Decoding Digital

Decoding Remote Work: Mark Templeton on the Virtual Workspace

By Ideas @ AppDirect / June 22, 2021

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Mark Templeton, former President and CEO of Citrix Systems, is a visionary in the remote workspace. He spent 20 years growing Citrix from a young, single-product company to a global leader in the software industry. Citrix now boasts annual revenues of more than $3 billion and serves over 100 million users across the world.

This rapid growth stemmed from Mark’s revolutionary approach to work. He saw the potential for technology changing the way people work—and crucially, where they work. What came next was a drive to create a virtual workspace software that made it possible to work anywhere with an internet connection.

In this Decoding Digital discussion, Mark joined Daniel Saks to talk about entrepreneurship and the future of work. Mark also shared insights on how apps and the cloud have developed, the importance of communicating and executing your vision for digital change, and why remote work will continue to evolve.

Hit play to hear the podcast episode or read on to find out more.

Remote work and rapid expansion

In Citrix’s infancy, remote access was difficult. Those who worked remotely only did so because they absolutely had to. Mark saw this as a problem that Citrix could solve. In fact, he saw a major opportunity for bringing new products to their customers and subsequently growing the company.

Mark believes that these remote access technologies were the developments that truly launched Citrix. At the same time, these new developments were battling latency issues from existing technologies. But it was all expanding and improving fast, and soon, the idea of remote working was no longer just a visionary’s idea—it was necessary for business growth.

Citrix was also growing rapidly. After going public in 1995, they hit $15 million in revenue. The next year, they hit $45 million. Eventually they hit $400 million, and then more, all due to their work enabling remote access.

Act two: creating the virtual workspace

But when you’ve mastered your problem, what comes next? Mark says that Citrix began looking for “an act two,” a follow-up product that would help them continue their growth and solve more of their users’ problems.

“A lot of work went into reaching into our imaginations, talking to customers, talking to our partners, getting lots and lots of points of view, that then led us to imagine making the workplace completely virtual.”

The concept was to expand remote access beyond applications and into documents, people, collaboration, and more. It was an idea so revolutionary that the only way Mark and his team could explain it to stakeholders was to make a video.

Citrix launched the “virtual workplace” video in November 2012 at iForum, its annual customer conference. Mark says that this customer-focus was key to Citrix’s success as their starting point was always to problem-solve first, then get customers to buy into their vision.

How to tap into a visionary mindset

This move from enabling remote access to developing virtual workspaces was revolutionary. But what sparks transformative thinking like this? Mark believes it’s being able to tap into your imagination. He advocates being curious and thinking about things with almost a child-like approach.

“Children don't know what they don't know. They imagine the impossible because they don't know what's impossible. I think that's where these ideas root themselves. A lot of people in tech are gifted with this capability.”

Mark references the famous Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” This concept of trial-and-error is, for Mark, both a way of tapping into that inquisitive, child-like side of your brain and the driving force behind disruptive invention.

How Citrix developed the virtual workspace

So, how did this approach lead to Citrix’s evolution of the virtual workspace? Between some creative thought and a lingering idea, Mark and his team began developing the next big Citrix product.

“We decided that work was not a place. And if work is not a place, and it's something that you need to be able to conduct from anywhere, then, how do we define that?”

Imagination played a key part in the development of Citrix’s virtual workspace technology. While Mark is keen to note that the concept was mainly born out of necessity to look towards the future, imaginative thinking brought the idea to life.

“Whether it was collaboration software, or security, or management or networking, video, different types of technologies like voice to text, text to voice, we just imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere. And we were doing all of that, because we knew we had to do some new things in order to continue to grow and add value for our customers.”

For Mark, this added customer value came with the more inventive, imaginative ideas. By really “letting loose,” they found more white space to grow into, and therefore could provide more for Citrix’s number one stakeholder—the customer.

Defining the virtual workspace

Today, Mark defines the virtual workspace as something even he is yet to fully understand. He stresses that it’s evolved into something far greater than an outcome and capability-based technology into something with cultural and human elements.

“My thinking on it is evolving with an understanding that there are a tremendous number of cultural, human, and even mental wellness aspects to the workplace and the notion of making it virtual.”

Mark suggests that, between the recent technological developments and the pandemic, we’re all currently in the midst of a “giant beta test.” He believes there will be plenty of research by both professionals and companies to figure out the whats and whys behind remote versus office working.

While technology can enable us to do more, Mark pointed out that there are still areas ripe for invention. Mark suggests that remote work may not suit all personality types, so there is potential for innovating solutions around how to maintain human interaction that still builds culture and shares common values, even in a virtual workspace.

To hear more about the development of remote working, democratizing technologies, and Mark’s experience at Citrix, tune in to the full discussion with Daniel Saks available on the Decoding Digital podcast.

Check out the Decoding Digital podcast series for more insights from inspirational thought leaders and digital innovators. You can listen to the podcast on all the major podcasting apps, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.