Although only in his post for a little over a year as vice-president of channels and emerging product sales at Citrix, Tom Flink has been responsible for overseeing the company’s worldwide channel, marketing and other channel profitability programs since he first started.
Prior to joining Citrix last May, Flink, spent most of his 22-year-long career working as a value-added reseller (VAR) and as a Citrix partner. Once on board at Citrix, he played a hand in the expansion of the Citrix Advisor Rewards deal registration program. The channel rewards program was expanded last June to include Citrix’s XenServer virtualization software solution. XenServer now comes embedded on Dell and HP machines as part of an OEM package offering. With this partners who take advantage of the Advisor Rewards program receive rewards regardless of whether or not they sell the solution, just so long as they recommend it.
Citrix also acquired virtual infrastructure solutions vendor, XenSource for $500 million last fall, in which case Flink also played a pivotal role post-acquisition. He was in charge of overseeing the integration of the channel and ensuring a smooth transition between both companies.
And while it’s still too early to talk about concrete channel plans for next year, Flink said goal-setting for 2009 is currently in the works. CDN recently had the opportunity to catch up with Flink to discuss his time at Citrix, his channel objectives moving forward and also to talk about his views on current trends and market opportunities.
CDN: Before working at Citrix, you’ve had experience working as a VAR and Citrix partner. What was that like?
Tom Flink: I joined Citrix in May 2007. I first met up with Citrix in 1994 when I became a reseller for them. Prior to that, I did different things in the computer market. Vector was later sold to a venture capital (VC) group and later Vector ESP was created. We were VC funded and we were the largest Citrix partner in North America. The VC group later sold Vector ESP to MTM Technologies, which is a current Citrix partner today. That happened about three years ago. I later decided to look at different career paths and that’s when Citrix approached me. For the last year, I’ve been dedicated to focusing on the channel and channel marketing and other profitability programs to help our partners. I build the program framework and structures and work on the backend that supports the programs.
CDN: What would you say were your biggest accomplishments over the past year?
T.F.: When I came to work at Citrix, our programs were primarily built to support our core product line, XenApp. The requirements and benefits for our programs before were aligned with that. We were since then able to evolve the framework of our program to extend across our product line. The second accomplishment I would say was when we acquired XenSource last fall. We had to integrate their channel into ours and transition them over while at the same time ensure we kept them focused. Third, I would say is we’ve seen new opportunities for us around other system manufacturers like HP and Dell. Now one of our products, XenServer, is embedded on their systems. We kept a focus on the channel and encouraged them to work with our OEM partners. Last June we announced the Citrix Advisor Rewards deal registration program. Our Advisor Rewards program is a key program for us to drive the profitability of our partners and to demonstrate proven concepts. Not only do partners now have a better than average shot of being rewarded, they’re guaranteed. We pay a back-end reward which can be up 10 per cent of the MSRP whether partners sell the product or not. As long as they recommend the solution, they’ll be compensated for it.
CDN: How many channel partners does Citrix have in Canada and North America right now?
T.F.: In Canada, we have about 205 total partners and in North America, we have about 1,800. We’re evaluating our planning for 2009 right now when it comes to the channel. We always look at our objectives in two ways. First, we’re constantly evaluating the capacity of our existing channel to ensure business is driven by our partners. We learned that it’s important that we think about our existing base and work on helping them do more before we expand. And second, we always want to be easy to do business with.
CDN: At the end of this month, Citrix will be using Ingram Micro as its preferred authorized distributor for North America. Did you have to quell any fires with your channel who may have dealt with Avnet Alternative Technology or Tech Data up until this point?
T.F.: We had to simplify and eliminate confusion as to how partners made their purchases in North America. We had partners who had concerns but we’re proactively working with them to help them find solutions to meet their needs. We’re interested in making this transition seamless for our partners. We think putting more focus and effort behind a preferred single distributor in North America will be more effective. Our current distribution decision is a decision that will drive clarity around how to purchase products and it will also give us a dedicated focus in terms of where we can further help our partners.
CDN: What are your channel goals and priorities for the rest of this year and moving into 2009?
T.F.: Within our customer base today, we have a very significant install base around our XenApp solution and we think there are even more opportunities for our partners around that. We want our partners to focus on getting more out of their install base. Our second priority would be at looking at the end-to-end virtualization solution story that we have. We have application virtualization and server and desktop virtualization components. We want our partners to go back to their install base and spend time in helping their customers leverage the investment they’ve already made with virtualization.
CDN: In general, what would you say are the biggest trends to emerge this year in the industry and where do you see the biggest opportunities lying for channel partners?
T.F.: In general, I think software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing is in most of the partners’ minds right now. I think that’s something our partners should focus on and partners should continue to evolve their skills-sets to understand the business needs of customers beyond just their technical needs.
CDN: What new developments are currently in the works for channel partners and end-users at Citrix?
T.F.: I’m not ready to announce any new programs at the moment. The biggest things we’re focused on now and moving forward is we want to make our programs as simple, predictable and understandable as possible for our partners. We also always have our eyes on partner support and training and making sure they stay as easy as possible. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting out in there in the channel doing these programs and understanding that no two programs are alike. At Citrix, we’re dedicated to continuing to help our channel partners be successful.