Publishing software specialist Adobe has been getting experimental for some time. Although it is remaining loyal to its successful desktop products, it has recently started focusing on server software and workshop collaboration tools — a world away from Acrobat and the Illustrator graphics tool.
Yet now, it is moving wholeheartedly into the document management sphere, with the launch of its new LiveCycle software.
LiveCycle is one of the most important contributions yet to Adobe’s enterprise-centric Intelligent Document Platform, sales of which are currently doubling every year, claims Adobe, and is now already contributing about one-third of Adobe’s revenues.
Essentially, it is a server-based suite of applications that enables enterprises to create, control and manage PDF — Acrobat — documents to and from back-end systems in a dynamic way, says Mark Wheeler, senior enterprise marketing manager at Adobe.
“Documents are no longer just static but evolving,” he says. “Now it is all about making documents more intelligent, more personalised.” The PDF is no longer the end point of the workflow, but a ‘wrapper’ of an electronic document in which the content can be changed, he says. “Consider it as a box into which you can put video clips, web pages and file documents.”
Adobe’s shift into document management is no surprise. In fact, it has been bubbling for some time. In April 2002, the company purchased Accelio, a specialist in data capture and workflow. It then acquired Yellow Dragon for its XML database in November 2003, and Q-link for workflow management technology in April 2004 — all the while dramatically stepping up investment in document management research and development.
But although Adobe’s market-leading packages of Photoshop and Illustrator have given it high-level credibility in the desktop publishing space, how will the company fair in an already crowded enterprise document management market?
Wheeler is confident. Adobe is not competing in the sphere but adding to the offerings of partners such as IBM, Documentum and OpenText, he says.
Furthermore, Adobe is offering communication beyond the firewall, unlike most companies, allowing governments to interact with their citizens and banks to interact with their customers, he adds.
“Bank customers, for example, will be able to fill out dynamic forms online without having to enter the banks in-house system. Furthermore, processes such as routing and approval will be automated, while access and validating documents will be managed throughout,” he adds.
Meta Group’s Andy Warzecha believes there is a major transformation taking place addressing some of the costs associated with managing the lifecycle of documents. “Adobe is delivering a series of infrastructure level services to take documents well beyond their traditional static nature… so documents can extend business processes to be more cost effective.”
So where is Adobe’s document management strategy heading? “We will continue to build out the LiveCycle platform,” says Wheeler, “evolving data security, business process management and helping organisation to communicate on a more personal level”.
Now it is just a question of convincing potential customers that Adobe is about more than desktop publishing.