Global CIO: Citrix CEO Templeton On Killing IT Inertia Before It Kills You - InformationWeek
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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Global CIO: Citrix CEO Templeton On Killing IT Inertia Before It Kills You

As CIOs search for ways to increase business agility and lower IT costs, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton says that "traditional enterprise computing is collapsing under the weight of its own complexity."

About a week ago, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton, in the midst of a two-week trip through Asia to visit customers and colleagues, was just wrapping up an inspired all-hands meeting with Citrix's 350 developers in Bangalore and was about to hop off the stage so the food and drinks could be rolled out. But instead, several members of the Bangalore team wheeled onto the stage a massive, ornate, double-layer birthday cake as the 350 colleagues began singing "Happy Birthday" to celebrate Templeton's 57th natal anniversary.

"It was so wonderful of them to do that—truly wonderful—but it was a complete shock to me because I never celebrate birthdays," Templeton said yesterday by phone from Tokyo. "The important thing isn't the age of your body; it's the age of your soul. If you keep the soul of a 29-year-old alive inside you, it doesn't matter how old your body is."

Just as Templeton, back in 1995, helped infuse sleepy little Citrix with a youthful and adventurous soul when he joined the $15 million company as VP of marketing, so too is he now looking to inspire CIOs to transform their companies' creaky and brittle physical infrastructures with a fresh and agile approaches that will reinvigorate the chances those companies have to compete in a business world that is changing at a dizzying pace.

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And Templeton is betting that Citrix—with 2008 revenue of $1.6 billion, more than 100 times bigger than when he joined the company 14 years ago—has the unique perspective and the unique technologies, products, services, and partnerships to make that happen. And his core strategy is simple: virtualization, centralization, and optimization.

What's not so simple—in fact, what's both maddeningly complex as well as dangerous—is for CIOs to find the willingness and the inspiration to step forward and realize that, as Templeton puts it, "traditional enterprise computing is collapsing under the weight of its own complexity." Those traditional models, he says, are doomed, and the only salvation for CIOs stuck under the crushing weight of all that expensive and inflexible stuff is the bone-deep realization that massive changes need to be made, which also means disruption, some turmoil, some personnel losses, a lot of pain, and a whole lot of will.

And that realization, Templeton says, is the CIO's "a-ha! moment"—and it can make or break careers.

"In all these situations we see where someone appears to just become an overnight success—like with a hot new singer, the explode onto the scene and people say, "wow—where'd that guy come from?"—if you do your research you'll see that each one of these sudden rock-star singers have been singing in churces or drugstores or playgrounds or anywhere they can for their whole lives," Templeton says. "It doesn't 'just happen.'

"And it's the same with these a-ha! moments for CIOs: they're always preceded by these guys being forced or pushed or shoved for a long, long time by forces they want to ignore or don't believe they can respond to because of budgets or CEOs who don't get it or just the everyday pace.

"But I think we're getting to the point where the confluence of technologies like virtualization and data centers and the cloud and networks and client devices are intersecting with flat IT budgets, and those two things are intersecting with the consumerization of IT where your experience with technology at home is so much better than it is at work, and on top of that you've got the situation where the real understanding of critical business issues among too many CIOs is just poor. And that's not cause they want it to be poor but it's the weight of all this other stuff and the time and budget it consumes—I just don't think that model can last," Templeton says.

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