Greening Your Company’s Workflow with Citrix’s Eric Bensley

May 2, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good. We’re so excited to have Eric Bensley on with us. He’s the Senior Product Marketing Director for Citrix. Welcome to Green is Good, Eric. ERIC BENSLEY: Thanks, John. It’s good to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey Eric, before we get talking about Citrix and all the great things you do at your great company, your great employer, share a little bit about the Eric Bensley story. Our listeners like to always learn about our guests and what they’ve done before they’ve gotten involved with what they’re doing. What was your journey leading up to joining Citrix? ERIC BENSLEY: Well John, I’m a Southern California kid so I went to school down at UC Santa Barbara and studied sort of math and economics and got really into technology there. It’s not a well-known sort of fact but Santa Barbara and UC Santa Barbara is a hub for a lot of technology development. Actually, the division that I worked for within Citrix was a startup out of UCSB and the whole idea was about sort of connecting people over the internet in a time where that wasn’t necessarily a reality and so I got into Citrix early on, about eight years ago, really working on GoToMeeting, which is one of our staple products, and I know what we’re going to talk about today is sort of this conversation around mobile working and a mobile workforce and my story is really kind of in line with that because over the eight years that I’ve worked in Santa Barbara and Washington DC and I’m now in San Francisco, I’ve worked in a variety of different roles so I’ve kind of lived the new way of working, so to speak, and it’s been great and I think the common theme is the work has been fulfilling, the company has been great, and the location didn’t matter and so I think that’s kind of the new way the workforce is going. It’s very interesting. I know a lot of companies haven’t necessarily adopted that but when we think about what’s better for employees, what’s better for companies, and also what’s better for the planet overall, the location really shouldn’t matter. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, you’re right about that. First of all, let me say at the top our company that employees me, Electronic Recyclers International, we use Citrix and we’re very happy with your product and it has made our company what it could be because we have approximately 900 employees across America in many, many different cities working, because they have to, in different areas and their work is still the greatest work and they make our company what it is. Our company is built on people but it’s because of your technology and the platform that you’ve created that allows everyone to work seamlessly and the geography does not matter and so you’re so right but let’s just talk about sustainability with regards to Citrix and this. Obviously in your lifetime and in my lifetime, Eric, climate change has become a reality and so this has become one of the worst weather winters ever logged in American history. How does that impact even the way we work, besides people’s freedom of choice of where they want to work, just even weather changes making our work patterns change and how does that interrelate with what you’re doing at Citrix? ERIC BENSLEY: Yeah absolutely. First off, as a California person, I have to tee something up to get some street cred with your audience so obviously, we’ve been talking about snowpocalypse on the east coast and I was actually there for the first one when I was in Washington DC and although DC doesn’t get the same snow as a lot of the east coast, during that (and that was about two or three years ago) the entire city was shut down. I actually remember going to The Mall and seeing people cross-country skiing by the monuments. That was the highlight of that time when I was living out there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. That is street cred, by the way. That is massive street cred. ERIC BENSLEY: According to different estimates, I’m looking at one from the Department of Homeland Security, over the last 30 years, weather disruptions have cost the economy over a trillion dollars and that’s probably a conservative estimate in terms of what happens but these are short disruptions, talking about a few days at times, where people can’t get to work and I think the issue has been that companies have thought of disruption and workforce disruption as a reactive measure, so putting plans in place when these things happen, and the problem is that it takes a lot of work and investment from employees to really get to a place where they can be productive from anywhere and so it’s more of a proactive strategy versus a reactive strategy to get employees in the right place where when something like this happens, it’s as easy as calling your boss and saying, ‘Hey, I can’t get into the office today. The roads are unsafe. I’m going to work from home,’ and then they’re on and that’s the type of place that we need to get to as an economy so that people can just work where it works for them and if these things happen, it’s really not a big deal. The companies that do this well, when a disruption happens, it’s as simple as saying, ‘Okay, stay home today,’ and that’s the only execution that needs to be done on the part of the company, on the part of IT. I think as small business individuals look at this, it’s a little easier. They’ve been doing this for a while. It’s the larger companies and the government, in some cases, that really is impacted by these types of severe weather situations. JOHN SHEGERIAN: First of all, I’m on your website right now and for our listeners that want to follow along as we have this chat with Eric Bensley today, go www.citrix.com. It’s a beautiful website. There’s tons of information there and it’s important that you check it out for yourself as we talk here today. Talk a little bit about this new word that I’m seeing, Eric, more and more. It wasn’t around 20 years ago. I never even saw it until the last couple years. Work shifting; what does that mean for you? What does that mean for Citrix? ERIC BENSLEY: Absolutely. Work shifting is a word that we made up I want to say about four or five years ago and the reason that we started talking about work shifting was because we weren’t satisfied with the way that the industry was talking about telecommuting because it was a very specific behavior and telecommuting still is the idea of working from home, which is a huge part of work shifting but it doesn’t capture everything so work shifting is based on this concept that work is a thing you do, not a place you go and once you orient your mindset around that, you become a work shifter and what that really means is you’re not always working in one dedicated place so if you work from coffee shops, if you work from home, if you work on a plane, if you work from a hotel, if you work from your mom’s house, if you work from a friend’s house, those types of things are work shifting behavior and the concept is really shifting the way that you think about work from a place you go to a thing that you do and it seems really simple but somehow, we became obsessed with work as a place and you see it in a lot of the modern management techniques where people are scared to leave the office before five and that’s crazy, right? If someone needs to pick up their kid at three and wants to work from seven to eight, what’s wrong with that? It’s better for them and it’s better for the company. They’re going to be more satisfied. If you’re making people sit in chairs for eight hours, it’s not good for their health, it’s not good for their psyche, and it’s not good for the company. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re so on the money, Eric. It’s not about the place. It’s about the work that’s being done. The place is the noise. The signal is the work so I’m with you on that. Recently, in the last couple of months or so, we saw Marissa Meyer get rid of telecommuting at Yahoo. Was that just really an anomaly in terms of where the economy is going with regards to work shifting and the focus on the importance of not form over function, but function over form and is that what Citrix allows us, function over form? ERIC BENSLEY: You know, I have a hard time sort of commenting completely on that entire strategy at Yahoo. I think sometimes in tough times at companies, they use sort of blunt instruments to make changes and I think this was more a way of making a big change and unfortunately, it became a big philosophical conversation around remote work. I’m not sure that that’s completely what she meant by that change. She really was trying to centralize, make some big changes at the organization about the distribution and people kind of running on their own. I’m not saying it wasn’t the right thing at the moment. I’m not sure that she meant to make as big a statement as the media made about that but I think overall, this is the way that the workforce is going. As I was saying before, when you think about work being a thing you do, the conversation switches from a certain number of hours to specific outcomes that employees need to achieve and that’s really good management at the end of the day. Just because somebody is working from home shouldn’t mean that you have to build good outcomes for that employee and really define their work but it begs that question if you haven’t dealt with that already but it’s sort of Management 101. If your employees don’t know what they’re working on, they’re going to work on whatever is hitting their inbox and that’s not the way you’d like to set it up but to answer your question about is this where it’s going, yeah I think it is and it’s a combination of a few things. The environmental impact is huge so we actually work with a company called Telework Research Network and they did a study that revealed that just half time telecommuting, so working from home half the time, could reduce carbon emissions by 51 million metric tons a year, sort of the equivalent of taking all of New York’s commuters off the road so that impact is real and it’s becoming more real but as we know, people tend to make decisions based on short term more selfish benefits so I think it’s a nice side benefit at the moment. The real thing that’s driving people is really this work-life balance idea and people demanding that and companies starting to realize the actual economic gains that they can get from supporting something like that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners that just joined, we’re on with Eric Bensley. He’s the Senior Product Marketing Manager for Citrix. It’s citrix.com. What tools does Citrix provide for this new economy, for this new trend of work shifting and this growing trend and what tools do you provide and what services do you offer now? ERIC BENSELEY: Yeah, absolutely. We have a variety of solutions and it sort of depends on the work that you’re doing. I would say the most common solutions that we offer that people are taking advantage of for work shifting or remote working or mobile working are things like GoToMeeting and GoToMeeting is an online meeting or web conferencing tool that allows you to get online, share your screen, share a presentation with an audience while you talk to them over the phone or internet audio and use video conferencing so it’s sort of an immersive online meeting experience. GoToMeeting has been out for quite a while now and been very successful. We also offer a tool called ShareFile, which allows you to just easily share files securely with anyone around the world. We also have a product called GoToMyPC, which allows you to remotely access in to a machine while you’re at a different location so for instance, if you have a dedicated office but you’re on the road and you’re on your iPhone, you can actually remote into your computer, grab a file, check your email, check some system that’s only available on that computer. Another tool that we have is called Podio, which is actually a work platform so what this enables you to do is sort of set up what we call work spaces with groups and manage tasks, manage contracts, and just create efficiency for groups when you’re in this distributed kind of situation so that you can make sure that everything you’re working on is actually being accomplished and you have full visibility into all the projects you’re working on so those are just a few examples and I would say to your listeners obviously, all of these are available for free trial. If you do have some interest, you can check them out with no obligation for 30 days online, all the products I just spoke about. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What beats that? You get a free trial. You use it. If it makes your life better and more productive, why not use these great products then and get with the Citrix program? Like I said, our company uses it with massive success and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to grow how we’ve grown. We’re down to the last few minutes or so here, Eric. What other green initiatives does Citrix help support? Obviously, when people are work shifting or telecommuting, as you point out, there’s lots of carbon footprint savings. What else is Citrix supporting with regards to sustainability and green? ERIC BENSLEY: Yeah, absolutely. Locally with our offices, we partner with earth day initiatives to try to get the word out around telecommuting and the impact that it can have. I think overall, the biggest thing we do to support green is just putting research out. Some of the stats that I was talking about today come directly from research that we have commissioned. We’re really trying to push this idea that remote work and work shifting is kind of the future of work in our economy here and through that, the carbon footprint savings are just enormous and I think that’s the biggest thing we can do as a company is to create awareness for the inefficiencies and the environmental impact of the things that we’re doing to drive, to fly, to do all of these things to get work done when it’s really inefficient and it’s just not the best use of our resources so I think we’ll sort of continue to push these different initiatives and support our local Earth Day and green initiatives in those markets to try to help people understand the benefits or the impact that they can have just by work shifting a few days a week. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last minute or so. You’ve been there now eight years, Eric, over at Citrix. What’s the future for Citrix? Give us a little visibility on the next couple of years ahead. ERIC BENSLEY: Absolutely. When we look kind of into the future, the thing that’s changed a little bit about technology and the space is that it’s moving incredibly fast now, which is fantastic for consumers. It’s fantastic for someone like me who works in the space. It keeps things very interesting but it sort of means that you have to move your thinking to principles as opposed to precisely what you’re going to build and what you’re going to say a year from now so I’ll give you the principles that I’m sort of thinking of right now. One is designing everything for mobile so as we look into the future, we see more and more demand for things to work mobile in a way that they might not even work on a desktop so we’re starting to think about how do we build things specifically for the mobile use case before we even think about putting them on a computer so you’ll see more and more of that because the demand and the capabilities on mobile devices is exploding and so as we look forward, we’re designing everything for mobile. Another thing that we’re thinking about is just faster innovation and the idea of putting things out into the market and getting feedback immediately so faster innovation is key for us and getting user feedback. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So mobile and faster innovation and thank you again for coming on the show today, Eric Bensley. If you want to learn more about Citrix, it’s www.citrix.com. Eric, thank you for your visionary thoughts today and leadership on work shifting. You are truly living proof that green is good.