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Citrix Should Go Home And Rethink Its Life

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Cloud and mobile are boring, and Citrix needs to get better at exciting customers, says Tom Brewster

“You want to go home and rethink your life.” That’s what Obi-Wan Kenobi says to a guileful alien in Star Wars Episode II, using the Force to stop the croaky-voiced geezer from selling the mildly hallucinogenic/lame drug “death sticks”. Citrix, and CEO Mark Templeton, could do with the same treatment. Now that its Synergy conference is winding down in Barcelona, and attendees shake off their jetlag/hangovers, Citrix should go back home, and come up with a new message.

It needs a shot in the arm, at least from how it conveys its strategy to the world. Cloud and mobile – that’s what the company is now leading its charge with. But let’s be as clear about this as possible: cloud and mobile are broad, boring, overused terms. It’s not that those areas are not important for IT – because they really are. The problem is that umpteen vendors do cloud and mobile. It’s an uninspiring, nebulous, all too obvious message to take to people. Speaking to fellow analysts and journalists, there’s a general agreement on this.

Too much to handle for Citrix?

The main issue for Citrix is that it has an incredibly broad product set for such a small company. There’s desktop virtualisation in its many guises, server virtualisation, cloud and mobile management/orchestration, network optimisation, system on a chip stuff and socially-led collaboration with its recently-acquired Podio tool. It does plenty of stuff that Templeton and Co rarely talk about too, including security like web application firewalls and DDoS protection on the NetScaler side. It’s a lot to manage and advertise to potential customers, so perhaps it is no surprise that Citrix can’t come up with a better clarion call for IT.

But it would benefit from coming up with more coherent strategic marketing. If Obi-Wan were a character from the corporeal world, and not the creation of seemingly dilettante scriptwriters, Citrix could use his help. But in real life, it can take inspiration from its competitors. Look at Salesforce – one of Citrix’s many rivals. It uses ‘social’ to talk about its whole portfolio, and can, just about, link every product to that term. To me, and to IT guys, it makes sense and it’s exciting. For Salesforce, it keeps investors happy, its share price high (it has been climbing nicely over the last three months) and its revenue healthy, even if profit is some way off.

Tell it like it is

I posited all of this to Citrix chief demo officer and poster boy, Brad Peterson, over a few drinks last night, divested of any insecurity, thanks to the alcohol. Of course, he didn’t admit that I was right, he simply said that those were two massively important areas. He then asked me what I thought Citrix should have as their overarching message.

Now, I’m no marketing guru. But, never one to turn down a challenge, especially from a vendor, I still proposed some ideas. Here’s some of the phrases I chucked his way: ‘User-Centric IT’, ‘For The User’, ‘Working For The Workers’. Brad saw what I was getting at, but I’m fairly certain he won’t be using any of those nuggets. Which is a shame, because they embody what Citrix does well, namely letting employees work from wherever they want, on whatever they want, with slick virtual desktop experiences.

To ensure VMware doesn’t start stealing customers away, when it launches products from its Project Horizon desktop virtualisation kit, Citrix needs to be able to talk about its gear in a way that thrills CIOs. Shouting mobile and cloud at them will only exasperate them, as they’ve heard it all before. They need to hear that Citrix is different, which it is. When Synergy comes to London next year, it would be great to hear something fresh from the ever-ebullient Templeton.

The millions Citrix pours into PR should help it concoct a simpler, more intriguing message. Maybe Star Wars can provide that much-needed inspiration… A New Hope? Attack Of The Desktop Clones? Like I said, I’m no marketing guru.

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