Adobe Summit 2019

David J. Neff
5 min readApr 8, 2019


copyright Adobe 2019

My friend and colleague, Aaron Montana, and I just got back from Adobe Summit 2019 where we were both honored to speak as part of Accenture’s perspective on personalization. We joined 16,000 other Adobe clients, users, and partners in Las Vegas for this. Here’s a quick less than ten-minute read on what we spoke about and some of what we learned.

  1. David — We really loved the keynote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Instead of just concentrating on the Microsoft/Adobe partnership (which would have been easy to do) Satya and Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, concentrated on the role of finding business problems and developing internal business change. Something we think about a lot here at Accenture Interactive. Basically, it’s what we call developing your Test and Learn Culture. That’s often limited to certain parts of your business where it’s easy to run tests. Such as your web a/b testing team or your commerce team. But often we get asked by clients to implement Test and Learn all across the organization. We loved hearing this from him;

“One of the measures we’re trying to create internally is how quickly people are rewarded for disproving their hypotheses. Rather than saying, ‘You’ve got to be right all the time’, [we’re asking] how you give credit to people who come up with a hypothesis and prove themselves wrong.”

Satya continues:

“And that’s as much about culture as systems. I see the chief marketing officer and chief information officer as uniquely capable of creating that ‘no regrets’ system in the organization.”

So fantastic to hear this Test and Learn mindset spreading from product/engineering and analytics to the rest of the organization.

2. Aaron — Loved seeing the really active engagement during the Telus Server Side testing session. Telus is a very large telecom in Canada. They have built a culture of experimentation and what really stood out to me was the way they folded engineering into the practice so well. Gathering metrics and analyzing logs have long been a task for the development team at any company. Getting them involved in the experimentation practice was a real priority for Telus and they did it by allowing them to focus on the creation of services around testing where they could really shine. This quote from their blog post on the process —

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”(Michael Jordan)

— stands out. Tellus held an internal hackathon around experimentation and what came out of it was a “personalization api”. The API leverages Adobe Target and their existing headless CMS. This allows a separation of concerns and also ease of scaling for a practice that crosses disciplines and can be especially difficult to grow in a large organization. Developers are now free to focus on the testing service while content creators simply tag content for testing (with an mbox) in their CMS, ex. promotional offers. Marketers, in turn, can focus on preparing personalization activities as the content appears in Target tests ready to be utilized. The Q&A section of the talk was very active. People from the audience, many of whom were from the Telecom industry, were clearly engaged and struggling with the same issues. Here was the kind of open communication I expect to see among the development community, especially in the open source space. It was nice to see that this seemed to make its way into this kind of exchange — essentially a happy byproduct of the culture of engineering being married to the practice of experimentation in personalization.

And here’s what we spoke on:

Scaling your Personalization TeamDavid J. Neff

In this presentation, we discussed the various org models that product, eCommerce and digital teams could use to achieve personalization at scale and advised the audience on how to utilize the Problem Solution Mapping approach.

Rather than pursuing the outdated principle of “right content, right time, right individual,” the core tenets of “personal” experiences are highly achievable through data-driven experience design principles.

To truly scale your Personal Experience Design, organizations need to invest in developing a scalable personalization team focused on data-driven experience design that is as closely aligned with your product team as possible.

As you build this personalization team, start with one of the four organizational models: emergent, controlled, centralized and democratized.

The suggested approach is to apply a unifying framework, which we call Problem Solution Mapping (PSM), which uses a rigorous process that starts with goals rather than ideas to resolve experience-related problems using solution hypotheses.

Advanced tips for experimentation with Adobe Target (with a healthy dose of PSM mentality and approach) — Aaron Montana

We are a process driven company that loves smart goals and recognize that you can really only have one top priority. A developers top priority is to make good user experiences happen. That idea frames our approach to writing all of our tests for clients.

In my talk, I outlined patterns for creating great experiences when testing DMPs, single page applications, and even massive full page redesigns.

The techniques I showcased are all client-side testing based, and refined from our long resume of custom javascript based test creation.

Patterns for watching changes in a single page application based website are particularly important in our field at the moment. This example leverages a mutation observer to capture changes in the DOM and quickly render our experiment code again before the user can notice.

Link to code example.

Another useful strategy, watching the Web History API when the SPA does not produce useful events to listen for.

Link to code example.



David J. Neff

Climate Change/Energy Transition VC. Let’s get to 1.5. Author ✍️, Mentor, Investor, Husband, Father, Gardner, and 2x startup founder. Board member @MRCAustin