This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Citrix Synergy 2016 conference coverage

New Citrix CEO discusses business-IT balancing act

New Citrix CEO Kirill Tatarinov explains where the company is headed, and how he'll use his mix of technical and business experience to drive Citrix technologies into the next era.

There's no question Citrix lost its way in recent years, and the path back home has involved some unpleasantries.

Those included shedding technologies that don't match Citrix's core purpose, employee layoffs and replacing its longtime -- and beloved -- CEO, Mark Templeton.

The monthslong CEO replacement mission ended in January, with the hiring of Kirill Tatarinov, a former engineer and longtime Microsoft Business Solutions executive who led the Dynamics CRM and ERP team from 2007 to 2015. It's no shock that the new Citrix CEO comes from partner Microsoft, but Tatarinov's appointment came as a surprise to some industry insiders who didn't recognize his name.

Tatarinov paid SearchContentManagement a visit to help us learn more about him and his mission, which is to drive home Citrix's technology message about its place in the mobile workspace and business apps space, while balancing the needs of longtime users and downstream market changes -- all under the watchful eye of vocal investors, who need Citrix to improve profitability.

Here's an excerpt from our interview with the new Citrix CEO, which can also be heard in full in the podcast below:

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Let's start with you telling us how you came to be the new Citrix CEO.

Kirill Tatarinov: When I look at my career, and I'm celebrating 30 years in the industry, it's split into two significant focus areas. I spent formative years of my career focused on the infrastructure technologies, which is close to what Citrix is doing. I am an engineer by training [and] the first product I wrote  was log analyzer for [IBM] System/360 ... Then, I worked on multiple technologies and products that were for managing and delivering infrastructure  solutions in the service space -- both pre-Microsoft and in Microsoft.

In 2007, I made a switch toward 'biz apps;' I was intrigued by the space. I always viewed [business] apps as something IT people and those who build IT systems needed to understand much more to see the whole business context. That was my second career at Microsoft, where I took over Dynamics ERP and CRM. It gave me a tremendous opportunity to understand the business side of enterprise, and really think more about how business works holistically and understand what IT needs to do to enable business to move faster, enable transformation and to say 'yes' more often to more things. 

That foundation, from the infrastructure years and the last eight years on the biz apps side, gives me a unique perspective ... that I now have an opportunity to apply, to essentially bring it back to IT people, make IT people heroes again [and] enable them to do amazing things for the business.

What are some of the things you'd like to bring to Citrix in terms of business applications, which the company doesn't offer now?

Kirill Tatarinov, Citrix CEOKirill Tatarinov, Citrix CEO

Tatarinov: Enabling our customers to be more connected to the business, to serve the needs of the end users, of the organization and the business processes. That's really transformational ...

We need to continue to push the envelope, to educate the IT constituency to be much more connected -- to be business-savvy and business-oriented ...

I've found the most innovative companies had CIOs who were deeply rooted in the business and could articulate the needs of the business. ... Here at Citrix, we can empower IT people to be closely connected to the business, and, therefore, do more things for the business.

Being able to communicate IT needs to business people is critical for businesses and also for you, within Citrix. There's pressure from Citrix shareholders to deliver quick returns on tech investments, whereas users want something different; they want something innovative and useful for their everyday needs. How will you balance what the shareholders need versus what your end users want?

Tatarinov: It is always a balance. There are always needs of multiple constituencies, and as a leader, you need to be thoughtful of the needs of your people, your customers, your investors, shareholders, partners and the ecosystem. And it's an everyday balance I need to bring, consistently think of how that model moves, and how to address and delight every single one of those audiences.

I imagine when Citrix users see that you have an engineering background -- you are one of them, at heart -- they hope you'll see things from their perspective, whereas someone who is a pure business person would care more about watching the numbers.

Tatarinov: Possibly -- [but] I love the numbers.

Come on, Kirill. Make [your customers] a promise.

I am not just a technical guy; I am not just a business guy -- though I love both. It's the balance of the two that I bring to the table.
Kirill TatarinovCEO, Citrix

Tatarinov: I'm proud to say during my Microsoft years, I was trained by the best. It is a balance. When people ask me, 'What is your unique strength?' -- it is this balance. I am not just a technical guy; I am not just a business guy -- though I love both. It's the balance of the two that I bring to the table.

When I spoke with Mark Templeton last year, he was very excited about the possibilities of Octoblu with IoT [Internet of Things]. It allows you to do things like mix GoToMeeting with an iBeacon in a conference room, so when people arrive, the conference starts automatically. The success of that vision requires integration partners, customers and service providers to actually use Octoblu, along with tools like iBeacon. Is that happening now?

Tatarinov: IoT enables an amazing number of things ... I haven't looked at that scenario [yet]. [But IoT] is absolutely a mega trend we are studying and participating in across the board. Our NetScaler technology will play a critical role in enabling a broad range of sensors and devices to connect into the corporate network in a secure fashion.

The Citrix GoTo product line is being spun off into a separate company. What's the status of that, and how will the spin-off help users who rely on the GoTo products?

Tatarinov: We are on track ... we plan to spin it off into a separate company by the end of 2016. Both Citrix and the new company will benefit from focus.

The world is changing into an interconnected universe, where what in the past could only happen in conglomerates can now happen from independent companies working together. What we see happening at Citrix is part of that phenomenon. It will be easier for people to understand what Citrix stands for and what the company we [spin off] stands for... It will also be easier for independent business leaders to run those respective businesses to greater success.

What does Citrix stand for?

Tatarinov: Citrix stands for secure delivery of apps and data to people anywhere around the world, and enabling any device on any network.

Lastly, what has surprised you the most about being the CEO of a big technology company?

Tatarinov: There's been tremendous learning over the last 60 days. And one of the things that really surprised me, impressed me and that I absolutely love is how much the industry -- our customers -- love Citrix. I have not seen that anywhere else I've worked ... It's a tribute to the past leadership -- the culture that was established that enabled that level of trust and support ... our customers, our partners and even industry analysts want us to succeed. That makes me wake up energized every morning to go to work to fulfill our promise to everyone we work with and work for.

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