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Citrix Synergy 2014 Recap: Part 4, Presentations and Purpose

In this final part of my Citrix Synergy 2014 recap, I will combine the last of my five “Ps” into one post: Presentations and Purpose. On the surface they may appear separate, but my experience at Synergy proved that they tie into each other. The Presentations Keynotes are typically what people think about with Synergy, […]

In this final part of my Citrix Synergy 2014 recap, I will combine the last of my five “Ps” into one post: Presentations and Purpose. On the surface they may appear separate, but my experience at Synergy proved that they tie into each other.

The Presentations

Keynotes are typically what people think about with Synergy, especially when attending virtually because… well, that is what is most commonly viewed. However, what I enjoyed about Synergy is that it wasn’t just about the keynotes.

With an unprecedented number of breakout sessions and presentations, I’m convinced that if you were to spread out all the content that was being presented at Synergy into a continuous stream it would take easily more than a month to attend.

So, on one hand it was impressive to essentially have all of this in four days. On the other hand, I had to pick my attendance very carefully.

One of the things that I did both enjoy and sometimes not enjoy was that the presentations were not all from Citrix staff; in fact the vast majority of the breakout sessions were either from users or employees of partners like ourselves.

When you think about it, this shows a LOT of faith on the part of Citrix; that they are essentially trusting non-Citrixites to convey the right message to their customers and partners. We’ll talk more about this in the next section (The Purpose), because I think it speaks well to the Citrix vision. The bigger question is…how did it go?

Let’s be honest here for a moment. We live in a world of polished presentations and speeches. The biggest thing I heard against our last President was that they didn’t like the way he spoke to people. Not enough polish! It’s perhaps telling of where we are as people. Even YouTube, which was started as a way for people to share videos of themselves, has become a medium where the polished and professional are more likely to score high hits than the clever yet poorly presented. So, when it comes to the technical world, we tend to expect polished presentations from staff, or maybe live demos from sales engineers.

In the tech world, this expectation is challenged by a lingering product of years past where the highly skilled and experienced individuals tend to not have great public speaking skills. This is, of course, going away as “geek” becomes more chic and acceptable in general, and more IT professionals are essentially becoming consultants even within their own organizations. It is not uncommon to find engineers prepping presentations for their superiors or having to give “Lunch and Learn” trainings at their offices.

It is with this in mind that I say that the content was mixed; some I found engaging and others I found my attention wandering, or the overall quality lacking a bit. However, the good very much outweighed the bad – I would say well over half of the non-keynote presentations that I attended I got something out of. Some were downright entertaining – one that comes to mind was the team presenting comparisons of 3D applications running on the various platforms. They lacked polish but made up for it in personality and content, which is what I love to see. Honesty sells with me!

So, I would say frankly that the sessions were successful. I would rather Citrix let the users and partners give back in this way. It speaks well to the culture of Citrix engineers and administrators – that we work together. It also speaks well to another aspect of our culture – that we all face similar challenges and that we gravitate toward companies and communities that help us meet these challenges.

As for sessions I attended, I focused mostly on XenMobile because I feel confident in the other content areas and because I feel like XenMobile (really all things mobile) represent the single most important focus area coming up. I learned a great deal, of course, but I also realized several gaps that exist which will help me focus on where to innovate and discover for 2014.  Not to give it away too much, but I see the “when to implement” and “how to implement” questions as the most difficult to answer with XenMobile.

In the coming weeks I’ll be exploring what it means to have a mobile lifestyle, but in the next few months I hope to expand on a full understanding from a consulting and design standpoint of mobility in general. This, as Synergy demonstrated to me, is not easy. Mobility represents a constantly shifting array of use cases, devices and a blend of on- and off-line access. It is, quite frankly, an Architect’s nightmare and best loved adventure all wrapped into one. (In case you’re wondering, I do plan to submit topics for Synergy 2015 and hope to have them accepted to be able to present them to you with hopefully the same energy and honesty as I saw at Synergy.)

Fortunately, a good number of the key presentations from Synergy are available on YouTube and SynergyTV. If you went to Synergy or attended virtually, you should have access to the slide decks and some videos of the other presentations at the Synergy 2014 website.

“One more thing” about the keynote (if you have seen it you’ll catch my pun there)…

A lot of people go into the keynote expecting to hear about the next big, exciting thing. For me, I have to be honest, while I get excited about new ways of working, new technology to play with and new things I can do for my customers, three years with Citrix Consulting Services has gotten me very much pinned to the concept of working within leading practices. Leading Practices (some may say “best” practices) take time to develop. They take maturity. So if you are in the habit of stirring the pot every year, so to speak, you will not allow maturity to occur.

So, for example, when XenDesktop 7 was announced last year, I cringed, knowing what was going to happen: I’d immediately have customers asking to deploy it, since it was announced that AppEdition was replacing XenApp for server-based agents (don’t panic, this has since been changed). On occasion this may be appropriate, but in the larger enterprise – especially high visibility, critical uptime environments such as medical, call centers, certain financial situations and others – the last thing you want to do is deploy outside of established leading practices…you see the problem here, right? The Catch 22 of our industry is that it takes time to develop leading practices but someone has to go first. Fortunately, over the following year, Citrix Consulting Services developed those practices, but the point is it takes time and real-world experience.

So I was relieved not to hear about any huge earth-shattering new technology shifts at Synergy this year. Everything announced was an enhancement, maturity or simply an affirmation of the existing technologies. Phew!

The Purpose

“Whatever it is that you do… Leave it Better Than You Found it.” – Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix (quoting “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”)

I could add other “P’s” to my list – namely Philosophy… and Mark Templeton nailed it in this very memorable quote. It means that it’s not just about making money or taking what you can while you can. In the very fickle world of technology – let’s face it here – this is a rare philosophy. Usually there is not time for it. But Citrix is showing real maturity and leadership in the marketplace by letting this philosophy guide them.

During the keynote presentation, Mark reminded the audience of 25 Years of Citrix, which can be described as Culture + Empathy. 25 years. It’s amazing to think about, because for many years the innovation level has been so drastic in many areas that it’s hard to think of Citrix as a mature company. So, the culture is to stay “young” in the area of innovation, while staying close to its customers in both their needs and their desires. Think about that for a moment. Do we like companies that respond to what we need, or those that go so far as to anticipate our needs before we know they exist? Do we like companies to tell us what we want, or those that respond to what we want? The answer is obvious enough – but Citrix has put it at the forefront, and has for 25 years. They want to know what your needs are and they want to help, so that you are enabled by technology instead of being hindered by it.

I will briefly share a personal story about this to illustrate the differences. In 2007, I slipped on some ice and shattered my ankle, making walking (much less driving) virtually impossible for several months. Instead of not being able to work for those months, I was able to use Citrix technologies (at that time, XenApp and Access Gateway VPN) to continue working at all of my clients. In fact, I found that I was actually able to be more productive during those months.  Citrix not only helped me, but literally changed the way I approached work. That is what empathy looks like to Citrix.

If you are watching or plan to watch the keynote presentation on YouTube, pay close attention to what Mark talks about at 2:03:47 – The Journey is the Reward. From remote access to mobility, Citrix has focused on the needs and desires of the people. This seems like it should be obvious enough, but the difference in my mind is that Citrix has been consistently ahead of the industry by more than three years, and continues to be there.

What I have enjoyed the most about re-focusing my career to be very attentive to what I will now, thanks to Citrix, refer to as the Workspace, is that it’s not just simply about throwing around big toys and hoping they make the kids happy (by kids, I mean management, of course). It has become more about being purposeful and meeting users where they are, not forcing IT to come to the technology or being limited by it. This means that more care must be taken in design, and the technology must be more flexible.

synergy keynote

My favorite new word, coined by Mark during Synergy to describe this, is “Designful.” As an Architect, I can’t help but be attracted to good design, but embracing an attitude in which design is based around the needs of humans, not technology, that makes me very excited.


So, it all comes down to this question: What is Your Purpose?

Is technology something you utilize because it’s your job?

Or maybe you are a big fan of virtualization because of the money being generated these days from it?

Or do you want to make an impact? Do you want to leave things better than you found them?

Citrix has stated that they are focused on the person. Making their life better. Going even beyond what we used to call “work/life balance” to simply an attitude of meeting people where they are, on their terms. When you hear stories like this, it resonates:

“People can work on their terms, not on technology’s terms…. Citrix has freed us to focus on what matters most, taking people safely wherever they wish to go.” – Urs Püntener, CIO of Rhaetian Railway

Mark Templeton is right, of course. We expect companies to be focused on us every day in everything we use. Kudos to Citrix for responding proactively to this – not by simply selling products that make sense to the IT team or management, but that are usable in the day to day world of our users. I look forward to great things, but more than that I know I speak for GTRI when I say we look forward to working alongside Citrix in this endeavor.

Synergy was a great experience overall. The People we met and caught up with, the Partners we interacted with and learned from, the Products we learned about were all worthwhile. The Presentations were valuable, but for me, the Purpose, the meat of why we do this, was what really resonated with me.

I hope to see you at Synergy 2015!

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