Five minute CIO: John Spencer, Citrix

2 Oct 2015

Pictured: John Spencer, CTO for Northern Europe at Citrix

“In our view, work is something you do anywhere inspiration strikes, not a place you go to,” said the CTO of Citrix Northern Europe, John Spencer.

Prior to becoming CTO of Citrix Northern Europe, Spencer was director of Systems Engineering Northern Europe at Citrix.

He specialises in articulating technical and business planning at C level and has a strong technical background in Windows Server/Desktop, Linux, Networking and Security technologies.

He will be speaking at the .Next Computing Forum aimed at helping senior business and IT leaders to prepare their business for the next wave of IT.

The event is taking place on Thursday 8 October in the Lighthouse Cinema Dublin.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

Citrix has around 9,500 employees in more than 90 countries worldwide. With a large and global workforce, our main priority in recent years has been mobility.

The technology implemented within Citrix over the past few years has largely focused on applications that enable our workforce to be fully mobile, decoupling staff from the office desk and phone and making sure their user experience is optimal irrespective of location, device or network they’re using.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

Our IT strategy, as well as the wider strategy within Citrix, is to enable collaboration with customers, partners and staff anytime, anywhere in the world.

In our view, work is something you do anywhere inspiration strikes, not a place you go to. This is better for people, better for IT and better for business.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Naturally, with almost 10,000 employees in more than 90 countries, Citrix requires an extensive infrastructure. Within each element of this, collaboration is again the key – it’s vital to our business that our global staff base can communicate and work with each other with ease.

We use three data centres spread across the globe, which cover our US, EMEA and Asia-Pac markets respectively. Each also has failover capacity built in. A number of applications are implemented throughout Citrix, ranging from SAP to SalesForce, Skype for Business and office applications.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Managing budgets has become increasingly important for heads of technology worldwide. I think it’s important to use ROI and TCO models to ensure money is being spent where it is needed and that the overarching IT strategy and wider goals of the company are considered.

Increasingly, CIOs, CTOs and other board level execs are moving from CAPEX to OPEX models as cloud applications and software define the workplace. Utilising the cloud can help reduce and manage IT budgets effectively, and is an even more attractive option now that cloud security has improved.

I also firmly believe single vendor suite technology is the way forward, particularly for large companies like Citrix, which need to cover a broad and ever-increasing range of applications and services.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

There’s always an element of complexity with a company as large as Citrix, but we’re always working to simplify it. We regularly speak with our IT staff about the technology in place and ways that it can be changed or improved to make their lives easier.

BYOD has been the most significant change in terms of simplifying our technology. It has also led to substantial cost reductions of about 30%.

Security is a top priority for Citrix – we ensure everything within our infrastructure is ‘secure by design’. As such, any steps towards simplifying our IT infrastructure need to be undertaken with this in mind. Data storage is the most obvious concern here – all the data we store is fully encrypted and, crucially, never leaves the data centre.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We have an in-house team that manages our IT infrastructure. For support, however, we deliver level one support through an outsourced organisation.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

I look after the Northern European pre-sales team, which encompasses around 35 systems engineers in six countries. Primarily, my role is to ensure that the needs of our business customers are met through Citrix solutions. I’m not usually involved in deep technical issues.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

I’ve touched on it already but evidence is pointing towards mobility as the biggest trend changing the role of IT in business. Networks, desktops, data, and even in-person meetings have all been decoupled from physical locations and transformed into fully digital mobile workspaces that provide complete business mobility.

Mobility can mean different things to different people and organisations. I think it’s important that organisations implement bespoke mobility solutions that address their needs.

Another trend we’re seeing more and more is the growth of ‘Shadow’ or ‘Stealth’ IT, where systems are deployed by employees without organisational approval or by departments other than IT. This is one to watch for organisations, primarily as it puts security at risk.

One of the most talked about trends in recent years has been the Internet of Things (IoT). While still early in the cycle, it’s starting to ramp up and estimations of its future worth are in the multi-trillions.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

Feedback is the primary source of gauging our IT performance. We conduct a number of surveys throughout the year seeking feedback from our global employee base and this includes a detailed section on IT. We analyse what is working, what’s not and what may be missing and then work towards changing and improving.

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

While collaboration is at the heart of our IT strategy, it’s also an area we can always improve. Going forward, we will streamline and simplify processes like initiating meetings, sending reminders, and make better use of applications like Skype for Business.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

Our main project as a company until recently has been real estate restructuring on a global scale – Citrix has been engaged in consolidating and purchasing new buildings, which naturally involves plenty of IT work and installation. It’s vital that any new building

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years