Coincidence or not, a funny thing happened last night, two days before I leave for one of the Citrix CTP meetings at HQ. I had a dream and when I woke up this morning I knew I had to put it to words in a blog post. So here you have it.
It is all about Citrix. What it was and where it is now. To understand this post we must take a step back and I have to tell you a bit of my story. One that has been tied to Citrix in ways many people are not even aware of, dating all the way back to when all they had was an OS/2 based product.
Also having an understanding about someone’s background does help quite a bit when they write about something. So here we go.
I did a bit of everything. Technical support on both sides of the fence, meaning manufacturers and resellers. Also did lots of development, a long time ago. Sure as it was really a long time ago it was all Pascal, Clipper, DBase, etc based. Tried to stay up to date on the subject (one of the reasons I even took the Big Nerd Ranch iOS class for a full week – highly recommended) but with many other things on my plate, development is more of a hobby these days.
Then when time came, I had to grow a business. Had to compete with Citrix (yes, early 2000s) and Provision Networks. And here I must say we did extremely well. Library of Congress, John Deere, Time Warner Cable, Jet Propulsion Labs, all our customers.
We were the first company that realized many companies (Citrix was a great example) were selling products that had a ton of functionality but at the same time, tons of customers were buying these and using only a handful of features the products had. So we broke it down into modules. People could now buy what they needed and not what the manufacturer wanted you to buy. That is why we grew. And grew fast.
Long story short, Terminal-Services.NET is today what you have on Parallels RAS. Yes, that Parallels. The one you probably have on your Mac, running Parallels Desktop.
Remember Citrix Project Iris? Session Recording as you know today. We beat Citrix on its own game, releasing the first ICA/RDP session recorder BEFORE Citrix had its own.
So I learned all the way from developing and testing, to growing a company, to selling a company and to starting over. Keeping an eye on the market, its trends, what was available and staying relevant (meaning staying in business when you are as small as we were as a company).
That is why I do believe I am qualified to comment on Citrix. More than most, as not many in the industry coded, created products and started/sold companies. Some are techies only; others come from a CXO background only, with no hands-on creating products or even using them. Not the case here. Whatever product you know in this industry, I used it. I tested it. And deployed for real at real customers. You get it what I mean, I am certain.
Now, Citrix. What went wrong?
I think several things contributed to that and I will explain some of these.
- Too much forward thinking. Hey I get it. Looking ahead is needed. You try to predict where the industry is going. Where customers will be next. All great. I had to do that for my own companies. Problem is, when you focus too much on what is ahead you forget to look at your rearview mirror. Citrix did a lot of that. Like almost mandated all employees to break their rearview mirrors. The list is quite big, with some acquisitions you never heard of and some you heard and thought, “WTF?”. To name a few, ByteMobile, Podio, OctoBlu, etc. By not looking at the rearview mirror you do not see where your competitors are. You do not see what is going on today. You lose focus. You lose market share. Some may even start to think you are lost. Customers come out of keynotes thinking ‘When the hell will I ever use that?’. People need to see products and solutions they can use today. Or in six months. Not in six decades.
- Bad Apples. Listen, everyone may get a bad apple one day. That is part of like. But when you get a lot of bad people at top management positions, what happens next? They flood the company with their buddies. If someone is dumb and their circle is full of dumb asses, chances are all their buddies are dumb asses too. That means the company is now flooded with dumb asses. It happened at Citrix. And it took its toll. Not saying there is no way to turn it around. Sure there is. But they will have to shake it up quite a lot and bring new blood to the company, exactly what you are seeing now. Also keep in mind I am not saying everyone there was like that. Far from it. Many GREAT people there. Problem is, if a lot of people at the top are like that, the great ones under will never be able to make a difference. It is like fighting an uphill battle with an army that is 100x smaller. Sure, sometimes miracles happen. Not the case here. No miracles at Citrix.
- The hype-surfers. You know that type of guy that is always surfing the hype waves? The ones that all the sudden are only talking about the current buzzword in the industry? This usually happens on marketing-driven companies. Companies where at the core are full of marketing people but lack the hardcore techies. The guys that understand technology. And also lack the hands-on people, that understand the technology but are dealing with real world customers and problems on a daily basis. Citrix was full of hype-surfers for years. Just look at what happened when VDI became the hotcake. They thought it was a great idea to kill XenApp, their bread and butter. The product that brought the bacon home. I do not need to remind you or the whole industry about what that did for Citrix. Or where VDI stands today, compared to what many people said it would be back in 2010-2012.
- The Channel. When you start to screw around with your own channel partners, do not expect great things to come out of that. Many partners are loyal but at the end of the day they have bills to pay. They need great products and customers. If now you are stealing customers from your own partners, you do not have a partner anymore. No more loyalty. Many will think, ‘screw you’. Happened at Citrix. How do you think VMware and many others gained market share? Sponsored tweets or facebook pages? Nope. Thank many of the Citrix partners for that. After being back stabbed they opened the door to the devil. Not saying VMware is the devil. Far from that. But it was (and it is) a great competitor, one that was eager to get more traction, more market share. So they did it.
The problems are much more than what I wrote here. And I am still baffled to see many things still wrong at Citrix, not at the technology level. I mean in lack of vision, of cohesion. Not knowing how products should integrate, on what to deliver next. Even worse, not seeing exactly what customers and the industry as a whole are after.
That said, there is hope. The company still has some pretty good people. Bright engineers. And more than that, they seem to realize the company as a whole screwed up and they are ready to listen. Time will tell if that is the case or not and we will be able to clearly see that, probably in 6-12 months.
Until then, let’s all pray for the best.
And Citrix, if you need help, you know where to find me.
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