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Citrix CEO David Henshall addresses Citrix news, sale rumors

In this Q&A, Citrix CEO David Henshall touches on sale rumors, the growth of cloud subscriptions and the importance of providing customers with options.

It's a tumultuous time for Citrix. The nearly 30-year-old company is in the midst of a transformation, moving away from on-premises software to more flexible, modern work products. While a lot of the Citrix news lately has focused on internal efforts to reimagine products such as Workspace and Virtual Apps and Desktops, there's also been plenty of external noise about the company.

A recent round of layoffs, primarily within the marketing department, combined with sale rumors and an abrupt resignation of a C-level executive had people questioning the company's future.

In this Q&A conducted at the recent Citrix Synergy, Citrix CEO David Henshall had a message for customers: Focus less on the rumor mill and more on the company's legacy.

In the past couple of months, Citrix made headlines for a rumored sale, a round of layoffs, and a data breach. With all those happening in a short amount of time, how does Citrix respond to concerned customers?

David Henshall: Let me take the specific question about the sale of the company. I've had this question asked to me every month for the last 17 years. My answer has always been that you should be flattered by that. It recognizes how important we are to the industry.

On the flipside of it, we're a big, expensive company. Those types of acquisitions, you can count on a few fingers. The probability is very low, but it's speculated about every quarter, so I don't get too worked up about that.

Citrix CEO David HenshallDavid Henshall

Even things like layoff rumors, those happen in the ordinary course. But the reality is we've been growing the company for several years in a row, we've been expanding. I don't get too worked up by the daily rumor mill. That's why I don't always want to be out there refuting things because you're just pulling yourself down in the weeds.

My broader answer for customers would be that Citrix has been doing this for 30 years and we just concluded a record year for the organization. We touch about 100,000 enterprise customers around the world. While not lapsing into marketing speak, we believe the future of work is now, and that's what we're helping to support.

So is the sale rumor just speculation?

Henshall: I can't ever confirm or deny. It's one of those areas I can't get into because we're a public company and this is material, not-public information. There are always stories around every company and the half-life of a story is so quick. We focus on the endpoint and the things we should care about.

In the past year, what is Citrix proud of and what does it believe it can do better?

Henshall: Take a step back to where we were a couple years ago. We wanted to refocus the company on the idea of three big areas. One was to unify the platform: take our individual point products and reorganize them into a more integrated solution.

The second was around the cloud. All of our customers are on some form of a cloud journey. We wanted to make sure we had a whole collection of services that could match with on-premises products so customers could have choice. We recognize that pretty much everyone will be in some form of a hybrid cloud model forever -- or at least the foreseeable future. We need to meet them where they are on that journey.

The third area is around leveraging the platform for what our customers need next. In our case, it was things like analytics. We built a platform around analytics and started to release product areas on top of that. That's the journey we've been on.

We've realized change is hard, and inertia is your biggest enemy. Getting people to understand that change happens over years -- and not immediately -- is pretty important. That's why we talk about things in context.

What kind of company does Citrix see itself as and what does the future hold?

Henshall: We're 30 years old this year, and we've reinvented ourselves many times. We have this idea of connecting people and information on demand because we recognize that getting the right information at the right time is hard. Back in the day, we called that remote access. As technology has changed, so have we. We adopted the different application types over the years, and as devices have changed, we've supported all of that.

A lot of what we've done historically is to simplify that complexity for IT so they can enable these things. The future is how do we simplify the experience for people to be more productive, predict and guide people through work? That's the evolution. The more you get into understanding what people want to achieve -- that's where you can add value by helping to predict.

Citrix has shown its open to integrations with competitors. How important is it for Citrix to provide those integrations for customers?

Henshall: It's critical. It's naïve to assume that every customer wants just what you're selling. That will be the situation for perpetuity. Our approach for the entire existence of the company is to be a bit like Switzerland and to be able to interoperate with the rest of the vendors within any environment. We do partner and play well with everybody because we have to. A lot of customers may have the opportunity to purchase a wall-to-wall stack, and there may be some simplification benefits, but that lock in can be painful.

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