Adobe’s CEO on how the company is posting record results amid economic chaos

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen’s virtual meeting just prior to speaking with Fortune got interrupted. The culprit? An employee’s dog. What pre-lockdown might have been an awkward moment was instead met with oohs and aahs from fellow remote attendees after Narayen asked the employee to introduce the cute canine.

When the San Jose–based software company moved its 22,000-person global workforce to working remotely in March, Narayen says the priority was employee well-being during these unprecedented global lockdowns. But Adobe has found that some employees are thriving and more productive as they revel in losing their grueling commutes. While it’s too early to commit to specific policies, Narayen says, once the crisis ends Adobe will incorporate more remote working for staff who prefer it.

“I can literally have meetings with customers and employees across four continents in the same day,” Narayen says. Prior to the pandemic, Narayen would give his Japanese clients a three-day window that he’d be in Tokyo for meetings. Now he can do those meetings virtually at any time from his California home.

Fellow tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have announced some employees can work from home permanently. But those policy changes are just a small piece in how the pandemic is changing business norms: Many existing digital transformation trends are now rapidly picking up speed, and gaining more attention from the C-suite, Narayen says.

From its cloud computing business to creativity software products such as Adobe Photoshop, Narayen sees the tech company as well positioned for this move to “all things digital.” As U.S. employers lay workers off in masses, Adobe actually reported a record quarterly revenue of $3.13 billion in its fiscal-year second quarter which ended May 29. That was a 14% year-over-year increase in revenues during a time when the U.S. is at Great Depression–era level unemployment. Adobe has nearly a $196 billion market capitalization—greater than that of IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce—and hasn’t laid off or furloughed any of its global workforce during the crisis.

The accelerating digital transformation is happening for both big and small technologies. For instance, in an environment where a deadly virus is spreading, Narayen expects to see more shifts to cloud-based e-signature services, like Adobe Sign. Adobe sees $128 billion total addressable market (a.k.a. market opportunity) in 2022 for its three core businesses of Creative Cloud ($31 billion), Document Cloud ($13 billion), and Experience Cloud ($84 billion).

Just one new way institutions are using Adobe’s products: The U.S. Census Bureau came to Adobe Experience Cloud to help modernize its digital strategy for its 2020 Census application site. And that revamp is likely to pay off: For every 1% increase in digital responses, the Census Bureau saves $55 million. And given the lockdowns, the Census Bureau could see a huge surge in online responses.

And the stay-at-home orders are speeding up the move from bricks and mortar to e-commerce. In fact, online spending topped $82.5 billion in May, up 77.8% year over year, according to Adobe Analytics. That online spending was $52 billion higher than expected for the month.

“The urgency has only increased,” Narayen says. “We won’t go back to the old norms.”

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