EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

‘I’d Rather Sell to 10,000 SMBs’: Q&A With Citrix Online President Brett Caine

Citrix Online, a division of Citrix Systems, offers remote connectivity tools to the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market. These include GoToMyPC, which offers remote access; GoToMeeting, an online collaboration tool; GoToTraining, an online training package; and GoToWebinar.

Most recently, Citrix bought up Paglo and stepped into the managed services software market with a new product. Not hard to guess the name: GoToManage.

TechNewsWorld caught up with Citrix Online president Brett Caine for a Q&A session to discuss his strategy and his plans for the company.

TechNewsWorld: Citrix Online has branched out into several areas now from its original product,”GoToMyPC. How would the company describe itself?

Brett Caine:

As one of the leading SaaS (Software as a Service) providers in the marketplace, our goal is to provide our customers with easy solutions to solve their specific business issues around a set of purpose-built applications.

Rather than build a single product and have it meet all the needs of every department, we build purpose-built solutions for the needs of every department. After GoToMyPC, we brought out GoToMeeting, then we said marketers need something more purpose-built for managing events so we built GoToWebinar.

Then we expanded into online training where we introduced some easy-to-use, easy-to-join online applications for up to 200 attendees. This lets corporate trainers manage courses on the Internet and in the cloud. It came from a conversation with one of our customers.

TNW: So do you model yourselves after anyone?

Caine:

Our strategy focuses on SMBs who don’t have IT resources and are trying to resolve complex problems at a predictable cost. There are few companies that have done that successfully without being pulled into the enterprise.

Intuit has been very effective in doing that — it’s primarily focused on the SMB, building solutions that meet a particular problem set of customers and expanding into adjacent areas to round out their solutions as appropriate. But most of the companies in the SaaS world tend to have an eye on the enterprise as the greatest opportunity there is.

I would much rather sell to 10,000 small businesses rather than one or two large ones, even if they have the same number of users.

TNW: Why is that?

Caine:

First of all, there are many more companies in the SMB field.

Second, when you begin to adhere to the needs of larger companies, you have to fulfill a set of feature requirements that inherently make it difficult to keep things simple or maintain simplicity because large companies have a set of feature requirements and you have to have the set of things that everybody has concluded you must have.

We decided we weren’t going to add features just to say we have them or to let the larger companies dictate them. We believe less is more, and the larger companies are attracted to us because of that.

TNW: So larger companies are attracted to you after you stood things on their head?

Caine:

Yes. 140 million people worldwide use our products for online meetings every year, and that figure’s growing 40 percent a year. People start saying “This is kinda cool, let me try this, maybe it’s good for my team and my company.”

The simplicity of our product enables the use, and the use enables adoption, and, when you combine that with the flat rate pricing — there are no surprises — companies are saying, “this is a value for my investment, and because I don’t have to train everybody, I can get people to start using it immediately and I can get the value of collaboration.”

TNW: You talk about listening to the customer. Is that a real practice for Citrix Online?

Caine:

Absolutely. Being customer-driven is one of the three core pillars of our strategy. If you come to our call center, you can walk into a listening booth, put on a set of headphones and listen to any call that’s occurring in our call center, whether it’s customers inquiring about product information or calling and asking about clarification of their bill, or calling to cancel, without impeding or intruding upon the agents taking the calls.

Listening in, you can get an enormous amount of knowledge as to how we interact with customers, what do we resolve and solve, and what we don’t. Last week, I personally took calls in the call center anonymously, speaking to customers, and it’s a tremendously insightful experience because you can recognize that the customer is often in a very different place in knowledge and understanding from your tech specialists, and although I might believe our products are easy to use and deploy, we find our assumptions challenged.

TNW: Why do you have a listening booth?

Caine:

It’s for everyone in the organization, not just for senior management, because senior management, including me, can always get lots of handling to make sure that we get to listen in a positive way — it’s for sales people or customer service managers, finance people, visitors.

It’s really designed as a way to get anyone in the company or guests to get a sense of what customer service is like. If you’re a product marketing manager or someone trying to understand some of the issues that people are having, it’s a great way to hear first-hand what those problems are. Now, not all my staff are practicing this — the booth has been there for three or four months, and as people hear more about it, it will be one of those viral things that people use as another tool in understanding the customer experience.

TNW: Your latest move was into the managed services software market, with your purchase of Paglo in February, and now you offer Paglo’s services as GoToManage. Wasn’t that a bit risky, seeing as to how you’re taking on IBM, Microsoft, Aprigo and CA, all of which offer their products as SaaS?

Caine:

We’re already in the IT services business with GoToAssist. The typical IT consultant has 10 or 20 clients, is managing some soft of services distributed across the country or the world, and needs to track devices on the network and to remotely connect to devices and troubleshoot them. This is another example of a set of services that came out of speaking to our customers and having them inform and educate us as to the challenges they have.

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Maintaining Global Compliance With Modern Data Privacy Laws

Data privacy laws are becoming a major focus globally as businesses scamper to meet new compliance obligations.

Privacy regulations generally bind any business or organization to store securely all data they collect or process. What they do with that data is strictly regulated.

Some 65% of the world’s population will have its personal data covered under modern privacy regulations by the end of next year, according to a Gartner report. Complying with these expanding regulations can be challenging.

Companies have had near free reign in harvesting personal data from electronic transactions and growing internet use over the last 20 years.

Many organizations involved with international commerce must alter their procedures to fall into line with new legislation. This is a priority for transactions and correspondence involving e-commerce and social media.

Expanding consumer mistrust, government action, and competition for customers pushed some governments to impose strict rules and regulations. The impact is changing the no-man’s land conditions that let both large companies and small businesses run rampant with peoples’ personal data.

“By far the biggest challenge that companies face is keeping up with the volume of data that they manage, which is also subject to ever-changing data privacy requirements,” Neil Jones, director of cybersecurity evangelism at Egnyte, told TechNewsWorld.

Assortment of Differing Demands

The EU has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the U.K. and Continental Europe, data privacy has generally been viewed as a fundamental human right, according to Jones. In the U.S. and Canada, businesses must navigate around a growing patchwork of state and provincial laws.

Data privacy legislation in the U.S. and Canada has traditionally been more fragmented than in the U.K. and Europe. Canada’s Quebec, and the United States’ Utah and Connecticut are among the latest to enact comprehensive data privacy laws, joining the U.S. states of California, Virginia, and Colorado.

By the end of 2023, 10% of states in the U.S. will be covered by data privacy legislation, noted Jones. This lack of a universal standard for data privacy has created an artificial layer of business complexity.

Add to that, today’s hybrid work environment has created new levels of risk which has complicated compliance with myriad privacy concerns.

What’s at Stake

To enhance productivity, organizations may need to ask employees detailed questions about their behavior and work-from-home arrangements. These types of questions can create their own unintended privacy impacts, according to Jones.

The recent convergence of personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) has also put highly-confidential data at risk. This includes workers’ compensation reports, employees’ and patients’ health records, and confidential test results like Covid-19 notifications.

“With 65% of the world’s population expected to have personal data covered under privacy regulations by next year, respecting data privacy has never been more critical,” said Jones.

Cloud Privacy Hurdles

Data privacy and security are top challenges for implementing a cloud strategy, according to a recent study by IDG, now rebranded as Foundry. In this study, data security’s role was a prominent concern.

When implementing a cloud strategy, IT decision-makers or ITDMs are running into challenges such as controlling cloud costs, data privacy and security challenges, and lack of cloud security skills/expertise.

With a more stringent focus on securing privacy data, that issue looms large as more organizations migrate to the cloud. The IDG study found that two chief hurdles were data privacy and security challenges, and a lack of cloud security skills/expertise.

Spending on cloud infrastructure is up by some $5 million this year, according to Foundry.

“Although enterprise businesses are leading the charge, SMBs are not far behind when it comes to cloud migration,” said Stacey Raap, marketing and research manager at Foundry when the report was released.

“As more organizations move toward fully being in the cloud, IT teams will need the proper talent and resources to manage their cloud infrastructure and overcome any security and privacy hurdles that come with being in the cloud,” she noted.

Achieving Compliance

Organizations can successfully prepare for data privacy legislation, but doing so requires making data privacy initiatives a “full-time job,” Jones maintained.

“Too many organizations view data privacy as a part-time project for their web teams, rather than a full-time business initiative that can significantly impact customer relations, employee morale, and brand reputation,” he offered.

Beyond that step comes establishing holistic data governance programs that provide more visibility into the company’s regulated and sensitive data. Added to that is working with trusted business and technology partners who understand the data privacy space and can help you prepare for rapidly evolving regulations.

Perhaps the most dynamic approach is to use an Advanced Privacy & Compliance (APC) solution, suggested Jones. This enables organizations to comply with global privacy regulations conveniently, in one place.

Specifically, APCs can help achieve compliance by:

  • Managing Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs) like individuals’ right to be informed about the personal data collected on them, the right to opt-out of personal information being sold to others, or the right to be forgotten by collecting organizations
  • Assessing a company’s compliance preparedness and scope with specific regulations (e.g., GDPR, CCPA)
  • Creating and reviewing third-party vendors’ technical assessments and evaluating potential risks to consumers’ data
  • Augmenting cookie consent capabilities like integration of cookie consent into compliance workflows

Proactive Diligence

It can be difficult for companies to understand today’s rapidly-evolving privacy landscape, as well as how specific regulations apply to them, Jones said. However, by taking proactive steps, organizations can stay on top of data privacy regulations in the future.

Those steps include these ongoing tasks:

  • Monitor the status of data privacy regulations in the countries, provinces, and states where the customer base lives
  • Create a data privacy task force that can improve organizational focus and enhance senior executive attention on privacy initiatives
  • Keep abreast of new federal data privacy legislation like the proposed American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA)

It is also important to note the additional long-term benefits of data privacy compliance. In particular is bolstering a company’s overall cybersecurity defenses.

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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5 Ways To Sustain an E-Commerce Business in a Recession

economic downturn recession

Talks of a possible global recession coming in the next months have been abound lately. Even if it’s not yet certain, the threat of a downturn is something that e-commerce business owners should prepare for.

In a recession, prices can soar. Supply chains can be disrupted. Customers will be buying less. How these would specifically affect your business can vary depending on the nature and niche your business operates in.

The 2008 recession should serve as a warning to entrepreneurs. Small businesses struggled during this period with many ending up shuttering their doors. As such, it’s important to strategize for sustainability in a harsher business environment.

Here are five ways to sustain an e-commerce business during a recession.

1. Prepare Cash Reserves

Having ready cash on hand provides the agility and flexibility to spend or invest when needed. But not all startups come with a stout war chest. Typically, this is where funding can come in.

“Funding isn’t just a hurdle at the start of an e-commerce business plan. Once your shop is up and running, you’ll need constant cash flow to order inventory, run effective advertising, optimize your supply chain, and innovate your products,” according to e-commerce funding firm 8fig.

A recession can compound this need. For instance, inventory and fulfillment costs typically rise during a downturn. Having extra cash can help absorb these price bumps readily.

The most straightforward way to shield a business against this is by saving to build up capital. Instead of spending profits on non-essentials, think about investing the money back into the business. Another idea is to sell some assets like machinery or equipment that may not be critical to operations at the moment. You can always repurchase them after things bounce back. Liquidate while you can.

Lastly, if external financing from investors or funding firms are available, consider those as long as you’re clear with the terms.

2. Adapt to Customers’ Needs

The pandemic emphasized how quickly businesses should adapt to the changes in customers’ buying behaviors and preferences. The lockdowns hit brick-and-mortar business hard. While many businesses failed to adjust, the ones that survived were the ones that were able to pivot quickly. Some changes were even quick to implement. For example, offering delivery services and curbside pickup options and accommodating digital payments.

“[T]he most adaptable marketers don’t do different things; they do things differently. In particular, they listen differently and they plan differently,” says Cassandra Nordlund, Director, Advisory, Gartner.

The same need for adaptability is true for e-commerce businesses. Put on your marketer’s hat and keep a close ear to what your customers are saying. Reach out and talk to them. Create a survey of what they would likely do or buy should the downturn happen. This should help to plan ahead.

For instance, a recession may compel customers to become more price conscious. If you’re in retail, you can tweak your catalog to feature and stock up on more budget items than luxury ones.

3. Become Lean and Mean in Operations

Aside from raising capital, you can also improve your finances by managing cash flow more carefully. Wasteful spending will chew away at your margins and capital.

It’s critical to streamline and optimize operations before the crunch hits. Review your business costs and see which areas you can trim. Some common sources of wasteful spending are uncontrolled use of office supplies, unnecessary technology (equipment and subscriptions), and unproductive workers. When making cuts, focus on these costs.

Keep in mind, however, that while you may be tempted to restrict spending entirely, this may become counterproductive. For instance, you may try to do away with some of the digital tools and subscriptions that you use to manage operational tasks. But if cutting them will seriously impact efficiency, it may be a bad idea to do so. Dive into the details to see how each line item benefits you before deciding whether to cut or retain it.

Remember that not all spending is bad. Opportunities may also arise even during turbulent times. Sudden market demand might make offering a new product or service profitable. If such chances do come up, consider taking the calculated risk. This is where having cash reserves also comes in handy.

4. Explore Ways To Deliver Added Value

Even with preparation, many e-commerce firms will likely still feel the brunt of a recession. A drop in sales can and should be expected as customers also tighten their purse strings.

When this happens, a common knee-jerk reaction for businesses is to compromise on price by offering discounts and price cut promotions to boost sales. However, be mindful that slashing prices can hurt margins and financial flexibility.

Warren Buffet once said about pricing, “If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business. And if you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by 10 percent, then you’ve got a terrible business.”

Instead of slashing prices, consider other ways to offer value. Offer extended return windows or guarantees, free shipping, or loyalty points, and communicate these perks well to customers to justify your price.

But if you really need to attract the price-conscious, offer bundles rather than discounting per item. This way, you can promote your other products and services or move stagnant inventory while avoiding across-the-board price cuts.

5. Pivot the Business

Pivoting, or changing the direction of your business, can be a painful decision for entrepreneurs. But if things are looking grim, it may be a life-saving decision for your business.

For instance, many e-commerce entrepreneurs have made a killing using the drop-shipping business model. Drop shippers can keep operational costs down typically by not handling inventory and logistics. During a recession however, this might not hold true.

Without having a direct handle on stock, any supply chain disruption can easily stump drop shippers who are forced to reassure customers, when in reality they are at the mercy of their suppliers.

Foreign exchange rates can seriously impact the cost of goods. Transportation also will likely be affected. Both typically result in erratic prices and lengthy fulfillment times. Drop shippers would have very little control over these circumstances and could end up with dissatisfied customers.

Anticipating these changes, such businesses can reconsider their model and shift to one that will be more capable of delivering value to customers. Drop shippers can move toward more conventional retail e-commerce where the business acquires, stores, and handles stock. This action may require more capital — and work — but provides control and minimizes uncertainties involved in the drop-shipping model.

From Sustenance to Success

Building business resilience is critical during tough times. Making some sacrifices and tightening the belt in some respects should help weather the negative effects of a recession. What’s important is for a business to sustain itself so that it can live to fight another day.

Despite all this gloomy talk, recessions do end. Surviving a recession should put you in a better position to prosper in a better economic environment. Also, on the upside, e-commerce penetration is still seen to continue its rise globally. Shoppers are expected to continue preferring buying goods online.

Should the trend hold, opportunities in your market, niche, or locality can emerge despite the challenging times. A recession may even provide a chance for tremendous growth. Preparing well in advance can put you in a prime position to jump on such opportunities to thrive.

Ralph Tkatchuk

Ralph Tkatchuk is Founder and Operator at TK DataSec Consultancy, where he specializes in e-commerce data protection and prevention.

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