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Adobe’s CFO is helping steer the company’s path into generative AI

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Good morning.

Adobe is full speed ahead toward a future in generative AI products—and finance will be a big part of this journey.

“The finance organization has a seat at the table,” says Dan Durn, CFO and EVP of finance, technology services, and operations at Adobe. “They're involved in discussions. They understand the technology, the opportunities, and play a key role in prioritizing across that opportunity set once decisions are made. And from an execution standpoint, making sure the teams are hitting milestones at a velocity that enables leadership and competitiveness.”

I talked with Durn on Wednesday, the second day of Adobe MAX in Los Angeles, the company’s annual conference for designers and creatives. Adobe announced three new models of Firefly, its collection of generative AI models, on Tuesday. With the applications, users can use their own words to generate content from images, audio, vectors, videos, and 3D to creative ingredients, like color gradients.

“You get the ‘oohs and ahhs’—a visceral enthusiastic response to the innovation roadmap and the things that are going to make them more productive in the creative process,” Durn recalls of the crowd’s response.

One update is Firefly Image 2, an interaction of the first version released in March. The upgrade comes with the ability to make shutter speed and aperture-style adjustments to pictures, like a photographer behind the camera, and more accurate details and improved coloring. Companies can customize Firefly by providing it with marketing materials it can use as reference to replicate their brand’s visual style.

“The company is innovating at a pace we've never seen,” Durn says. “We're natively, deeply integrating these technologies into those workflows and products that define how they operate.”

Adobe earned record revenue of $4.89 billion in its third quarter of fiscal year 2023, which represents 10% year-over-year growth, or 13% in constant currency. The new AI offerings will expand the total addressable market (TAM) for the company, Durn says. Adobe’s Document Cloud, Creative Cloud, and Experience Cloud combined could have a TAM of more than $110 billion, according to the company. At Adobe’s Q4 earnings call in December, Durn will talk about the targets for 2024, he says.

“This is a seminal moment in Adobe's history,” Durn says. “There's an opportunity in front of us." How does Adobe decide on product enhancements? By staying closely connected with the customers and the community, Durn says. “We understand the needs that they look for in the workflows, and feature functionality that drives real productivity gains.”

When I last spoke with Durn in March, he said Adobe positioned itself to avoid company-wide layoffs this year when major tech companies were doing so. “We don’t need to do that, and we don’t want our employees worried about when the next shoe is going to drop,” he told me in March.

And offloading parts of graphic designers' work to AI does not put their jobs in jeopardy, according to Durn. “Productivity enhancement is not new,” he explains. For example, "this is something that's been playing out in the engineering world for decades now," he says, "and it hasn't led to a lower number of R&D engineers in this world.” In fact, "the demand for talent is going to be very robust," he says.

Sheryl Estrada

Upcoming event: Fortune's Emerging CFO virtual event, in partnership with Workday, "Finance and IT as co-innovation partners," will take place on Oct. 25, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET.

Join us for a conversation where we will explore strategies to shift the Finance-IT relationship from its traditional support model to a partnership focused on co-innovation, from breaking down data silos to improving cross-functional skills. Confirmed speakers will include: Eric Kutcher, CFO, McKinsey & Company; Zane Rowe, CFO, Workday; and Sindy Wilson, CFO, Kickstarter.

Click here for more information and to register.

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