all day session. On a personal level, I had not been very happy with certain accountabilities since MAX and had written several emails and had many conference calls to push for such a meeting.
Here are a couple of factors that drove the meeting to actually happen:
So the gauntlet had been set and we hopped on planes and left for San Fran. Thursday morning at 9am we all (around 20 people) took seats in a large conference room and jumped in.
Ok, they didn’t really say that, but during the first third of the meeting, it became very clear that above the Business Catalyst team, no one had really spent time with any BC Partners. In the following days from the meeting, a Partner on Linkedin said something along the lines of “What could they have learned from that meeting that they couldn’t have already read on the forums, etc.” Well, I can tell you - a lot.
There is no substitute for meeting people in person, face to face. It is very difficult to understand one’s demeanor or tone over a support thread or forum commentary. Outside of the BC team though, Adobe was very forthcoming about the fact that they understood very little about what the BC Partner’s mindset was, their top concerns, and what they were trying to accomplish.
The 5 of us were able to dig into many scenarios to paint a picture of what the BC Partner is looking to accomplish with their business and for their clients. For you to understand the impact of this, it is very important to separate (for just a moment) the BC team and Adobe. You see, Adobe purchased Business Catalyst and then expanded a team around the product. There was some work done to survey the Partner-base, but Adobe execs had never sat down with a BC Partner to get to know their business. They had spent a lot of time with the technology, not the people selling it (hence why the focus has been on the tech, not the people).
There is no forum thread that is titled Here is the BC Partner Business Model . . . which means it was never really taken into account (based on the conversation that went down). Granted, there are a dozen+ business models that you could wrap around BC, but we were trying to get as much information out to them as possible. Each of us talked about our story - where we were before BC, how we found the product, and how we have used it to grow our own businesses along with our clients’.
They listened intently.
There were people taking notes and then I’m pretty sure there were people taking notes for the people taking notes.
The two points that I hammered in were this:
After we each let out our stories, there was a unanimous response from every single Adobe and Business Catalyst team member in the room that said, “we need you, you are important, and there is no BC without its Partners.” That is paraphrased, but that was the response.
The other major response from Adobe was that they screwed up big time on the communication front. They had some very big initiatives going on . . . some of which will become apparent in the coming weeks, the big one of course Creative Cloud. Infrastructure was a big deal - as one Adobe employee put it: “BC got drafted to the big leagues, it is getting put at the forefront of our products, and it just wasn’t outfitted for that.”
What they admitted they failed to do was to bring Partners into that conversation so that we understood what the implications are to our business models and how we need proceed. They unfolded a lot of their plan to us, and my assessment is that what they are working on is great and all Partners will benefit.
One of our complaints was that the current support, training, and communication paradigm is broken. In order for them to gain any ground in this area, it became clear that they need to work with Partners to redefine what it means to be a BC Partner and how the program is supported.
This doesn’t mean that the idea of “Free,” “Standard,” and “Premium” Partnerships will be changing, but it does mean what Partners get will. There were many ideas thrown out there, and in the coming weeks, they will release official status on what is what, but here is a recap:
This was a big topic - how Adobe communicates its releases and future vision with the Partner community and what room was there for a feedback loop. There was admission that BC communication going dormant after MAX was a big mistake with the onset of the CC initiative.
Here is a recap of initiatives that we will get more clarification on soon:
How support works and what the plan for it was a big conversation. We also learned that things that were being included in support were bugs and wishlist development . . . which probably should have separate areas.
Partners complain about getting “bad” support, but in many ways there is a conflicting understanding of why that is. In some cases Partners are reporting bugs into support, and when a bug gets inputted, it gets transferred to an unknown engineering list that uses a different bug tracking system. If I am a very experienced BC Partner and I know I have found a bug and I invest 2-3 days replicating and creating a case for that bug, should I be served up a tier 1 support person? No.
Another instance is understanding when and where Live Chat is available. Why tickets get closed, etc.
Here are some initiatives that are getting opened in order to address support:
The engineering initiative behind Business Catalyst right now is focused on game changing improvements to BC. This at times has been called the V3 initiative, which took up a great deal of our conversation. There has been some botched messaging about what BC V3 is and isn’t. As Magda said best: “I surveyed a handful of Partners and asked them what V3 meant to them and they all had very different responses . . . each Partner pretty much said V3 was going to fix whatever problem they had in front of them, whether that was e-commerce, web apps, etc.”
As the BC team presented, they explained that they had realized that BC was a mile wide and one inch deep. At first, they split the engineering team up into teams to tackle each major area of BC . . . only to realize that without significantly changing the infrastructure and “platform” elements of the software, it was never going to reach the intended vision.
They shifted resources then to focus on a major rewrite of the core of BC. The result of this was a lot of intense work that we are beginning to see the fruits of:
One of the key areas of the vision for BC is to allow Partners to develop hosted apps for the Platform. A lot of the infrastructure rewrite is betting that this initiative will provide major long term benefits for the Partner (and developer) community.
A lot of Partners right now are requesting a “longer candlestick” - it became apparent that the BC team is working to build a light bulb. For example, the #1 request on the Wishlist is “Partner - Controlling partner employee access” - is this really the #1 need from Partners? No. Any Partner can attest that there are bigger priorities.
So what does “opening up” mean?
A lot of this stuff we have been told about at MAX, but we saw some demos, its getting there and very real. I will let Adobe speak for what they intend to deliver and when, but I wanted to make sure that you understood that a lot of what we were looking for is ammo to hold them accountable. I want to see them ship things that impact our businesses and those of our clients.
There was a lot discussed. Now it is up to Adobe to deliver. My personal agenda is that I want to see Partners succeed. No Partners, no vision for me. After spending a day with the team, it was apparent that they were investing everything to make sure Partners could succeed. Furthermore, we have a literal "seat at the table."
Whether we as Partners choose to believe that is true will be seen in the coming weeks and months. If you are looking for a canary in the coal mine, you will not find one here. Based on that one day and my assessment of the team in place, I am doubling-down on my investments in Business Catalyst.
Note: In this post, I took some liberties to talk about initiatives that were brought up in the conversation as part of my recap of what all we talked about. I would expect that in the coming days Adobe will begin to provide some clarity and debrief on which of these are happening in the short-med-long term. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about anything on this list, please reach out to me: email@example.com. Thanks.