New Citrix country manager for Canada pledges stronger focus on partners

Citrix’s recent introduction of Elite Force Academy, designed to impart ongoing solution selling skills, is part of the company’s strategy to modernize partner skillsets for Citrix Workspace and the cloud.

Jim Willis, Citrix Canada’s General Manager

Citrix’s transition of its business from its legacy applications to modern hybrid workspaces means partners will be more important than ever to help customers with their different transitions to the cloud. This means, in turn, that Citrix will be doubling down on partners to address that growing hybrid multi-cloud opportunity. That was some of the key messaging provided by Jim Willis, Citrix Canada’s new General Manager, when he talked with ChannelBuzz this week.

Willis was formally announced as the new Citrix Canada head a month ago, replacing Ed Rodriguez. Willis, who will oversee all sales, marketing, services and operations in Canada, had run Enterprise Sales in Canada for Citrix for the last six years. Previous to that, he had spent 13 years at Symantec Canada, where his responsibilities including running enterprise sales there, as well as running both channels and inside sales. Citrix historically has hired executives with long tenures in the Canadian market, who then have long tenures at Citrix Canada. Both Michael Murphy, who like Willis spent over a decade at Symantec, and Dave Wright, who ran Citrix Canada for years, fall into this category. The company is clearly hoping Willis replicates that.

Willis takes over in Canada on the heels of Citrix making a major restructuring in how it runs its operations in the America, which he thinks will work to Canada’s benefit.

“We have made some structural changes,” he said. “What Citrix has done is create an Americas International role, which includes Canada and Latin America. Prior to this change, Canada reported to the Americas. We were one of many groups reporting to the SVP of Americas. We see this change as a strong commitment to the Canadian marketplace, and that it represents a focus on the importance and uniqueness of Canada.”

Willis said that the transition to the hybrid workspace, accelerated by the pandemic, has opened up new opportunities for the company.

“Our past year saw fairly substantial growth for Citrix,” he said. “The clear message is that hybrid work is here to stay. Before the pandemic, Citrix had a big initiative around Work From Home, and we saw it picking up, particularly in the HR and people management side of the house. The IT side was slower in moving in that direction. The pandemic changed things, by moving to an extreme where IT organizations weren’t set up for that. It wasn’t a great environment.

“We are now seeing a move to a blended hybrid environment,” Willis stressed. “There are times where you need to be collaborative and there are times where you need to have no distractions. We are really seeing the new norm being a hybrid work mode. One large insurance company, for example, is now going three days remote and two days in the office, which lets them reduce real estate and also get higher employee satisfaction.”

While most companies today pursue serving this hybrid work environment as a goal, Willis said that Citrix is well set up to accomplish it.

“We address a holistic view that emphasizes employees’ experience,” he emphasized. “We deliver a very compelling story around employee experience, regardless of device and application. We optimize the application performance and quality. We are building the workspace of the future, not just a point  technology, and we secure it as well. That resonates in the Canadian marketplace, where organizations look at this holistically.”

Citrix has spent several years aggressively imploring customers to see Citrix Workspace as the future, rather than their legacy products, and the pandemic is helping make that vision clearer.

“Workspace is where business is heading,” Willis said. “We still have historical customers with the legacy products, but as we transition to the cloud we see less and less of that. We are also seeing hybrid multicloud be a stronger part of the platform. The legacy products will be here for the foreseeable future, because  not every workload migrates to the cloud today, but the future is clear.”

Looking ahead, Willis said that Citrix will be making some key strategic investments, both in the large enterprise business, as well as in in their commercial business.

“There will also be a stronger focus on partners,” he stressed. “A week ago, we launched Elite Force Academy, which is designed to stimulate focused growth by partners to make sure they have the capability to deliver compelling messaging.”

Elite Force Academy is designed to train partners’ sales reps around best practices and solution selling skills, and to train presales people superior technical abilities as well as upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Willis said its also quite different from the kind of training Citrix has provided before.

“It’s a program delivered by our partner ecosystem,” he stated. “It’s not a ‘take a course and get certified’ approach. It’s more of a storyline for opportunity delivery, and focused more on the full lifecycle of partner enablement.”

Willis said that Citrix is also doing specific market segmentation investment to make sure partners address the transition to the cloud in specific areas.

“It’s geared to hot verticals,” he stated.

Willis said that Citrix is also working on something that internally they call ‘wall to wall,’ creating new market opportunities.

“In the same way that online banking captures all typical activities a customer would need, we want to do that for the entire employee experience, to cover all the common activities in a seamless work environment,” he indicated. The recent acquisition of Wrike, with its collaborative work management platform, is part of this process.