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New Citrix COO talks future of Citrix services

In his first public interview as Citrix's first COO, Mark Schmitz discusses what the company's priorities are and how he hopes to grow their subscription products.

For the first time in Citrix's 30 years, the company has hired a chief operating officer. Mark Schmitz, who has worked at Citrix for nearly three years as a senior vice president of business operations, was recently named COO.

Schmitz, who was previously COO at SAP Cloud and Ariba before that, spoke about the COO role at Citrix, the importance of growing Citrix services like Workspace and other subscription-based products in his first public interview in his new role.

When asked why Citrix decided to hire its first COO, a Citrix spokeswoman provided a prepared statement from Citrix CEO David Henshall.

"The newly created Office of the COO will help drive the company's subscription model execution by unifying operations across the company, maximizing our installed base performance, leading cross-functional transformation and optimizing the systems, tools and metrics that drive our business," Henshall said.

How do you see the COO role evolving as technology continues to transform organizations?

Mark Schmitz: It is an interesting role in today's landscape. I've looked across technology organizations, manufacturing and other places where people are physically trying to improve operating lines, etc., and you step back and think about how that operates and impacts the technology organization.

We need to be about growing the business, creating new products and driving efficiency in production. We need to ensure that across all the functional areas of the business, people are ensuring that their priorities are aligned. In fact, once they're aligned, making sure that you have some form of execution of governance that sits on top of them to identify areas that may or may not be exactly where you need them to be, or may be performing at a level that you had not anticipated, so that you can take advantage of those situations. When things are going positive, you want to be able to identify them and go put additional resources in areas that require improvement. If you align a set of priorities with governance, you can actually identify areas that go sideways before they become a significant problem, thereby reducing the amount of time kind of necessary to get things on track.

You mentioned the importance of aligning priorities across the business. What are Citrix's priorities, and how do you see them aligning?

Mark Schmitz, COO, CitrixMark Schmitz

Schmitz: It starts with the overall macro strategy. Citrix is in the business of making sure that our Workspace product is in fact running the environments that existing customers expect, and that every user has the ability to leverage the Workspace to drive increased productivity, increased security, etc., into their workplace -- to break that down into actionable priorities across different functions.

I don't want to make it hierarchical, but if you look at the operations, you've got sales, service, marketing, products, engineering, and you've got to figure out -- almost like a supply chain -- where each one of those different components has a role in executing against that strategy. Obviously, from a product perspective, you've got to put those priorities on what are the features and capabilities that can drive a secure Workspace available all the time on any device?

And at the same time, do we make sure once the customer makes a commitment to what it is that we're creating, how do we ensure that their time to value is reduced as quickly as possible? Citrix is on that journey now, and we need to make sure that we experience is as much of a priority as the product itself. And then, how do we augment ourselves with a tool set that is flexible and nimble enough to allow us to change at the speed of the market, which I think we all would agree is relatively quick.

What's your goal for Citrix subscription products over the next year and the next five years?

Schmitz: This will end up being my third subscription transformation. The first one occurred at Ariba, which was a very early mover in the subscription world that was driven primarily by the fact that we were a smaller business, and we need to focus our investment into a more sustainable model that ended up being subscription.

When we got acquired by SAP, the priority became how do we move the on-premises, maintenance customers into these lines of businesses that SAP had acquired and spent a good deal of money on. And with that came a subscription model.

And frankly, now my goal is to bring experience from both of those things into Citrix, where subscription is a business model. But it is also the model by which most companies are looking to acquire technology. They want to see it and view it as an operating sense. So there is a financial goal, to move the business into a subscription operating model so that our financial outcomes can become more predictable, and, frankly, more steady.

I believe that we've really built a strong foundation on that particular pillar. But from a customer standpoint, my goal is to make Citrix services and subscription products a highly valuable vehicle by which they can increase their value over time, because we're continuing to deliver innovation that they can actually use. And I think in the subscription world, the ultimate goal is to make sure that the innovation we deliver is actually able to be put into use in real time. And obviously, that involves the customer moving from their on-premises environment into our multi-tenant cloud environments. And then once we have them in that cloud environment, and they are driving full utilization of all their users who have access to the capabilities that we believe to be highly relevant, important and ultimately deliver significant value to the customers.

How do you view Citrix's relationships with other software vendors?

Schmitz: Vendors that we're working alongside with in the industry run along a single thread, and that is the cloud, whether you pick Google, IBM, AWS, Microsoft or any of the others. I'm not a firm believer that anybody is going to single source and put their workloads into a single vendor. I believe that as those vendors differentiate themselves, they will become highly valuable to certain workloads. Obviously, Microsoft is better having Microsoft-hosted manager, Office 365 workloads and things like video conferencing and some of the other very popular capabilities. You may view Amazon or Google as a superior cloud for managing that workload.

And from Citrix perspective, we want to ensure that multi-cloud approach does not impact your users' experience. What I'm about is making sure that the end users' experience is not disrupted based on the IT infrastructure choices, or the cloud service provider that a customer has chosen, or a multi-cloud approach that a customer has chosen. We don't want to decide which cloud you put your workload in. We want to be, in essence, the single screen that allows your end-user experience to be uninterrupted based on a multi-cloud approach.

I don't want a user to have to go to multiple locations, within their operating environment, or their desktop or their workspace, in order to access certain things that they need to do their jobs. I want to ensure the experience is exceptionally streamlined, such as there's one place to go, regardless of the applications that you're trying to reach.

A significant number of legacy applications will not go away. When I think about how we operate across different technology platforms, and different solutions, we become a pretty important player, become the conduit by which all of those platforms and technologies can be consolidated and delivered to the end user in a very simple format that does not require the user understand where that application or solution is being hosted from or where it's being provided.

In the COO role, how do you view cyber security, both for customers and internally, especially in light of the internal Citrix data breach from earlier this year?

Schmitz: You go back to priorities with cybersecurity. I understand that there is going to be no shortage of bad actors continuing to try to disrupt business across the board.

 I think our first priority is to deliver an environment that is as secure as any, to access any kind of data, any kind of application or any type of IP. There aren't any shortcuts, and I don't believe that any vendor, whether it's Citrix or our competitors, would think differently -- security is priority No. 1, in everything that we do. We cannot compromise it.

So when you step back and think about how much emphasis we put not only on the IP responsibilities, but also the layers of security, application hosting, the management of our products, multi-tenant solutions -- the amount that we're spending investing in technology and capabilities to ensure security is staggering. When you compare it against any one single customer and what they can do. I believe it's a tremendous advantage on our side, being able to put forth a Workspace that is highly secure and, frankly, more secure than any single vendor could provide.

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