Citrix’s employee experience focus unfolds with Workspace intelligent experience at the center

It’s been a year since Citrix started pivoting toward general-purpose customers and acquired Sapho to be front and center of it.

Jack spoke with CMO Tim Minahan in late 2018 about how Citrix could be more strategic for customers. The discussion came shortly after Citrix’s acquisition of Sapho became official.

With Sapho’s workflow product now integrated into the Workspace app, under the name “Citrix Workspace intelligent experience,” we wanted to take another look what Citrix is working on that focuses around employee experience.

Overview

Citrix has been all in on talking about employee experience when promoting their products, which ties into the idea of turning their attention toward general-purpose users and a unified workspace experience. Tim discussed Citrix’s work strategy with Jack, saying Citrix wants to “enable a new level of experience and productivity to help employees get through their day.”

So, what have we seen so far? Citrix released Citrix Analytics for Performance, which allows admins to track Virtual Apps and Desktops performance to ensure employees are able to stay productive. It’s a good first step in determining the user experience in an organization’s workspace.

The next step was the Workspace intelligent experience. Citrix says that employees can spend less time hopping between apps to complete tasks, instead interacting with microapps from the same window to complete the more “busywork” type of tasks (e.g., approving expense reports). Now, whether this saves you time will depend upon your working style. Jack and I, for example, are used to having a variety of apps open between two monitors, which isn’t too difficult to switch between on the fly. However, maybe you primarily use a 13-inch laptop to work, then this might offer greater use. Perhaps some of the time-saving aspects come from not having to load and log into different apps to complete a simple task.

In December, the Workspace intelligent experience became generally available, with lots of features dropping right away. There are currently more than 100 out-of-box connectors available for applications from companies like Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, and SAP. Some examples applications with pre-built micro apps include Google Drive, ServiceNow, and Concur. Through a community portal, customers and partners can create custom microapps, which can then be used by any organization. The custom microapps use REST APIs and JSON, so apps without connectors to either require an API wrapper to work.

Two other features that are available as part of the Workspace intelligent experience include universal search and virtual assistant. With universal search, employees use a keyword search to find what they’re looking for through all files and applications connected to the Workspace app. Another available feature is the virtual assistant, which can be accessed through Workspace app or Microsoft Teams. The virtual assistant allows employees to ask questions using natural language and involving connected applications, such as “what absences are pending my approval?” The virtual assistant connects to a lot of different Citrix applications, with the example showing a workflow possible through the microapp integration.

Citrix Synergy demo of the virtual assistant:

 Workspace intelligent experience roadmap

I spoke with former Sapho CEO Fouad ElNaggar to get an idea of the future of the intelligent experience workflow and how it could help employees do less busy work. He explained that there are three steps. The first one, which is part of the product now, involves automating stacked actions (the actions that come after an inciting workflow – someone submits an invoice, for example) and are admin defined.

The next two steps are on the roadmap, though it’s not clear how soon we’d see either appear within the Workspace intelligent experience. Step two is what Fouad calls system-learned automation. The system learns how an employee reacts to certain workflows; in an example workflow, the system learned through ML that a manager nearly always automatically approves expense reports under a certain amount. So, instead the system takes over this task, approving those same expense reports and then could send an email to that manager with a list of all approved expense reports and whether any could be considered risky.

Step three involves what Fouad called “intelligent augmentation” and feels less concrete than steps one and two. Right now, the Workspace intelligent experience is focused around reducing busy work for employees. The idea of intelligent augmentation is to take this a step further and through a review of the data that the Workspace app can see, look for automation opportunities. This could be done by making a process better or more efficient, for example.

Analysis

Citrix has been pushing hard over the last year or so around employee experience, which fits with the general-purpose use case Tim spoke to Jack about. During the Q3 2019 earnings call, CEO and President David Henshall talked about this employee experience focus, but didn’t reveal whether it was truly driving growth yet or offer any statistics around it. Going to have to wait and see what their Q4 earnings show.

I think Fouad and Citrix have some nice plans in place around the Sapho integration, but we will have to wait and see whether they come to fruition.

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