Citrix messages of focus, steadiness resonate in Canada

While some of the channel changes announced at Citrix Summit have less relevance to Canada than in other geos, the core themes Citrix emphasized of increased focus and channel co-operation found a welcome reception.


Michael Murphy, vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada

LAS VEGAS – The message delivered by Citrix at its partner-focused Citrix Summit event here was somewhat predictable inasmuch as the themes of focus and consistency have been the same since the company was forced to restructure its leadership and strategy last year. Yet for Citrix and its partners in Canada, that was exactly the message they wanted to hear.

“Citrix isn’t the first company to focus or double down on its core portfolio,” said Michael Murphy, vice-president and country manager of Citrix Canada. “Sometimes, it takes someone to come in and generate that focus, and others will follow.”

Murphy disputed the notion that Citrix is “re-engaging” or “rebuilding” with its channel as part of this process.

“There’s no ‘re-’ in anything we are doing,” Murphy said. “But there is focus. There is emphasis. There is improvement. We are changing with the times, trying to promote the health of our products with our partners.”

Canada sent 52 partners to Summit this year. Murphy said the number of Citrix’s most committed partners – the Platinum and Gold – have increased in number in Canada, while the number of Silver partners has been flat or down.

“Many partners in Canada are boutique and niche, and are basically managed by Ingram Micro if they do little business,” Murphy noted.

Some of the channel issues identified as targets to be fixed at a global level have already been dealt with in Canada, including increasing the proportion of midmarket business available to partners and the controversial High Touch accounts.

“In Canada, Citrix Services only go after our named accounts, Fortune 1000 customers looking specifically for Citrix-badged services,” Murphy said. “In Canada, our consulting group that delivers services can’t be all things to all people, and they are more expensive than the equivalent services that a partner would offer.”

“Citrix has come a long way in addressing perceived wrongs to partners stemming from High Touch accounts,” said David Wasilka, National Director, End User Computing Practice at Compugen. “It had led to a disengagement because High Touch was perceived as channel-unfriendly. After Michel Murphy came in, he did a good job simmering down the High Touch program. More accounts were removed last year from High Touch, and this year they sunsetted it.”

One new programmatic initiative announced at the event is net-new partner-sourced incents for bringing in new logos in the mid-market. This is still a futures item however, being in final design phases, and likely to roll out in Q1 or Q2 after vetting by partner advisory boards.

“The net new incents will be an important piece when they get rolled out,” Murphy said.

Compugen’s Wasilka wasn’t sure at this stage how significant this program will be. But he thinks it’s a good fit within an overall strategic priority of working more effectively with partners.

David Wasilka Compugen

David Wasilka, National Director, End User Computing Practice at Compugen

“There is a focus on re-engaging their sales team and ours, to collaborate to target the mid-market,” he said. “This year there has been more predictability for our sales team. There had been bad blood around High Touch. Now the channel is empowered to drive the solutions-led business.”

Wasilka also stated that Compugen is pleased with the impact that the specialization program introduced a year ago has had on them, as a Platinum partner.

“Before the specialization program, you weren’t measured as a good partner on services, but only measured on revenues,” he said. “I’m surprised that Canada hasn’t really embraced specializations. From a profitability standpoint, it makes a real difference.”

News that Citrix was considering adding another distributor – Ingram Micro has been the only one in Canada since 2008 – was also welcome news.

“Another distributor would be good,” he said. “AltTech used to provide more safety nets for us, and Arrow, which bought them, still does. Ingram doesn’t, although they did bring in 10 days price protection on exchange rates this year. When you have choices, competition does great things.”

Wasilka indicated that he heard from Citrix what he was hoping to hear, and had a good impression of interim CEO Bob Calderoni, who was basically a mystery coming in.

“It has been stormy a bit for Citrix, and all the Elliott noise had been slowing down business for us. It was very disruptive, and other vendors pounced on the uncertainty. Hearing Bob present, it became very clear why he was chosen, and what his role is.” [Former CEO] Mark (Templeton] is a visionary who was really wearing both the CEO and CTO hats. Bob is about the business side, and has very smart people on the product management team.

“Fundamentally, what I wanted to hear was continuation, now that we are past the strategic review, and that Citrix is getting back to basics, and that’s what I heard.”

Wasilka was also pleased that Citrix sent a clear message that the old rumors NetScaler would be divested were entirely wrong, and that attaching NetScaler to deals is a priority going forward.

“That message that NetScaler is here to stay was very helpful,” he said. “We had customers who held up POs because of the noise.”

Wasilka concluded that while Citrix did lose some momentum over the restructuring, he believes they have now been reinvigorated.

“They lost their mojo for a while, but they got it back,” he said.