Inside Adobe’s Future of Work From Home

In order to handle a new WFH normal, Adobe built several new tools that brought the company together through online channels.

The transition to work-from-home (WFH) brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has raised a series of specific—and sudden—challenges for employers and staff. At first, shifts in collaborative workflow processes and meeting structure were alleviated piecemeal. However, as the pandemic has drawn on, larger infrastructural adjustments have been required as companies face the possibility of remote work for the foreseeable future.

At Adobe, overcoming the challenges posed by transitioning a massive employee base to an entirely remote workflow was solved by, according to two execs within the company, putting employees first.

“One thing I’ve always found to be important to success, whether we’re in the office or at home, is the level of responsibility entrusted to individuals across Adobe,” Adobe VIP Ashley Still said in an interview with Inverse. “What’s kept me at Adobe so long is the company’s empowerment of individual employees.”

In order to facilitate this empowerment, when Adobe was forced to transition its 22,000 employees to remote work, company executives immediately looked at how those employees would continue to be supported as they worked from home. The company’s first step, CIO Cynthia Stoddard wrote on Venturebeat, was to launch “an organization-wide open Slack channel that would tie together the IT organization and the entire Adobe employee community.”

24/7 support became instantly vital to staff working from home, as did an easy, newly seamless way of accessing IT resources from out-of-office. Stoddard and her team noted from the channel that the same questions and issues were continuing to arise, prompting the company to “optimize our support for frequently asked questions and issues. We dubbed this AI and machine-learning-based Slack channel “#wfh-support,” and it had built-in natural language processing,” Stoddard wrote.

In other words: Adobe’s biggest and most effective way of supporting its staff as they work remotely has been an AI-powered chatbot, which has continued to evolve and learn as new and novel WFH issues arise. And the results, Stoddard says, have been “remarkable”—”Since the initiative went live on April 14, the automated system has responded to more than 3,000 queries, and we’ve witnessed significant improvements in critical areas,” she says.

Continuous improvement to the chatbot has helped Adobe reach approximately 97% accuracy in responding to queries, and call volumes for internal support have dropped by 35%. Additionally, Adobe is committed to ensuring its staff continues to understand how to best use the new tool and is rolling out a six-month, technical AI and machine learning training and certification program in partnership with Coursera.

The launch (and fine-tuning) of the AI chatbot is a staff-focused solution that has also Adobe to continue to serve its customers, who have overwhelmingly increased their use of Adobe products since the pandemic hit. Adobe has reported triple-digit growth in Adobe Sign, and our document scanning app, Adobe Scan, year over year; despite a surge in customer demand, email and collaboration usage metrics at Adobe show business as usual—thanks to Adobe’s support of its staff, staff can continue to effectively support its customers, with minimal intervention or supervision.

“As a leader of the organization, my job is to unite our teams around our mission to empower creativity for all and accelerate document productivity,” Still said. “After that, I need to trust them to do their jobs well, no matter where they are.”