Q&A: Meet Kimberly Martin, Citrix's New Channel Chief

Kimberly Martin

Kimberly Martin's tenure at Citrix Systems couldn't have started at a more interesting time.

In July, Elliott Management, a New York-based hedge fund, revealed it had acquired a significant stake in the virtualization vendor in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that came with an attached letter making aggressive demands on the company's board.

Now longtime CEO Mark Templeton is on his way out, Jesse Cohn, the portfolio manager leading Elliott's activist charge, is taking a seat on the board of directors, the product lineup is in flux, and acquisition rumors are swirling.

If product and leadership uncertainty weren't enough, Martin fills a position that's been vacant for more than half a year, tasked with revamping a channel program that partners say has become stale.

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It's a daunting challenge, but Martin's a channel pro, having held senior positions at Accenture and Microsoft. Before coming to Citrix, she served as Informatica's channel chief, then built the partner ecosystem for big data startup Datameer.

At Citrix's Silicon Valley headquarters, after a glitzy demo of the product that Citrix says will propel the company into the cloud era, Citrix Workspace Cloud, Martin sat down in her office, surrounded by boxes still not entirely unpacked, and spoke to CRN about the challenges she faces and the potential to do great things with partners.

CRN: What a time to be taking the helm of Citrix's channel. Were you aware that all this drama, essentially a struggle for the direction of the company and its future, would be unfolding when you accepted the job?

Kimberly Martin: I guess my final interviews were the week that the Elliott letter came out. So I definitely then had some subsequent discussions with Mark [Templeton] and with Carlos [Sartorius] and with the ELT [Executive Leadership Team] that week. Then I went on six weeks of holiday and then some of the other things, like Mark's retirement announcement, and Jesse coming onto the board, and Bob [Calderoni] kind of heading up the operating committee came out during that time. And I think I was on Koh Samui when I got a few different calls and had some more discussion.

The good news is I interviewed with each of the ELT members, the entire C-suite if you will, and so it wasn't only about Mark hiring me or one specific person, it was the entire group, and Elliott really endorsed that.

If you think about that letter, the channel was called out, so I did some reflection at that point. I knew this was a come-in-and-help-transform-our-channel, but clearly it being a top priority, in some ways, that was a good thing as well.

CRN: So more than causing doubts, the Elliott letter encouraged you?

KM: It said it was a priority for the company. Channel was a priority for the company.

CRN: It still must have been strange assuming this really important position, taking responsibility for a transformation that's crucial to the company's success, as so many rumors were flying about the company's future. Did that make you stop at any point and reassess?

KM: I paused. Because it was that time. But by the time I had come in they had already established the operating committee, the ELT, and they kind of had the three priorities identified, and so, for example, I just presented the first cut of: Here's what our priorities are going to be. And it's a great synergy between our ELT, and I'm seeing a lot of collaboration between the board, our ELT and this operating committee.

CRN: I think it was about seven months that the position you recently filled had been vacant. Some partners have said to CRN they were concerned about how the Citrix channel was being managed. What did you see when you were assessing the current structure, as far as room for improvement?

KM: So that's exactly what I did. When I came in I didn't get a huge team, per se. The priority for us was to take a step back and do an assessment. And coming from a consulting background, that was helpful just to kind of take an assessment. So I did 25 different partner call-downs and looked at how we were organized as a company, so both the internal reflection and the external assessment with our partners.

We had a consultancy come in before I was even here and do the data gathering so that I came in with a data pack. A lot of the analytics that I would want to look at in assessing the channel. And a couple things bubbled up to the top.

One certainly was the need for simplification of our incentives, and in some ways CAR [Citrix Authorized Reseller] is an innovative thing in the industry so we get a lot of credit for that from our partners in the solution and the co-sell. At the same time the operational processes are difficult and it makes doing business between our partners and Citrix challenging. The good news is that’s easier stuff to clean up.

CRN: Is that just legacy stuff? Is that because the business has changed and the program hasn't evolved as fast as it could have?

KM: I think there's part of that. I think the other part is probably the field engagement. The question of do we have too many partners, do we have the right partners, all of that. Everybody kind of had a different opinion. I think getting clarity on where our partners play and the alignment with their business model. If we look at the industry, we'll look at the fact that CDW had a very low percentage of services 10 years ago, and now it's probably 50 percent plus. [Martin noted she's not certain about that last number.]

The industry of VARs is evolving into more and more services, so I think it's really important that we do a refresh on aligning to our partners' business models and their profitability models and their P&L structure in order to get that synergy to go to market together.

CRN: What does your ideal partner look like? What kind of partners do you want to engage with?

KM: We have all different kinds of partners. So the answer is there is not one type of partner that we want to work with.

We need GSIs [global systems integrators] like Accentures and Cognizants and Deloittes, IBM is a huge strategic partner of ours, in order to build go-to-markets, in order to service those top, really complex enterprises. In the VAR world, which is typically your Solution Advisors, the Metro SIs, I think that's a neat taxonomy for those kind of small niche regional SIs, each partner provides different value, and we go to market with them differently. A VAR, for example, will have an amazing ability to do proof of concept and deep technical expertise in our solution and be able to help with the customer and provide customer success afterwards.

It also depends on the model of the product. If we're talking about cloud, or Workspace Cloud, I think Workspace Cloud is one of the most amazing opportunities for our VAR community and a real distinction between us and our competitors. So I think there's a place for each one of our partners, and getting clarity that's aligned to their profitability and their business model is a key priority.

And we're going to have that crystal clarity for each partner type by their business model -- how do we engage with them and go to market with them -- in the next three months.

CRN: So there's a strategy in the works?

KM: Yes, absolutely. Especially in the midmarket.

CRN: Why the midmarket?

KM: The midmarket is a huge potential. Especially as we look at Workspace Cloud. If you look at the demographic of the midmarket they're much more and faster cloud adopters. And they have some of the use cases associated with Workspace Cloud. The hybrid -- I want to do part of it on AWS, and I've got legacy Windows apps sitting in my data center here. That's an amazing opportunity for our partners in the midmarket.

CRN: It seems inevitable there's going to be some kind of product shakedown, and you mentioned the Elliott letter, and other than the channel stuff, that was a big aspect of it. And a lot of emphasis is being put on this new product again showcased today. It sounds like Workspace Cloud is going to be the flagship going forward. What do some of the longtime partners need to start thinking about as they incorporate this new solution, and what new partners might it attract into the ecosystem?

KM: So let's start with the industry. If you look at the industry, all of those partners who usually push packaged software, as the SaaS and cloud comes into the picture, they're moving more and more to a services model and adding value to customers around services.

The thing I am most excited about since coming to Citrix is the innovation factor, and I really believe this is leapfrog innovation, and the reason for that is, if you go in line with the market, our partners want to be able to have a long-term services relationship with their customer. Our traditional product was an install, and maybe the renewal, and kind of coming back to see those customers at the time of the renewal, and maybe they're doing other services around it, but maybe not.

Then we introduced CSP, and they could be a Service Provider, and they could host it on behalf of the customer and that's our fastest-growing partner segment, the CSP space. But that's a lot of infrastructure, and some of our partners who may not want to go and buy and host that, that's not a viable solution for them.

So here's this thing in the middle where the customer still owns the infrastructure. They may have some of their apps -- Salesforce or something in the cloud -- but they can manage that remotely in the cloud on behalf of their customer and have a long-term services relationship with the customer while not owning all of the infrastructure.

That's hugely powerful from a model and a go-to-market, because the days of only having a discussion on product margin and rebates and front end vs. back end and everything else, that's not where their business model is going. Their business model is going to an ongoing services relationship with their customer and that's what I'm talking about lining up, and our product is brilliant for that.

Most exciting thing I've seen since coming to Citrix.

CRN: I'm sure you're eager to get to know a lot of these partners. Have you already started that process?

KM: I started calling partners before I accepted the offer. I wanted to understand, right. I wanted to understand what I was getting into.

CRN: You're extremely experienced with the dynamics of partner ecosystems, with channels. What do you see that's different here at Citrix compared to some of the other places you've been, like Microsoft, or Datameer? What do you want to tell partners about the relationship you hope to have with them?

KM: I think we have work to do in our field alignment. And so, even more than my internal team, focused on our partner programs and everything else, I've been spending a lot of time on our field because that's where the magic is.

When I'm with our midmarket North America lead Craig Stillwell, talk to me about how we're engaging with the partner -- what's working, what's not. And separately I'm doing the partner call-downs and literally my discussion is, tell me what's working and tell me what's not.

So when I think about January, which is Summit, that is where we're going to be able to talk about the fact that we have a unique differentiator in the market for our partners in enabling an ongoing services relationship on any cloud. Our competitor doesn't have that right -- it's their cloud. And then a better field engagement model for them.

I believe we probably need more partners in our networking space, so we're going to be doing some partner recruit around that.

CRN: Would you like to see the channel grow?

KM: Yeah, I definitely believe we have work to do in our networking partner ecosystem. The great news is that our partners that were in core have been doing a great job of getting certified and then being able to attach, so it's an additional services opportunity for them and sale to attach networking to our core. But I also think we have some pure-play partners in the market who are focused more on networking that we need to go after. So I believe that will be an area of focus as we go into fiscal year '16.

We're going to actively manage our partner ecosystem. Our top partners need a named person at Citrix who cares about them and the success of their company -- not just how many Citrix products did you push? How is your services business doing? What's the growth rate for your Citrix services business and their profitability?

CRN: And that message is resonating with partners?

KM: I just read the book, 'How To Lie With Statistics.' It’s a fantastic book, it was on both [Bill] Gates' and [Mark] Zuckerberg's Top 10 favorite book lists. It was one of the only common ones, so I pulled it out. And it says: Number one area is your sample.

CRN: Understanding you've only so far met with a small subset of the company's very large channel.

KM: I would say this is an incredibly loyal partner ecosystem. They want to see Citrix be successful. And the ones who have been here for 10, 15 years, they'll say, 'Look, we've seen this before. Citrix has had to be reborn several times over. And so we're here, we're committed, but we also want to see the vision and plan.' So that's what January [Citrix Partner Summit] is going to be about.

CRN: They're loyal. And we've also heard that a lot of them are concerned. The hedge fund's involvement, the demands on the board, the changing nature of the board. Some are genuinely worried about how the product portfolio shakes out. Do you see those concerns being eased in this process you're discussing over the next three months?

KM: If you read the Elliott letter there's three things. Get some focus on your product. I think that's good. Let's have precision focus on what we're going to market with and that's good for our partners and good for Citrix. Look at your SG&A [Spending, General and Administrative Expenses] and get healthy. That’s fair. Right. We've got to be a healthy company for long-term sustainability.

And go and really emphasize and focus on the partners/channel. And where it sounds very disruptive and everything else, in some ways I think that the company's strategy is going to be clear now. Is it going to be a bumpy ride until January? Probably. With a lot of rumors that surface. But I think by January things will stabilize and smooth out.

Our real launch of CWC [Citrix Workspace Cloud] is in January with our partners because it’s a partner play and that's the one time we get all of our partners together, well, the biggest time we get our partners together, in January, at Summit. My job until then is to build everything to help them bring CWC to market and just nailing the midmarket. I think the potential is huge. And it's different from anyone else in the market.