IN THE HOT SEAT: Licensed to change

IN THE HOT SEAT: Licensed to change

A self-admitted software licensing addict, Nick Hodge is well-suited to spearheading Adobe’s local channel strategy, masters degree in focusing on technology management, experience at a reseller shop and a few years at Apple, Hodge has a few tricks up his sleeve to help the channel go after new markets. The intelligent document space is big on his hit list.

How did you come to join Adobe?

Nick Hodge (NH): I’ve been with Adobe for six years after spending three years at Apple. For nine years prior to that I was at a reseller in Adelaide called Random Access, which doesn’t exist anymore.

When I was working at the reseller, one of my dreams — or goals — was to work for Apple, but my passion in the last 10 years has been the software side of things. When the opportunity came up to work for Adobe, I jumped at the chance and started out as an application engineer doing a lot of outbound customer presentations. I spent five years doing road shows from Mumbai in India to Wellington in New Zealand.

What falls under your domain at Adobe?

NH: Essentially, all of Adobe’s business goes through the channel and we have two distribution partners: Tech Pac and Express Data. We also have an outsourced vendor (IT Direct) that manages our customer services, which we sell our upgrades through. We also have nine licensing centres in A/NZ that offer our contractual, more in-depth licensing program. So I manage some of those partners myself, along with my team.

The centres include companies such as HP, Software Spectrum, Data#3, City Software, Volante, Simply International, Edsoft and BCA-IT.

How do the licensing centres work? Are there any changes on this front?

NH: Our distribution partners take our traditional box products and transactional licensing products (TLP) and sell through our resellers and distributors. Our Australian licensing centres (ALC) are authorised because the contractual licensing program (CLP) has much more stringent requirements in terms of managing software licenses for customers and, therefore, those partners are chosen specifically for the qualities they have and the markets they address.

One of the changes that is happening in our new program is that Adobe has the ability to authorise resellers to purchase from any ALC, whereas before it was just the ALC selling to an end-user. One of the things I’ve heard a lot of feedback from in my time at Adobe was that it would like to purchase its CLP licenses from a reseller it bought their hardware from, and that’s specifically been the case in the creative professional market (including advertising agency customers that buy the Apple equipment to do the publishing work from a smaller reseller). So we’ve authorised some resellers to resell CLP in that space. That is one of the biggest changes I’ve implemented, and one which we are continuing to go through. It is a major change for Adobe in that before all CLP had to go through a licensing centre. This change will allow us — in certain market segments where it’s appropriate — to allow resellers to resell CLP. This is unique to local market conditions and is being done because we’re not as big as other English-speaking markets.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing in the software space that Adobe is focused on?

NH: What we’re seeing is an increased need to work with documents better, and a need for more intelligent documents. We have a platform of products, called the Adobe lifecycle products, which are for working with intelligent documents. That’s in places such as document generation, document collaboration and forms management.

In terms of go-to-market, what that brings to Adobe is a challenge in terms of building those channel partners that have expertise in that space.

There are partners that we have been working with for many years that have good expertise in this area already. What we’re always doing is looking for more partners who have expertise in Java, Web services deployment and in the document space — and value-adding in that space.

These are very different partners than the ones we traditionally pair up with.

The other thing we’re finding is because Acrobat and PDF is in virtually every organisation in Australia, many times we have customers coming to us, asking to do something more intelligent with the PDF files rather than just putting them on a website and having people download them.

Adobe has been, over many years, at the fringes of the enterprise. And what we’re doing with the whole intelligent document platform, and the lifecycle product, is getting closer into where the development teams are.

What objectives are left on your to-do list in 2004?

NH: I’m constantly thinking about talking about Acrobat to more partners as PDF becomes a more intelligent document and that’s something you’ll see Adobe do with our existing partners.

The other thing we’ll do is alter the way we present local partners to the world in terms of classifying them and adding the information to the local Adobe website. We’re moving to a much more market-segment-based presentation and that’s something I have in my head as a strategy over the next year.

We’re already doing this from a customer service calling perspective (when a customer wants to purchase a product a customer service team will direct them to an appropriate partner whether that’s location or expertise specific). What we’ll do is change the way we work with the partners based on their value-add.

If IT wasn’t your chosen path, what would be your day job?

NH: I’d be a history professor because I’ve always found it an interesting subject.

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