Q&A: Citrix discusses enterprise mobility management challenges, goals

Citrix discusses the company's mobile enablement strategy and how anyone with an app and Amazon Web Services can disrupt legacy technology vendors.

Bernardo de AlbergariaBernardo de Albergaria

Talk to an IT person and they'll tell you that Citrix Systems Inc. is synonymous with virtualization technology. Ask anyone else and they'll say Citrix is the company behind GoToMeeting.

Citrix wants to bridge that divide, positioning itself as a mobile enablement company by bringing together its infrastructure management tools and various Software as a Service (SaaS) applications to help companies transform themselves for the consumerization era, said Bernardo de Albergaria, Citrix's vice president and general manager of SaaS Products and Markets.

"Mobile enablement takes more than just simply letting smartphones and tablet devices onto the network," he said. "Companies with decades of legacy infrastructure are challenged by transforming those existing systems to better integrate with new endpoint devices, mobile and SaaS applications and the cloud. It's about tying those things together with existing investments to be more flexible."

SearchConsumerization sat down with de Albergaria recently to discuss enterprise mobility management and what customers can expect from the Online Services division, which now accounts for 20% of Citrix's annual revenue.

Why has Citrix shifted its focus to being a mobile enablement company?

Bernardo de Albergaria: Mobile devices are becoming self-contained devices that are the only piece of hardware you need to be productive. They are getting faster and more capable all the time. At the same time, mobility isn't just about the device; it's about the combination of apps, the cloud, infrastructure, data security and how all those things come together to help employees be productive.

One of the themes of consumerization has been legacy vendors getting disrupted by more nimble companies. In this era, Citrix is competing against every app and startup out there. What's your plan for staying relevant?

de Albergaria: It's forcing us to up our game and continue to deliver a great user experience, because small guys are coming up with really fantastic and flexible services. It's so much easier to build an app today, host it on Amazon Web Services to have that massive scale ready and find a customer base willing to try out the app and sneak it into work.

At the same time, we used to be that disruptor when we launched GoToMeeting way back when. So, we know what that was like, and it guards us against becoming complacent. We can acquire companies to fill gaps, like we did recently with Beetil and Podio. We also have those infrastructure tools that we can leverage. Most importantly, relying on a SaaS licensing model keeps us on our toes, because if we don't provide a good service, then someone else will provide that value. It's so easy for companies to stop using our products.

How does mobility affect the way Citrix approaches product development?

de Albergaria: There's going to be a huge blurring of consumer and enterprise apps. Instead of having fully featured bloated software packages, we're going to move toward smaller apps that are dedicated to a specific task at hand, on mobile especially, but that user experience should carry over to the Web and desktops. The vast majority of enterprise apps still [offer] a bad user experience, and as long as that's the case, workers will continue to use Dropbox or Skype instead.

Is there a balancing act from offering limited-purpose apps? By adding new features, you run a great risk of having the app morph into a 'crapplication' nobody wants to use.

de Albergaria: That's a great challenge for us. Most successful apps start out simple, but where do you stop? Where do you draw the line? Microsoft Office is a great example of this challenge. Word used to just be a simple text editor. Now, there's a lot of bloat and, as a result, people use Google Docs because it's simpler, because it offers enough features without being difficult to use.

We use Net Promoter Score. It's a method of measuring customer satisfaction and a prediction of customer growth. You add a few features and customer satisfaction goes up; you add a few more and the satisfaction goes down. Software vendors need to know where to draw that line or walk back once you cross it.

The only question that matters for us is how likely you are to recommend this product to a friend or co-worker. If products become too complex, certain features should be decoupled and split off, but still have that integration. Feature creep is the danger of every software company.

Is that separate but integrated approach what differentiates the Online Services Division from your competitors?

de Albergaria: We don't want to sell a fully integrated solution, where all the different pieces need one another to work, because companies that do that care more about the integration than they do about the products. You know, it's integrated, but it doesn't do anything well. We really want to have the best-in-class standalone products, and over time we will build that seamless integration between them.

Citrix wants to build standalone products while also building seamless integration? Can you clarify that point, because you seem to be contradicting yourself.

de Albergaria: Yes. So for example, Podio, which is our social collaboration platform, should be able to stand on its own value. But, workers can get much better value if a company has Podio for collaboration and ShareFile for file storage and syncing. You can access your ShareFile documents and collaborate on them within Podio. The two products work great together, but having one doesn't require having the other.

When Podio was acquired by us, it was already integrating with other storage providers, like Box or Dropbox. Our belief is that people should choose the best tools, whether it's Podio versus Yammer or ShareFile versus Dropbox. Organizations should vote with their wallets.

That seems to run counter to Citrix's bottom line.

de Albergaria: If we have limited bandwidth, we'll favor our own products, but the interconnection of services is crucial. People should work the way they want to work without being forced into a specific manner. For us, it's extending our SaaS products to integrate with other vendors as well. Because we're trying to be a platform, we have to act like an agnostic platform.

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