Sign of the times: how Adobe Document Cloud makes document management easy

The new, simpler interface for Adobe's PDF tools

Never mind Slack or Yammer or all the other new ways of talking to each other – for a lot of people the business world still runs on documents and forms. And whether they're paper or email attachments, they're not easy enough to fill out on tablets and smartphones. Adobe is trying to change this with its new Document Cloud – new versions of the Acrobat PDF software for different devices, and cloud services that make all those forms and documents easier to work with, without needing to go back to your desk.

"The multi-device environment has created all these amazing opportunities but it has also confounded people," Adobe's Mark Grilli told TechRadar Pro. "We can't go back to a simpler world where the only way we get work done is at the desktop, whether that's the fax machine or email attachments. There's a 'come into this century' momentum happening, but it's not easy enough. Everyone has a smartphone now and I can't tell you how many times I get the confounded look from someone saying 'I have this form and I don't know what to do'. Right now, a lot of common currently used technologies and approaches fall down when you're not doing things in a particular way."

Documents are still the way business is done, he points out. "There's a very large business in delivering overnight envelopes; we spend millions of dollars on it. And their sole purpose, apart from maybe some where you send a DVD with content to save on bandwidth, is that it's a lot of contracts, agreements – things to be signed.

"The volume of effort spent on just simple approvals and signatures is enormous – think about a design agency getting sign-off on creative work. That's a very labour intensive process. Or the architect on a remodel sending the floorplan for the company building or the specifications of a design for manufacturing. There's an enormous number of things that are built on those technologies from, at best, fifteen or twenty years ago."

Sign on Android

View and fill out forms on your phone with Adobe Document Cloud

Making life easier

Some of the tools in Document Cloud are about making all this easier, like a new feature in Acrobat that lets you take a photo of a form with your phone or tablet, tap on the places you need to fill in details and then sign with your finger. That helps in terms of productivity and customer experience.

Others, like simple workflow or integration with SharePoint, are about getting documents and forms to the right place – and knowing where they are. "These are binding legal documents. How many non-disclosure agreements has your business signed and is subject to and they're sitting in a salesperson's trunk so you don't know about them?"

The productivity side is highlighted by a recent IDC study, he says. "People said a third of their time is spent on admin tasks and two-thirds on real work. That's a day and a half a week spent on doing things you don't consider valuable." (The study also said 61% of people would change jobs just to do less paperwork).

And customer satisfaction is set to become a competitive advantage, Grilli believes. "If you're my co-worker and I send you something to deal with and you get it on your phone, then I can expect you to figure it out. That's your job, although you shouldn't have to figure it out, because there are these more modern approaches. But if I'm a sales professional and I need you to sign this sales agreement so I get my commission, I need to make sure you can do it. I can't just leave you to figure it out."

His bank recently made a mistake and turned off one of his accounts. "I have three other accounts with them, so they have my information, but to fix that account I had to reply with a paper form. That was somehow accepted practice, but it made me want to leave the bank."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.