Now that we've had a few days to digest the Citrix layoff last week, I wanted to take a step back and look at what happened again through different eyes. It's one thing to write about it as it's happening, but it's done now, and Citrix has been reshaped. So, I want to look at what happened last week, not from a "so many people are losing their jobs" perspective, but from a "this is what Citrix is doing" perspective.
Before we start, make no mistake that this was a cost-cutting move meant to appease investors or attract potential buyers. Any strategy changes that stem from this situation were brought about because Citrix needed increase revenue or cut expenses, and since increasing revenue has proved challenging, the layoff served the purpose of cutting expenses.
In terms of numbers, I've heard that they were told to cut 10%, but that is unconfirmed. Regardless, when you're told to cut, you try to apply a method to it rather than simply picking one out of every ten people, and the results of that are what we have here.
First, let's recap the changes at outlined in David Henshall's email to employees, which showed up on TheLayoff.com (and was confirmed by other sources). From the email:
In addition to simplification and other efficiencies, I would like to share what is changing within our product strategy and how that will help us achieve our plan.
- We are winding down products that are non-core to our strategy or that we cannot scale effectively. This includes:
- Octoblu: We will shift our development strategy to build IoT solutions (Workspace and otherwise) atop of widely used, market-leading IoT platforms to provide the most flexibility for our future solution development. We are currently working on potential options for the Octoblu platform, which may include divesting this product and team.
- RightSignature: We will focus development on integration as a feature of ShareFile Enterprise to better leverage our solutions and our go to market motion.
- With these changes, we will be closing two of our development locations – Santa Barbara and Tempe.
- We are also repositioning two products to align more with our company direction and drive long-term growth:
- ShareFile: We are shifting to focus more heavily on the Enterprise market to:
- better align and leverage Citrix’s broader go-to-market motions and resources, including with our 100,000+ enterprise customer installed base;
- accelerate development of differentiated functionality for ShareFile Enterprise; and
- enhance integration and leverage of content collaboration as a differentiated component of Citrix Workspace Service.
- XenMobile: We are pivoting XenMobile to cloud to accelerate innovation and focus our go-to-market strategy to align with two key Enterprise mobility platform players - Microsoft with Enterprise Mobility Suite and Google with Android for Work, Chromebooks and G Suite.
- ShareFile: We are shifting to focus more heavily on the Enterprise market to:
Let's look at the areas affected, both from Henshall's email and a few other places.
From a business perspective, winding down Octoblu makes sense. In fact, some people wonder how they made it past the original "focus on core" initiative right after Elliott got involved. I even wrote last June about how they must be "True Blue Citrix" now since they made the initial cut and Citrix appeared to have a plan.
Regardless, Citrix never really found a horizontal use for the platform that could take it beyond a fringe technology (well, beyond the smart conference room that was like a regular conference room, but cooler and more expensive). Plus, enough IoT platforms have flourished (Azure, Google, even IBM) that it doesn't make sense to build/maintain/support their own. If Citrix is going to have an IoT play in the enterprise, they're going to have to approach it differently, which it looks like they're ready to do.
Good luck to the Octoblu team—that's a bunch of really smart guys that I always figured hated working for Citrix anyway. Making a conference room email transcripts of a meeting to all the attendees isn't as fun as making all the crazy toys they made pre-acquisition. I'm sure they'll land on their feet.
Honestly, I didn't know what this was. Citrix acquired the company in 2014 as a way to add document signing capabilities into ShareFile in order to appeal to document-centric verticals like real estate, accounting, and financial services. The fact that they were in the Santa Barbara office meant they were keeping the lights on there when they could centralize all the ShareFile work in Raleigh.
The first two moves make sense, but the ShareFile one was a bit puzzling. Per the email, Citrix wants to focus more heavily on the Enterprise market as opposed to SMB. This was a bit confusing because I always thought it was an enterprise-focused product. I mentioned it to Jack, and he said he always thought that features like Storage Zones and the drive mapper made them more enterprise ready that OneDrive ever was. Evidently that was all in support of the SMB market?
That seems fishy, but sure enough if you look at Citrix’s ShareFile product page, it says “ShareFile is the perfect content collaboration solution for your small or medium business.” Who knew?
Regardless, ShareFile is one of the revenue successes within Citrix right now, and whether or not they're succeeding in SMB or enterprise, you'd think they'd leave that group relatively intact instead of turning an 800-person office in December into a 619-person office. Granted, some of those people that are no longer there are from the GoTo spinoff, but that was headquartered in Santa Barbara, so you can assume the ShareFile losses last week were probably significant. This has all the markings of a group that was easy to cut in order to free up dollars, and this “we’re focusing on enterprise now” story is a way to explain it away.
Leveraging Citrix's huge enterprise customer base, building out an expanded feature set for enterprises, and incorporating ShareFile into Citrix Workspace Service all make sense, but isn’t that what they’ve been doing anyway? The biggest question I have with this strategy is how will ShareFile compete with OneDrive. A ShareFile Office 365 Connector exists, but is limited to cloud-based storage only, among other things. This seems less like "embrace and extend" and more like "we had to do something or lose people to OneDrive." I don't think Citrix wants to compete with Microsoft, especially at this level, so as they shift ShareFile focus towards enterprises, expect to see more development on this front.
This is the last product mentioned in the email, and was an area said to have been "hit hard" by the layoffs. The decision to move XenMobile into the Cloud group seems to be a way to eliminate management redundancies. In Henshall's email, he stated that it will accelerate innovation and help them align with Microsoft EMS as well as Google Android for Work, Chromebooks, and G Suite. All that sounds good, and I can't wait to hear if XenMobile has a UEM story to along with the ones from Microsoft, VMware, and MobileIron, but wasn't that the focus of XenMobile before, too? This doesn't sound like a new strategy—it sounds like a way to alleviate some management redundancies. It's entirely possible that Citrix was a little top-heavy after years of acquisitions.
Other areas affected
That accounts for all the areas in Henshall's email, but there are a few other areas that were affected that we should probably take a look at.
In the UK, the Chalfont office was hit pretty hard, but the HDX team was left relatively intact (originally there was talk that it suffered some large losses, but sources say that’s not the case and that most HDX resources are in Fort Lauderdale). I’m told the Linux Receiver team was impacted, but other than that I’m not sure. In total, 94 people were let go from that office, so there were surely other areas affected.
As I mentioned last Wednesday, the App Layering team lost all of the Sales Engineers, though the developers and management were still in place. This is one of the moves that pretty clearly came down to a spreadsheet-based decision when forced to make cuts—the kind of thing that happens after you've hit the low-hanging fruit and are now forced to stretch a bit to hit your goal. There are still other SEs that can learn App Layering (which would be a good thing even without the layoffs), and since the development and management teams are still in place, there's still some expertise to train them.
Last, there was mention of some people on the XenServer team being let go from the Bangalore office. While that appears to be true, XenServer as a product is safe for the time being. I’m not sure what it would take to actually kill off the product, but it probably wouldn’t be easy.
I'm hoping this is the last article on this phase of the Citrix saga. The fact that cuts had to be made is a consequence of being a public company beholden to shareholders that are unhappy with performance over several years. Certainly, there were some areas that Citrix needed to get out of altogether or dial back the number of resources attached to a certain product in order to stay afloat. Sadly, it's just the way this works.
For what it's worth, over the last few months, I've heard a few people speak highly of David Henshall. They say he knows the company well, has a better grasp on what Citrix does than former CEO Kirill Tatarinov, and that these decisions are not taken in stride as you would expect with a typical corporate hatchet man. Of course, there are a number of people extremely unhappy with him right now, but the fact of the matter is that, while he's the person sending out the orders, the pressure to do so is coming from external forces. Whether Citrix is sold, privatized, or carries on isn't really up to him when the board of directors is so powerful.
Still, I get the sense that this isn't the end, though I very much hope that it is for the sake of the people affected.