Protecting Business from the Next DisasterBy Steve Wexler | Print
Iceland's volcanic ash disrupted business trips, shipping and commerce in general. But it was only the most recent natural disaster to inflict pain on business. Mere weeks ago it was winter storms across the United States. Citrix Online says that emerging technology and the channel can play a crucial role in keeping businesses in business, even through natural disasters.
The world is digging its way out of Iceland's volcanic ash, but the costs are expected to run into the billions of dollars, with the airline industry already out $1.7 billion after the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights since last week.
As VAR Dave Sobel, founder and CEO of Evolve Technologies, notes in his column, this has been a big problem for millions of people around the globe, including the United States, which had an estimated 40,000 Americans stranded in Britain. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the ash clouds cost the U.S. economy approximately $130 million per day.
"I never thought that I’d make this statement, but 'Volcanic ash has affected my business'." The ash has affected plans for a meeting he was trying to coordinate for Heartland Technology Groups (HTG).
According to Brett Caine, CEO of Citrix Online, the eruption was not only a disruption, but another non-too-subtle wake-up call to the channel that where there are problems, there are opportunities "We saw almost a doubling of GoToMeetings in Europe since the eruption started last week," he tells Channel Insider.
Under development by Expertcity when it was acquired by Citrix in 2003, GoToMeeting, which was launched in 2004, is a remote meeting and desktop sharing application that connects up to 15 people via the Internet. It's all about helping customers do business without worrying about physical location, says Caine, who has been running the business for the last six years. And disruptions are not going to go away.
"We are going to continue to see more and more disruptions in our work and personal lives." He says Citrix saw a lot of usage increase and customers trying out GoToMeeting this winter because of all the huge storms that swept the U.S.
The nice thing about GoToMeeting is that it is easy to set up and use, says Caine, and the flat-rate licensing model makes it very affordable as an alternative to travel. He adds that he heard from a customer stuck in Sweden who was able to salvage a $2 million deal by meeting online.
"Online meetings don't replace the need to meet face to face forever, but I do believe they build trust." For some situations you need to meet face to face, but for other situations, an online meeting can be just as effective, for a fraction of the cost. For these "in-between moments" you can simply and easily invite somebody to show them what you're thinking, he says.
"It can change the way you work, change the relationship," he says.
The good news for the channel is that Web collaboration in North America is growing at 17 to 18 percent per year, and Citrix Online is growing at 40 percent. "We're growing twice as fast as the market… (and) taking share."
However, while Caine says there's money to be made here, he adds that the channel is still trying to understand how to integrate these services into their businesses outside of their own use as a sales and marketing tool. "I don't think they've really integrated it into their value proposition."
He thinks it's not so much an issue of the value of collaboration, but rather, how to profit from it.
"I think that has more to do with software as a service that doesn't have a lot of follow on value to partners. It's simple to deploy, easy to use, not a lot of value add after."
Caine thinks the collaboration opportunity for the channel is the trusted business advisor approach. Partners can demonstrate to their customers that they're on their side, helping them to improve their businesses. Until customers use the product, they don't understand how it can improve productivity, he says. "It's just going to take time to become aware of or take advantage of these solutions."
The one thing Caine is certain about is that the collaboration market will continue to grow. Over the next few years he says the market will generate $3-4 billion in annual revenues, and will attract a lot more vendors and approaches. Citrix has coined the term "workshifting" for the ability to work anywhere and created a Web site with lots of useful information on the evolution of the workplace.