Adobe acquires marketing workflow startup Workfront for $1.5B

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Adobe just announced that it is acquiring marketing workflow management startup Workfront for $1.5 billion. Bloomberg first reported the sale earlier today.

Workfront was founded back in 2001, making it a bit long in the tooth for a private company that has raised $375 million, according to Crunchbase. (It’s worth noting that $280 million of that was secondary money raised last year.)

The acquisition gives Adobe more online marketing tooling to fit into its Experience Cloud. This one helps companies manage complex projects inside the marketing department (or elsewhere in the company, for that matter).

Suresh Vittal, VP of platform and product for Adobe Experience Cloud, said that the two companies often work together and encounter one another’s sales teams. As the pandemic has played out, it began to make more sense to bring in-house this kind of tooling that works well in a distributed environment, and over the last several months the deal came together.

“The new normal distributed marketing team, distributed experience delivery teams, people having to work remotely — we started to see new use cases emerge around the idea of work management, around the idea of content velocity, around the idea of providing compliance and governance capabilities so no asset escapes the organization, and it goes through this process of passing through creative and the marketing teams and getting out there and really representing your brand in the right way,” Vittal explained.

Workfront CEO Alex Shootman sees the deal as a way to accelerate the roadmap while working with a much larger company. “We are barely scratching the surface of marketing and we could grow tremendously, just by having that great kind of integrated relationship,” he said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says the acquisition will help Adobe customers manage the complexities of marketing project management. “Scheduling and managing work had gotten orders of magnitude more complex for enterprises, and Adobe is accounting for that with the acquisition of Workfront, providing better tool support for the new future of work,” Mueller told TechCrunch.

Workfront’s 960 employees will become part of Adobe and become part of the Adobe Experience Cloud. Shootman will continue to run it and report to Anil Chakravarthy, executive vice president and general manager of the digital experience business at Adobe.

Workfront’s customers include Home Depot, T-Mobile and Deloitte, and the two companies share 1,000 common customers among Workfront’s 3,000 total customer base. In fact, it has APIs that connect to Adobe Creative Cloud and Experience Cloud, two parts of the company’s product family that marketers frequently access.

As Adobe battles Salesforce, SAP and Oracle in the marketing automation space, it’s been using its checkbook to acquire additional fire power in recent years. This acquisition comes after Adobe spent $1.6 billion for Magento and $4.75 billion for Marketo in 2018. That’s almost $8 billion for three companies in less than two years, even as it builds out parts of its Adobe Experience Cloud in-house. Combined, it shows just how serious the company is about making headway in this valuable area.

Customer experience has always been an essential element of online and in-person transactions, making sure the customer feels good about the interactions it has with a brand. It not only keeps them coming back, but it encourages them to act as ambassadors on behalf of a company, something that has incredible value.

Conversely, a bad experience can lead to the opposite impact, causing a prospective or even loyal customer to abandon a brand and speak badly about it to friends online and in person. Adobe hopes that by bringing another marketing tool into the fold, it can help its customers increase the likelihood of a positive online customer experience. This one should allow marketing personnel working at a company to move marketing projects through a workflow from idea to delivery.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of Adobe’s fiscal year. Per usual, it will be subject to typical regulatory scrutiny.

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