Shantanu, where are you?

Surely more than enough has been said and written about the misadventures of Adobe PR back in November, yet there is still one unresolved pain point that has not been addressed – where is Shantanu Narayen in this whole story?

Throughout Adobe’s restructuring and announcements around its new focus, the one person missing in action has been its CEO. In fact, so conspicuously absent, that just about the only related public statement we have seen from him since is a single blog post (conveniently closed for comments) where he not even acknowledges the disruption caused to the community.

Its obvious though Adobe is scrambling to get the right messaging across, unfortunately though for a lot of us the damage has been done and we’re left to pick up the pieces. Many long time Adobe employees are now either laid off or in the firing line of a largely disgruntled user community.

Disgruntled, not because of Adobe’s plans, but their public messaging and clear lack of leadership. There are a great many Flash Platform developers both on desktop with the Flash Player and mobile through AIR who’s primary occupation now is convincing clients about the viability of their technology rather than doing actual coding.

For all intents and purposes Flash is alive and kicking, though admittedly its scope and use cases will change over time as web standards mature and allow us to reach as wide an audience. AIR development on desktop and mobile remains a compelling cross platform solution for rapid application development.

Fast-forward to today, for several days people were asked to submit questions on Twitter using the hashtag #askShantanu to be answered during the keynote of the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit by the CEO himself. The hashtag in question makes for good reading material, as does the distinct lack of actual questions submitted. Another sign of increasing apathy around everything Adobe?

Needless to say, my widely retweeted question was left unanswered:

“with respect, do you feel you’ve taken enough personal responsibility around the massive communication failure in November? #askShantanu”


So I’ll ask it here again, along with a call to action – if you think this question deserves an answer, I’d like you to post the following to whatever blog or social network you’re active on:

“Shantanu, where are you? #Adobe”

It is in my opinion time for Adobe as a company to clean up its mess and move on, but to do so it needs to come to terms with the present situation and acknowledge its failures. If nothing else, I expect from a CEO to be willing to step up and defend his position.

This is my question, this is your opportunity Shantanu.


6 thoughts on “Shantanu, where are you?

  1. Jensa says:

    About a month ago I walked into a client meeting and on the topic of what technology to use the client said “Flash? Didn’t Adobe quit developing that plugin recently?”. THAT’s how much of a communication failure that occurred back in November.

    I also find it sad to see Adobe’s employees start every single conversation with an excuse (or a joke) about what happened. I doubt that Adobe’s upper management understand how damaging this has been to their users, not to mention the (formerly huge) community.


  2. Yup. As Jens refers, I also noticed the pattern of the “mandatory” excuse/joke as kind of a soft-disclaimer. I stopped having as much “isn’t flash dead?” client questions now than a few months ago, but it was quite time consuming at a certain stage, including some client panic phone/skype calls. Sincerely I don’t really see any slow down in project requests and regarding Flex projects mainly, there’s a lot more requests. I get more and more cases of companies looking for Flex/Flash devs because their developer went the HTML5 way or some project landing because the client went HTML5 and was expecting the same results as previous Flash projects, but ended up stopping production because it was taking too long to even get close and costs were reflecting that. In the end, we are the ones fixing the PR mess slowly?

  3. Phillip Kerman says:

    It’s true that the users of the technology are pretty much the only ones helping it (fixing the PR mess as Fernando said)… then again, I’m all for the churn that occurs when a change is demanded. I do like to say that “flash dying” is the best thing for Flash devs since Flash itself. Yes, many people have promised to deliver “html5” and it’s often costed more. I don’t think people have “left” Flash. I mean, the same people are going to be involved in the industry no matter what. It’s not like we can’t learn alternatives. It is amusing seeing people avoid even saying the word Flash.

    If the board and the share holders are not idiots they’ll remove the CEO. Even if you could argue it wasn’t his “fault” it doesn’t matter. His inaction and, like you point out, his absence shows that the company really doesn’t care what direction it takes or they’ve decided on a path of demise. I think it’s even possible they TRIED to “shake” the baggage of Flash. It’s so sad when they have some really great technology. Granted, they’re great at talking about what’s coming but they’re unable to follow through and even less able to stick with anything for more than a year or two.

    I’m sort of sad for the employees that suffer from this–but honestly (and I think most will agree when they look back) getting off the sinking ship is a good thing. I have no doubt most such employees will go on to better things. And although my old Flash books would probably bring me a few more dollars in royalties, I think the whole “Flash dying” thing is a good thing for my business.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing is how having Adobe behind a product USED to help legitimize it… now it’s a stain. For example, in the past I’ve used FMS/FMIS instead of alternatives such as Red5 or Wowza… BECAUSE there was Adobe support. Now, not only would I question this logic, my clients are definitely questioning it… where before having Adobe “behind” it was a good thing.

    I just hope the Adobe stuff I”m using now will be around long enough for me to deliver value to my clients. I seriously wonder if the management at Adobe has a clue what value they provide. They do provide value but I’ll bet even Shantanu can’t express what that is. He sure can’t point out flaws in inaccuracies directed against Adobe.

    Finally–that #askshantanu topic…. did he even answer any of those questions? What a joke. I didn’t even want to play that game.

  4. David Jumeau says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Kevin Lynch?

  5. Phillip Kerman says:

    The more I think about this the more I think the Adobe CEO should stand up and be a fucking CEO. I mean seriously, you name any mildly successful company these days and chances are very high that they have a CEO who speaks out and has a personality! People don’t hate Shantanu for any other reason than he has no “umpf”. I can name 20 high profile CEOs that I think are totally jerks–but I’ll give them all props for doing their job. There should be a clear message of Adobe’s direction and what they “mean”. They lack that.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I am not up for the workload involved, I sincerely think I could be “CEO for a day” and shake things up to the point where when people think of Adobe they have something in mind. Now it’s just ambiguous just like the company really is.

    I definitely don’t think my personality would be good for a CEO of anything other than my 1-person company. There are distinct personality attributes and behaviors that are most becoming of a CEO. I’m not sure what those qualities ARE exactly.. but Shantanu has failed to demonstrate them.

    I hope my comments can be seen as respectful because, really, I do respect 99% of the folks I know or are friends with or have at least met at Adobe–including Shantanu.

  6. Evan Gifford says:

    Wait a sec ….. the … the emperor has no clothes!

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