Citrix discusses how flexible working for a new generation can be introduced to the ANZ region
From the experienced to the tech-savvy, multiple generations make up a changing workforce. Business Chief asked Citrix’s Safi Obeidullah how secure, flexible working can be embraced in the ANZ region.
As businesses demand increasing flexibility from employees and digitisation affords staff the option to use their skills as best suits their lifestyle, Citrix develops digital workspaces and offers software for companies to meet these demands. With over 20 years of experience in IT and end user computing, regional director for Sales and Engineering, Safi Obeidullah, has seen this transformation first hand.
Obeidullah joined Citrix eight years ago, having previously worked with IT training course providers, where huge amounts of time and energy were taken up installing applications on computers for each training session. “Back then, computers had very little storage,” he explains, harking back to a time that must seem archaic to the likes of Citrix. “Every afternoon I went around installing the right software on 71 computers.” Citrix’s offering, which allows clients to centrally host applications to be accessed from any computer, offered a welcome solution. “I was hooked on the Citrix model.”
“My time working with Citrix solutions has made me incredibly passionate about maximising the employee experience,” says Obeidullah. Indeed, Citrix aims to help people do their jobs with as less hassle, increasing efficiency and results. “It’s always so rewarding to hear how Citrix solutions have impacted the lives of people, whether it’s enabling doctors to remotely engage with patients, affording working mothers the flexibility to work from home, or allowing organisations to continue operating after a financial disaster.”
The world of work
Since its foundation back in 1989, Citrix has expanded across the globe to a workforce of over 8,000. Currently, Citrix solutions are used by Citrix solutions are used by more than 400,000 organisations including 99% of Fortune 100 and 98% of Fortune 500 companies. It’s certainly a company we have all come across, whether or not we realise it. “As organisations embrace the future of work, they are looking to better leverage technology to attract top talent, enhance employee engagement and experience, and empower their workforce to work in new and more productive ways,” Obeidullah explains – and this rings true globally. The company is passionate about affording employees access to the information they need wherever they are. “At Citrix we are dedicating to powering a better way to work.”
Ctrix Digital Workspaces also allow organisations to boost productivity and engage more consumers. “With a flexible and secure platform, organisations can connect, collaborate and innovate anywhere – on any application, any device, any cloud, at any time. This is how the future works.”
Flexibility in ANZ
This is a noble goal for global business, and one Citrix helps MNCs work toward, but what about the ANZ region in particular? “The transition to digital workspaces is well underway in Australia, in fact Australian organisations are among the world’s most innovative when it comes to cloud adoption,” says Obeidullah. “Citrix is helping ANZ customers embrace cloud-first, mobile-first strategies to advance business and competitive advantages.”
Increasingly, flexible working is no longer just an added bonus. “Today, flexible work covers a range of uses and reasons, including the ability to form work teams who may be geographically dispersed, enabling them to rapidly meet and disband. Workers today are working from an average of four locations during their work day, be it from a home office, coffee shop, customer site or even during the commute,” Obeidullah explains, citing Citrix research reporting that globally, seven in 10 employees would consider leaving their current job for one with more flexible hours.
A safer way to work
With rapid digitisation, data security is an increasing risk. Citrix offers companies the assurance that their information is secure, which can then be passed on to their customers. “As organisations plan for their future, security continues to be a top priority. According to Ponemon Institute’s 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study, 80% of Australian businesses worry about data breaches and 74% see a need for a new security framework.”
According to Obeidullah, new security policies are necessary to deal with the number of endpoints, locations, networks, clouds and data sources involved in flexible working. “As a vital partner for organisations in Australia, our solutions enable secure work environments that limit an organisation’s risk profile without placing undue restrictions on the way people work. Our solutions are transparent and enabling, not detractors from or disablers of productivity and flexibility.”
According to Citrix, the key security challenges as businesses undergo digital transformation are contextual and secure access; mobile and device security; secure collaboration and IP protection; governance, risk and compliance; and business continuity and app security. “Citrix has been solving security challenges for years. We are at the forefront of identifying key vulnerabilities and, with a robust product and services suite, we help organisations fully prepare and protect against constantly evolving IT threats.”
Currently under development is the Citrix Analytics service which will offer insights into security threats for clients to deal with proactively. The software will apply machine learning to identify malicious user behaviour or anomalies and take action. “Customers from every industry – including the most highly regulated sectors – rely on Citrix to provide a secured foundation,” says Obeidullah.
According to Citrix’s insight, a company’s own staff can be the biggest threat to keeping data secure. In a study by the Ponemon Institute for Citrix, 60% of respondents stated employees and third parties bypass security policies and technologies because they are too complex. The solution? “Smart organisations will take an active role in engaging and uniting employees against breaches and security issues,” Obeidullah suggests, recommending fake phishing attempts and mock breaches to enhance employee awareness and promote proactivity.
A new generation
With all the flexibility and efficiency technology brings, there will always be new challenges thrown up. For Obeidullah, a key issue is the mix of the older, more experienced versus and younger, tech-savvy members of the workforce.
“For the first time in history, workforces are comprised of up to four distinct generations, which presents a range of challenges. Multigenerational workforces are increasingly becoming the norm in Australia, presenting productivity, engagement and retention issues. As businesses drive digital transformation, they need to provide the tools and culture to enable work to be done, where and how employees need. Each generation brings a unique skillset, leadership style, work-life balance perception and communication attitude. This can foster creativity and expand approaches to problem solving. Technology should be used to support productivity regardless of work style.”
Although digital workplaces are on the up, it might not be time to lose physical contact altogether. “Organisations need to offer a variety of ways employees can engage and interact. Physical meeting spaces geared for collaboration are a critical part of any organisation.”
The future of work
While ANZ is one of the most progressive regions for digitization, Obeidullah cautions: “Cloud adoption is still in its infancy with organisations learning, sometimes the hard way, how to operate effectively in the cloud world. The pace of change in technology continues to be both fascinating and stimulating. Personally, I am keen to see how emerging technologies such as IoT, VR/AR and machine learning will further transform organisations, enabling them to truly embrace a digital operating model.”
Citrix is also working to transform itself or the future, to help clients power their business initiatives. “We have outlined our multi-year financial plan that drives increasing customer and shareholder value and defined strategic priorities that drive our growth opportunities,” Obeidullah outlines. These priorities include the acceleration of building cloud services across the entire Citrix portfolio. “Today, cloud delivered services represent about 20% of market opportunity, and by 2020 it is expected to drive more than half.”
Another mission is to unify the technologies in Citrix’s offering into one Secure Digital Workspace. These services will be available on-premise as well as in the cloud. “Our goal is to provide an intuitive, elegant experience for managing and delivering apps and data, from any cloud to any device.”
The Secure Digital Perimeter is a particular passion for Obeidullah. “Realising the full benefits of the cloud while avoiding complexity and security challenges requires a unified, contextual and secure digital workspace. IT and users co-create a software-defined perimeter that protects the business, data and infrastructure. Digital workspaces secure and integrate technologies, platforms, devices and clouds, ensuring that organisations can operationalise the future or work and drive business forward.”
C-suite spotight: Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva
Who is Melanie Perkins?
She’s the co-founder and CEO of Australian unicorn online design platform Canva, who ultimately became one of tech’s youngest female CEOs, at just 30, and recently became a billionaire aged 35, making her one of Australia’s richest and youngest.
Why is she in the spotlight right now?
Because less than a year after securing a US$6bn valuation during the pandemic, which provided a big boost to business, Canva has recently more than doubled its valuation, securing a $15bn valuation, which makes Perkins a billionaire, according to Forbes. The valuation comes in the wake of a new funding round in the first week of April 2021 led by T. Rowe Price and Dragoneer and raising $71m. At the same time, Canva announced its business has passed $500m in annualised revenue, up 130% from the year before.
What is Canva and why is it so successful?
Launched in 2013 by co-founders Melanie Perkins (CEO), Cliff Obrecht (COO) and Cameron Adams (Chief Product Officer), Sydney-headquartered Canva is a free-to-use online graphic design product that allows users to create everything from social media graphics to presentations and other visual content, as well as offering paid subscriptions like Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise, with 3 million of its now 55 million users taking paid subscriptions.
Accruing 750,000 users in its first year, following a number of rounds of investment including from Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital in 2019 and this month’s massive funding round, Canva now boasts 55 million users across 190 countries, with offices in Sydney, Beijing, Manila, and most recently Austin, Texas, and is valued at $3.2 billion.
And while the company was originally most popular with SMEs, helping them draft and design print and digital assets, it’s since grown to become a real-time collaboration suite that’s being used by big firms including McKinsey, Salesforce and American Airlines. In fact, Canva claims that 85% of Fortune 500 companies use the platform’s services. They continue to add new features and during the pandemic, added presenter video recording tools.
How did Perkins get there?
The idea of Canva came to Perkins when she was at the university of Perth, where to earn money on the side she taught students design programmes. Many of her students found platforms like Adobe complicated and frustrating, and the ideas came to her to simplify and democratise design, to make it more approachable and accessible, more collaborative, and ultimately to empower all in design. So, she and university peer Cliff Obrecht, who became Canva co-founder and Perkins’ husband, created an online school yearbook design business, Fusion Yearbooks, to test it out. Operating from her mum’s living room, the yearbook design business was a massive success, expanding to New Zealand and France, and remains the largest yearbook publisher in Australia.
However, Perkins did not give up on her dream to create a one-stop-shop design site and at one point spent three months living with her brother in San Francisco where she pitched to more than 100 venture capitalists, all of whom rejected Canva. It was following a chance encounter at a conference in Perth with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Tai, Perkins was winning over major investors including Hollywood celebrities Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson and building out Canva’s design platform with a fast-growing team of tech engineers and a high-profile tech advisor, Lars Rasmussen who co-founded Google Maps.
It was in 2012 when things really kicked off however when Perkins and Obrecht found a tech co-founder in Cameron Adams. The same year, they closed their first funding round, which was oversubscribed and raised $1.5m, with Canva going live in 2013. In 2019, an $85m funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital gave the company a valuation of $3.2bn, before the most recent funding around in April 2021 leading to a valuation of $15bn.
In her own words…
"I think it's pretty important to know that every single person is going through their own trials and tribulations. Knowing that it's tricky for everyone, that any adventure will be filled with rejections and littered with obstacles – somehow makes the adventure a little less lonely. And it's most important for people who feel like they are on the outside to know this."