“You always leave your crap lying around!” “You never listen to me!” “Where’d your common sense go? Did you flush it down the toilet this morning?”
Messages like these, when received out of context, tend to incite fury, drive defensive/negative reactions, and put a damper on a person’s day. This is especially true when they’re delivered by someone you trust.
I can just imagine that Brian’s “Can Citrix become a Thought Leader again?” article had that type of an impact on many of the Citrix employees who read it. Truthfully? If I didn’t know Brian a bit better than the average bear, I might have had a similar reaction. Fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Brian recently, and my reaction was very different. Let me explain.
If you’ve got a spouse/life partner or a best friend, you’ve probably received messages similar to the ones I opened this article with. If you’re anything like me (very human), your first reaction to these messages was probably a very defensive one. You may have felt/thought/said ‘That’s not true!’ or ‘How can you say such things about me!’ only to realize that, while natural, your reaction was not what your loved one had intended. How many times have you heard ‘I only said something about that because I care about you, and care about our relationship.’? It’s true-- those closest to us often have a maddening ability to point out our faults, and this can be infuriating to say the least. As I’ve shared with my wife a gabazillion times over our many years together, the key to the message is in the delivery.
When I look at Brian’s article from this perspective, a dose of reality kicks in. As a Citrite (even though I don’t work for Citrix anymore), I agree with the vast majority of the points he makes in his article. They hurt-- but they’re spot on in many, many ways. Brian’s an outspoken, idealistic, driven kind of individual. He’s got a way of getting an emotional reaction out of people with his writing style, and I can appreciate that ( in a big way). Brian and I are alike in that both of our professional lives have developed in and around Citrix, and we’re both still making a living off of Citrix and the industry Citrix created. In short, the world needs to realize that Brian doesn’t hate Citrix, and isn’t out to get Citrix. He’s not afraid to point out their faults, much like a loved one may point out our own personal faults, but he’s certainly not out to ‘bash Citrix.’
Whew! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s take a second look at what I’d consider some very honest and well meant observations about Citrix (the corporation, not the dedicated Citrites who still work there).
1. Today’s Citrix is invisible with regards to thought leadership.
I was drawn out of the Integrator business and into Citrix by the overwhelming passion for the technology/company shared by Arlo Paranhos—a true rock star, an inspirational mentor, and subsequently a life-long friend. Once onboard, I found myself surrounded by more of the same. What a time to live! We believed in our technology, and saw our ‘jobs’ as missions. We were out to change the world! People such as Doug Brown, Barry Flanagan, David Kim, and myself were able to be visible, evangelize the technology, and share our voices, views, and knowledge with the community. Most importantly, we weren’t alone! It was a proud time to be a part of Citrix and the thriving community.
Where’d all the voices go?
Good question... Some may contest that it was Citrix’s typical defensive, reactionary culture that killed them. No one will dispute that this is what killed efforts such as the CitrixNW and CitrixSE Yahoo! Groups, www.tweakcitrix.com, and Citrix employee participation in public communities on the Internet. It’s also the force that drove Doug Brown (and in part myself) out of Citrix, accused Brian Madden of plagiarism and served him with cease-and-desist orders, and drove many others into hiding. To what end may I ask? What’s the sense in beating the passion out of your evangelists? So what if it’s not in their job description, if it doesn’t directly put $$ on your P&L, or if it makes others (who were being paid to build communities) look ineffective? I would call it “corporate protectionism gone wild.” To quote Brian’s article: “we’re on the cusp of some really major changes in the IT industry with regards to how applications are delivered to users. Where’s Citrix?” I couldn’t agree more.
Not all is lost, however. Fortunately for all of us, some of the passionate evangelists still work for Citrix, and they’re still fighting. People like Jay Tomlin, Mike Stringer, Saul Gurdus, and Bill Carovano have managed to play the game and get themselves in positions where they are poised to make a difference. They’ve even got a little bit of reign to work with, at least until some muckity-muck sees their names in an article on Brian’s site. (Just kidding! Well, sort of.) Let’s hope the defensive/paranoid/schizophrenic elements of Citrix culture don’t clobber them before they succeed in their honorable and heroic quests to make a difference.
2. Being a $1B company: it’s not a vision, it’s a goal.
So... where’s the vision? Anyone who’s breathed in this industry over the last few years has heard that ‘vision’ delivered over and over. It’s not a vision—it’s a goal! As a part of the community who’s consuming Citrix products, we need to hear and SEE that Citrix actually has a vision, and it can’t be a self serving one. I can understand that, from a shareholders perspective, being a billion dollar company is a good thing. However, from a consumers’ perspective (where I live my life now) it’s a self-serving message. What the heck does being a billion dollar company do for me? What’s it do for my customers? How’s it going to help us be successful? That’s what we need to hear. We need to be confident that we’re part of a community driven by a company who’s got something other than the stock holders’ best interest in mind.
This ties into another point that Brian made:
3. Citrix needs to fix the messaging.
Without the vision, it’s tough to develop the messaging. I’m not saying that ‘Access’ and ‘Access Infrastructure’ are necessarily bad--just unclear. Have you ever tried to tell someone what Citrix does in 30 seconds or less? I worked there for almost 7 years (and around them for more than that) and I still can’t deliver the ‘elevator pitch’. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy—but it’s got to be done for Citrix to really lead an industry. The upside, once you spend some time with someone and SHOW them what Citrix technologies are capable of, is that the power and value are quickly recognizable. For the sake of our community and my family, I hope Citrix can get it right sooner rather than later.
4. Citrix is on the defensive (and almost always has been)
A defensive posture has been the Citrix cultural norm for as long as I can remember. Was it the whole market mess around Microsoft’s ‘we plan to build it’ comments? (For those of you who remember the ride we took in 1997 when the ‘big’ licensing flip-flop dance went down.) Was it the analyst community’s pessimistic love/hate relationship with CTXS? I don’t know the answer, but it can’t be the company’s leading ‘strategy’ in my humble opinion. It’s time to step up to the plate and show the industry that they are leaders, and the purely defensive ‘strategy’ needs to go away. Leaders sometime take arrows. Sometimes they become martyrs. They always make humbling mistakes. But they’re respected in the community, and people will rally around a leader, even if they’re not perfect in every way.
5. Citrix has become less agile as the company’s grown.
The unfortunate side-effect of growth and acquisition is that it’s tough to be agile in a big ship! I remember when some customers were asking us to slow down the delivery of new products to market, but that was then, this is now. Agility was one of the attributes that kept Citrix alive during the boom/bust days of the Internet bubble, and arguably the attribute that’s kept them from being devoured by Microsoft for all these years. I believe it’s high time for Citrix to put their dancing shoes on and show us that they’ve still got it.
6. Blogging = good! Unfiltered = good!
It shows personality, and any ‘non-corporate’ messaging delivered is exactly that—non-corporate. It helps put a human face on a corporate entity, warts and all, and we respect that. The community needs the human face to go along with the corporate identity and messaging. It’s our reassurance that we’re dealing with a bright group of driven people, not the BORG. When we want the professional, filtered, polished, corporate message, we’ll go to www.citrix.com, or attend a marketing event.
Life wouldn’t be rich if we weren’t all different in one way or another. On that note, I’d like to disagree with Brian or clarify his points on the following:
7. “They’re trying to force Windows SEs to learn about HTTP-based networking gear.”
I believe that the statement itself is true. They are, in a very real way, driving us to evolve our skill sets. I would, however, consider this a positive thing, sans the application of force. The world is changing, and we need to change too. I think the acquisition of Netscaler was a fabulous move! Regardless of the fact that we’re being nudged out of our comfort zone, these boxes provide us techie types with some amazingly powerful tools that allow us to solve our customers’ problems more flexibly and efficiently. I think it’s also going to help bring an influx of fresh, California cultural influence into Citrix, and I think that’s a good thing! I have more thoughts on that to share, but I’d like to finish this article before I turn 60. ;-) Until then, you can snag a preview by watching the short video Brian and I shot on the ‘coaster in Santa Cruz.
8. Citrix and the crossroads
Call me an idealist (it wouldn’t be the first time!) but I don’t believe Citrix is at the crossroads. I’m confident they’re moving away from it. The emergence of the Citrix Technology Professional program is proof. I don’t think any one of the passionate evangelists that attended the first CTP Summit walked away thinking it was a step in the wrong direction. Many, many views were shared behind closed doors in Ft. Lauderdale, and the feedback was unequivocally delivered (and I believe received) in the right spirit. It was clear behind closed doors that we (Brian included) sincerely want Citrix to succeed—I just hope that message makes it out the doors of the conference rooms and into the offices of the people with the drive and perseverance to continue to change, and to resist the urge to get defensive and close the doors up again. Baby steps? Certainly. But any step in the right direction is better than standing numbly still. The community is still out here, and we’d love to see you as a leader again.
A good friend of mine recently initiated a conversation with a group of us about what it used to mean to be a Citrite. He was commenting about how the community used to consider themselves Citrites, and how Citrix used to treat us as such. He’s got some great perspectives to share on this topic, and I’m going to publicly call him to the mat and ask him to share his views with the community. Somewhere along the way it appears that the true meaning of being a ‘Citrite’ faded, but I firmly believe that there are many true Citrites in hiding, just waiting for the right opportunity to step back out into the light and hold their head high. If this or Brian’s article struck an emotional note with you--good! I hope you have the courage to turn that emotion into action, and start fighting for what you believe in.
It’s in the spirit of the Citrite in all of us that I share these views with you. They’re a bit raw and unpolished, and I’m sure my propensity for wordiness will overwhelm many, but they’re from the heart. I hope to run into you at one of the emotionally charged events later this year, but until then I’ll humbly bow out, put my silly cowboy hat back on, and get back to the business of living.
P.S. If this article struck a chord with you, feel free to let it play in the comments after this article. Speak up and let your voice be heard!