Interview: Brett Caine, President, Citrix Onlineby
When people talk about the on demand revolution, it’s the usual suspects that spring to mind: Salesforce.com, NetSuite, RightNow as the enfants terrible of the industry with 'grown-up' companies like SAP and Microsoft coming along for the ride, albeit as somewhat reluctant travellers. But the Software as a Service (SaaS) concept is being embraced by more than just those familiar CRM names.
Citrix Online is an on-demand giant, bigger than RightNow – the number two on demand player - in revenue terms. Citrix Online is the business unit that operates the ‘GoTo’ range of collaboration services — GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. Its target audience is small and mid-sized businesses – the happy hunting ground for early SaaS adoptions.
"I think SMEs has fully embraced the services model. There’s no doubt about that," argues Brett Caine, Citrix Online president. "Companies such as Citrix Online and salesforce.com and lots of others are starting to demonstrate in a very real way that companies of all sizes are able to use services to meet their needs."
Citrix Online is also eating its own dogfood: it's a big user of Salesforce.com after an unsuccessful skirmish with an on premise SAP CRM implementation. "We’ve been a Salesforce.com user for close to five years now," says Caine. "We’ve been using is in our direct sales and marketing activities and extensively across our sales and account management. As a division, we became part of Citrix about two and a half years ago [when Citrix acquired Expertcity].
"We looked at going down the path of SAP CRM. We looked at it, but decided that it wouldn’t work for us. We relied heavily on Salesforce.com. Citrix looked at our business needs and looked at the success that we’d had with Salesforce.com. Citrix corporate looked it more seriously for all its sales functions, not just for Citrix Online.
"Citrix is all partner driven, there’s an enormous channel to be managed. The key value proposition that Salesforce.com brought to the table was partner relationship management. So we have direct sales and service in Citrix Online and we have Citrix that was very channel-engaged and they can both use the same technology and use it in a different way."
One of the key things about the Salesforce.com roll-out was the simplicity of the user interface which encouraged adoption among the sales team. "Unless you have a really simple interface, the sales guys are not going to use it," says Caine.
"My take is that people will continually look for simpler and easier ways to deliver applications across the internet without having to build interfaces. You have to figure out how to scale for a particular beat. The fact is that people are going to expect that their applications are easier to use and secure. They want to focus on running the business rather than worrying about managing the applications behind the firewall.
"IT organisations that do that will be consistently constrained. ERP is an enormous undertaking. It’s a big application that is core to running the business. IT teams are understaffed to do the really interesting things that they could be doing on the ERP side, never mind being able to take on other things that could help the business."
Caine is clearly a SaaS enthusiast, but concedes that there is still a need for evangelism about the benefits of the model. "The SaaS model poses a dilemma for business sponsors as every quarter they have to justify the spend on the service. It’s going to be an ever increasing part of their budget. If you bring it in house where you are not an expert, then it is a losing proposition.
"We do need to get more people talking about SaaS as that will fuel the confidence of the next wave of adopters. We’ve gone through the optimists and the early adopters and the pragmatists. We could do with more people who stand up and talk about it. We’ve got to get the traditional companies like the banks to talk about it."
With the likes of SAP and Microsoft stepping up to the SaaS mark, there is of course a danger that they will dominate. "There is always some risk of SAP stopping the market," admits Caine, "but the customers are making the choices, not the vendors. Customers are saying that they can’t wait for the perfect solution and can’t wait for their preferred vendor.
"One of the beauties of the SaaS model is that you can stop and get out. You will be making regular decisions about whether to continue or not. You can start now and then if someone else comes along with something else you can replace your incumbent vendor. Some companies may have the luxury of waiting, but really the economics of SaaS is small."
So what will the competitive landscape look like? "We will be talking about both SAP and the traditional applications vendors and also about the likes of Google," reckons Caine. "A lot of companies will need to talk about transitioning their models. Customers use gmail because it’s good and it’s easy and they don’t care that it’s ad-sponsored. Will that be good enough for Fortune 100 companies? Who knows, but the customers will have the voice and will decide."
By Stuart Lauchlan
News & Analysis Editor