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Citrix Exec Vows ‘More Focus On The Channel’ Amid Big Changes

‘The channel is such a big part of our business, it needs focus,’ Hector Lima, Citrix’s executive vice president and chief customer officer, tells CRN in an interview. ‘I don’t think it can stand as a nested team. That was one of the first things I wanted to do was make it stand alone, direct to me, so we can put more focus on the channel as we move into next year.’

Citrix has announced new responsibilities for several executives as part of a revamping of its channel program. The news comes days after a report the company is interested in selling itself.

The changes include making interim channel chief Mark Palomba permanent, Hector Lima, the virtualization software provider’s executive vice president and chief customer officer, told CRN in an interview.

Lima himself received his new job title in July, moving up from executive vice president of customer experience. Lima has been with Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix for more than 12 years, according to his LinkedIn.

[RELATED: Citrix Systems Exploring Sale After Elliott Management Stake, Stock Drop: Report]

Palomba began handling channel chief duties after Bronwyn Hastings left Citrix in May for Google Cloud. Palomba joined Citrix in 2020, according to his LinkedIn.

The changes should give more attention and more resources to Citrix’s channel partners, Lima said.

“The channel is such a big part of our business, it needs focus,” Lima said. “I don‘t think it can stand as a nested team. That was one of the first things I wanted to do was make it stand alone, direct to me, so we can put more focus on the channel as we move into next year.”

Lima said “a vast majority” of Citrix’s sales are transacted through partners.

Palomba and two other executives will change their roles effective Oct. 1, Lima said. One of the other executives is Kurt Heusner, Citrix’s global vice president of Americas commercial and public sector, who will run Citrix’s emerging solutions division. He has been with Citrix for more than nine years, according to his LinkedIn. His resume includes more than 11 years with Dell, leaving the tech giant in 2009.

The other executive changing roles is Sherif Seddik, Citrix’s senior vice president and managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Seddik will handle Citrix’s go-to-market strategy, Lima said.

Before joining Citrix in 2015, Seddik spent more than 12 years with Microsoft, leaving with the title of general manager of the Western Europe enterprise and partner group.

As the company enters the fourth quarter, Citrix will invest in a revamped incentives program for partners to make benefits more predictable, help increase the partner role post sale and align partners with Citrix’s priorities, including moving customers to the cloud and packaging more Citrix offerings to create end-to-end digital workspace services.

“One of the things that I’ve heard the most from partners in the ecosystem is that it’s become operationally hard to do business with us,” Lima said. “Simple things like quoting -- you’re getting the right price out the door, things of that nature. We have to make it much, much simpler so that partners can be more autonomous and they don’t have to rely on a Citrix partner manager or a Citrix seller to help them with that. That’s a whole operations piece around tooling, processes, licensing, packaging.”

Lima said Citrix will conduct a listening tour of sorts, setting up focus groups with partners in different geographies and specialities. In 2022, he said partners can expect to see more integrations in Citrix’s product suite and more partnerships with hyperscalers.

“Dollars will follow, but that‘s not the leading indicator,” Lima said. “The leading indicator here is you want to make sure that you modernize the business, and you make it very profitable for the partners in the areas that you want to focus on as a company, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Lima said that competition in the virtualization and cloud space has gotten tougher, but he still stands by Citrix’s offerings.

“We have the best technology and solution stack in the business and, if done correctly, I think it can be very profitable for our partners,” Lima said. “Our entire stack is built to enable this remote access and this hybrid work environment. The TAM (total addressable market) is there, the market is there, it‘s a matter of making sure that we marry those components of the right technology, the right go-to-market, the right partners so we can take it to market. And, look, they have my commitment. I want this line of business to be their best line of business, both directly and indirectly.”

He said partners can expect outreach efforts to partners during the fourth quarter and a sales kickoff event in January, which could be live, digital or a mix of the too.

“We have to bring our partners with us along for the ride and have them lead in some instances as well. We’ve always been a channel company and I think we need that to continue to be successful.”

Ray Wolf, CEO of A2K Partners, a Southlake, Texas-based Citrix partner, said he welcomed the executive moves and Citrix’s announced changes.

“I‘m very optimistic,” Wolf said. “These are changemakers inside of a company, but now there’s more changemakers getting aligned, and they’re going to better position Citrix.”

He said he hopes the company acts quickly with new incentives to partners and continues to explore integrations within its product suite, getting more out of recent acquisitions, including the purchase of Write, which completed in March. Wolf said he’d like to see Citrix launch a gain-sharing, revenue-generating model with partners and allow for more co-innovation.

A2K, for example, is ready to experiment with new go-to-market strategies and share some of its successful strategic changes, he said. For example, A2K has experimented with a shorter demonstration time with prospective clients, cutting down weeks of work into less than 30 days to get a fixed price statement of work. The key change was using fewer pieces of data from clients to create simpler demos of Citrix products.

Based on what he’s seen from customers, they want to hear more about the outcomes of adopting Citrix technology rather than hear about its technology prowess, Wolf said.

“They just want you to have skin in the game, help them with change management, drive adoption,” he said. “They don‘t want to get on the phone with you and see architectural diagrams and speeds and feeds.”

He continued: “Citrix has a 30-year history. They know the tech works. They’re the Godfather”

During the company’s latest quarterly earnings report in July, CEO David Henshall publicly announced his disappointment in the state of the company’s channel program. He said that direct sellers and channel partners are misaligned on priorities, resulting in forecasting inaccuracies.

“We are behind where I‘d like to be in overall quota-carrying capacity just due to investments in other areas of go-to market, as well as the pace of our hiring process,” Henshall said, according to a transcript of the call with analysts.

“We just haven’t done enough, in my opinion, to really enable our traditional channel partners to participate in the SaaS transition of the company,” he continued. “I think they’re focused too much on fulfillment and an inconsistent alignment with the field.”

In a report following Citrix’s earnings, investment bank William Blair called the company’s results “mixed, with headline revenue below consensus and earnings slightly ahead of consensus. More disappointing were third-quarter and full-year guidance ranges, which came in significantly below expectations.”

“In addition, management admitted to struggling in growing new business bookings (i.e., from net new customers, expansions, and upsells), which it is hoping to address by revamping the sales organization to include more quota-carrying sales capacity, cleaner and SaaS-focused messaging, and improved channel alignment,” according to the report. “Overall, it is clear that the company is undergoing a tougher-than-expected transition, which should linger for a few quarters. That said, metrics for Citrix’s subscription business continue to look strong, and we continue to like the company’s positioning in the VDI/DaaS space (which continues to see solid growth as remote and hybrid work models show staying power).”

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