Adobe Summit 2021: Announcements & Impressions

Adobe Summit 2021: Announcements & Impressions

May 6, 2021 0 By Tad Reeves

Adobe Summit 2021 is now a wrap!

Last year’s Adobe Summit happened right at the start of lockdown, and so had to very rapidly do a pivot from a massive 20,000-person in-person conference to a first-ever virtual experience, an experience that left many of us wondering what Adobe could put together if given the time and space to do a virtual conference right. So, this year, production quality was vastly higher, with considerable effort put into a brand-new Summit site to stream all of the sessions live to 28,000+ people simultaneously.

Video: Impressions of Adobe Summit 2021 & Our Favorite Bits

I got together with a number of other Adobe Marketing Cloud cohorts for a quick run-down on our thoughts on Adobe Summit 2021, along with some of the top announcements that we each were all excited about. Give it a watch, and let us know what you thought of this year’s Adobe Summit!

Click above to watch the Linkedin LiveStream video of our thoughts on Adobe Summit 2021

Braindates: Bringing the “Conference” back to Summit

Last year’s Adobe Summit 2020 was a bit of a downer for so many of us as it lacked the interactive “conference” part of a conference, where one actually gets to give as well as receive communication, and meet people from all different ends of the Adobe Marketing spectrum. This year, Adobe brought some of this feel back with Braindates, a 3rd party platform that allowed Summit attendees to schedule either 1:1 or 1:many meetings to discuss topics of their choice. Through that I got a chance to talk to a number of other Adobe customers, as well as Adobe employees, and recoup some of that going-to-a-conference feeling.

Major Adobe Summit 2021 Announcements for AEM-Land

Adobe Journey Optimizer

This was the headline product release for Adobe at Summit this year, and for good reason – this is Adobe’s massively-capable customer journey orchestration tool built on real-time data from Adobe Experience Platform that enables highly relevant customer experiences through essentially any channel or touchpoint.

Adobe’s previous solutions on this similar line of business involved customer data being fed out of what essentially was just a relational database of CRM data, but now can include all of vast swaths of first-party personalization data to trigger customer communications and experiences all along their journey.

Adobe Journey Optimizer combines the outrageous power of the Adobe Experience Platform real-time CDP, with tools for journey orchestration, content creation and asset management (with the new AEM Assets Essentials integrated right into the program), as well as Adobe Sensei AI. It allows for contextual, effective, omni-channel experiences to be delivered to customers and potential customers at the right time, without lags and constant human intervention needing to be in the mix.

It allows for one to take this 360-degree view of customer data streaming in real-time into Adobe Experience Platform, and to then define segments, triggers, decision points and actions for these customer journeys, and to then use real-time analytics to modify and optimize marketing campaigns and messaging for maximum effectiveness.

AEM Assets Essentials (Bundled with the new Journey Optimizer)

Remember back in the old days when paying for a full Photoshop or Premiere license could only happen if you were a student or your company did it for you, so unless you wanted to go the evil torrent route, you’d have to get “Photoshop Essentials”? Well, Adobe brought back that awesome branding with AEM Assets Essentials – a simplified but surprisingly powerful implementation of Adobe’s Experience Manager Assets solution that will henceforth be rolling out as the default asset management solution for all Adobe Experience & Marketing Cloud offerings.

The target audience for this is going to start with the new Adobe Journey Optimizer product, but will expand in the future to other Adobe products as well (i.e. it will not be offered as a standalone product at this time).

It’s a shame, because it’s extremely powerful in its simplicity, offering (in some cases) better mass-ingestion of assets than the full AEM Assets product, in that you can ingest whole nested-subfolders of assets of various types, and it will then load them into the DAM with that same hierarchy preserved. It’ll support all the Adobe Creative Cloud filetypes (full-size Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, XD, etc), and has in-built smart tagging and other Adobe Sensei-enabled AI features to let you easily find assets without manually tagging everything (i.e. upload a picture of a boy with a dog and then search for it, you’ll find it even if you didn’t name it / tag it as such).

It also has simplified out-of-the-box workflows pre-created so that you can do powerful team-based workflow & tasking. Example: let’s say you had an image that you just took at a conference that needed to be sent out with Adobe Campaign to all conference attendees that had signed up for your conference, but that image needed a designer to do some work in Photoshop first before it was ready for use. Simple click-and-go workflows are built in to AEM Assets Essentials to assign that work to a designer, have them perform the work & save the resulting assets back into AEM, then notify for readiness – as an example.

The only bummer about this is that it doesn’t seem in the cards that Assets Essentials is going to be offered as its own standalone product, instead being offered first and only with the new Adobe Journey Optimizer.

AEM Forms as a Cloud Service

At Summit Adobe formally launched AEM Forms as a Cloud Service, which has been in a private beta for the last few months, and is now out in the wild.

Adaptive Forms

AEM Forms is a ye olde product that was earlier the “Adobe LiveCycle server” product which then later was a server-within-a-server product that shoehorned massive amounts of adaptive forms, PDF generation and document-of-record functions, as well as a whole host of supporting open source OS packages onto a very capable, very complicated product that was NOT “cloud-ready” by any stretch of the imagination. Whether running as an OSGI service inside of AEM or inside of JBoss, AEM Forms has always created its own unique brand of fun for DevOps folks.

It’s been entirely re-thought as a Cloud Service, and cloud-native functionality is being rolled-out piece-by-piece as it’s ready for primetime. The launch capabilities of AEM Forms that are in GA now are:

  • Creating Adaptive Forms: creating web-fillable forms that adapt to render properly for a users device and browser. These can be created using a form data model, using XML Schema Definitions (XSD) or JSON Schema, or can be imported from existing Adaptive Forms from non-cloud / self-hosted AEM Forms 6.4+ (OSGI-only, not the J2EE version) instance.
  • Forms Conversion Service: This will automatically convert a PDF form into an Adaptive Form, so that you can rapidly digitize and automate your form-filling experiences for users.
  • Forms-Centric AEM Workflows: You can use workflow models to convert business logic to a repeatable and automated workflow process in AEM for things like post-submission workflows, backend workflows for enrollment processes, assigning tasks to users or groups, Adobe Sign integrations to send a document for signing, generating Document of Record on a forms submission, or connecting a form with backend data sources for saving & retrieving data.

All this is done in the cloud service, and can be provisioned alongside your other AEM as a Cloud Service infrastructure, or could be used standalone with separate self-hosted AEM infrastructure. This doc gives a good further overview of changes between the standalone AEM OSGI Forms install and the AEM Forms as a Cloud Service product.

Note: the AEM Forms cloud service only launches with the primary features mentioned above. Other traditional features of the on-premise/self-hosted AEM Forms product are currently not implemented in the cloud. These are features like PDF Generation, the PDF Output Service (for example, batch-outputting volumes of non-editable PDF docs), Interactive Communications, etc, which will be migrated or re-invented at a later time.

AEM Screens as a Cloud Service

Adobe announce general availability of the AEM Screens as a Cloud Service product.

AEM Screens is an extension of AEM’s capabilities as an all-powerful hub for all of your multichannel experiences you’re looking to drive. AEM Screens allows one to take digital assets and experiences that you house in AEM, and radiate them out to digital displays like the ones you see in metro stations, hotels, restaurants and city squares.

Up until now, Screens was supported only in self-hosted AEM or in AEM hosted by Adobe Managed Services. However, the Screens product has now been fully re-engineered as a true cloud service that doesn’t actually reside (mostly) in an AEM container at all. I’ll be doing a separate blog post on this product once I’ve gotten my hands on it (I only first heard of it a few days ago) but it opens exciting new doors for scalability of a solution one could use to power anything from a single hotel’s displays, to the digital displays at tens of thousands of retail stores.

This video gives a great overview of the new AEM Screens Cloud Service overview and architecture:

More docs on the AEM Screens Cloud Service are here.

Themes for AEM! New Adobe XD / AEM Site Template Integration

I’m still writing more about this, but meanwhile, please see this preview documentation on the new Theming workflow for AEM Sites which uses Adobe XD to get closer than we’ve ever gotten to something that’s analogous to WordPress Themes, but for AEM.

Other Adobe Summit Announcements

  • Adobe Commerce Rebrand: Magento Commerce is now “Adobe Commerce” Adobe is officially consolidating the branding of the licensed commerce product from Magento Commerce and Adobe Commerce Cloud to the single brand of Adobe Commerce. The corporate Magento brand is also retired.
  • New Adobe Commerce Capabilities: Commerce now has Live Search for fast & relevant search results on a merchant site, and a new Adobe Sign/Adobe Commerce integration allows Adobe Sign to be integrated into the purchase process. Also, Adobe announced a new strategic partnership with FedEx that will enable Adobe Commerce merchants to integrate their storefronts with FedEx ShopRunner, allowing them to offer customer benefits such as free two-day shipping, one-click checkout, seamless returns, and the ability to take advantage of FedEx’s logistics intelligence to optimize their shipping spend. 
  • The Adobe Real-Time CDP is a B2C and now B2C platform for data-driven customer acquisition and engagement. See the announcement here.
  • Adobe Customer Journey Analytics – New Application: Adobe announced Adobe Customer Journey Analytics, a new application in Adobe Experience Cloud. Built on Adobe Experience Platform, Adobe Customer Journey Analytics enables brands to connect omnichannel data into a unified view, easily visualize and analyze complete customer journeys, and access real-time analytics dashboards anywhere