You may have seen how Citrix has embraced the transformative power that cloud services can bring to a business. As we have shifted our focus, putting Citrix Cloud at the center of our product strategy, we are also seeing the cloud transform the way we work across all functions of our business.

I recently started a new a blog series, The Way We Work, where I interview leaders across Citrix to hear first-hand how cloud services are transforming the way they work.

My first interview was with Kathy Wagner, Citrix Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Services Finance. In that role, Kathy manages strategic sourcing, procurement to pay operations, and many additional employee programs that include our Citrix travel and corporate credit card programs, mobile phone and data plans and contingent labor operations. Kathy also leads the Citrix Sales Finance team and manages and implements our Citrix subscriptions to many of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications we use, including Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass.

We connected with Kathy to explore how the Citrix move to embrace a hybrid cloud services model throughout the company has changed our procurement processes.

Joe: How has the Citrix procurement process changed related to purchasing software and services for our workforce, particularly our salesforce?

Kathy: We are now consciously looking at solutions that give our sales force the ability to do things outside the office and on the road. Concur and Workday are good examples of this.

If people on our sales team have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection they can use their smart phone to book a trip to visit a customer in Concur after looking at team time off and availability in Workday. They can also use their phone to take a picture of a receipt for a business expense and enter it in an expense report.

Joe: How did we decide to move to services like Concur, Fieldglass, and Workday?

Kathy: The biggest drivers for me to move to SaaS apps and tools like Concur and Fieldglass were simplicity and agility.

When we needed to make a change or an enhancement to our traditional behind the firewall apps, it often required our IT team to develop a level of effort, including hiring a coder, and prioritize it among their already tremendous workload. This typically translated into small enhancements not being delivered or taking many months.

Here is a great example of how our SaaS apps make us more agile. This year we wanted to be able to run a report to know how much we are spending on holiday parties. I just call my Concur admin and he adds the expense type, tests it and puts it into production – the whole process takes about an hour! When we had SAP for travel on-prem – the addition of an expense type took over 6 months!

Joe: How do these services change the way Citrix employees handle everything from checking in with managers to requesting time off to submitting expenses?

Kathy: The great thing about these SaaS apps is that they often come with a “born in the cloud” mobile app that makes approving and requesting things like expense reimbursement a small task you do while on a trip instead of a large administrative task that you do after the trip.

Employees can now take a picture of a receipt with the Concur app and upload it into the tool right at the dinner table, as opposed, to saving all the receipts and taping them to paper to scan and upload to SAP upon their return. This really fits into the Citrix philosophy on when and where work happens.

Also, the approvers not only get the ability to approve transactions from their mobile devices but they get to do so with more visibility than before. For example, in the US we used to have the ability to approve travel and expenses through e-mail but you did so with no access or visibility to where the expense occurred – it was just a total. Now with Concur and Citi, approvers have all that info in the palm of their hand so they can make informed decisions.

Joe: What have you learned through these changes? What factors are most important for a successful transition to these types of cloud services?

Kathy: I have learned a lot! But one of the biggest priorities I discovered are tasks you should do before making the transition. For example, you should standardize and simplify your process first. You will not be able to customize a SaaS based system for a non-standard process.

Then as you explore your options, you should really challenge complexity and why Citrix or a group within Citrix needs to be different – especially for routine processes like paying a bill or submitting an expense report.

You also need to look at it from a user perspective – the purpose of these systems is to make whatever process you are tackling easier and better for everyone including your customers, external or internal.

Another thing to remember is that you need to understand your integration points. Don’t underestimate the work it will take to make everything talk to each other seamlessly.

Joe: Have you seen specific business benefits that have come from using these new SaaS applications?

Kathy: Absolutely, as I discussed in some of the examples I gave – I believe we are more responsive to requests from our customers – whether it is reporting, analyzing, or proactively putting better governance and controls in place.

Joe: How do cloud-based services factor into our longer-term procurement plans?

Kathy: First of all, we are finding that the “born in the cloud” apps provide greater ease for configuring solutions to your needs without customization, which is a no-no in the cloud. These apps are also scalable to our business size and needs, for example, with Concur, we pay by the report and Ariba, we pay based on how much we spend. These SaaS systems help to drive a competitive landscape, size the solution to our future plans, and assure continued innovation and improvement in the service (as well as flexibility in being able to take advantage of these improvements).

Other software vendors are also migrating to a more subscription-based approach with monthly, quarterly or annual payments as opposed to a huge capital up-front purchase with annual license maintenance. As a result, we need to work with our business buyers to anticipate the longer term P&L and Balance Sheet implications of these funding and payment models.

Additionally, there are more and more elements of social networking being tied into SaaS solutions, and we need to consider how that will shape our ability to use these tools to our competitive advantage in the marketplace with customer, partners, suppliers and communities that we seek to reach.

Joe: What advice would you give someone at another company that is contemplating new subscription services like Workday and Concur?

Kathy: I would advise them to fully explore and take advantage of the competitive landscape for available SaaS solutions. They should refine and agree on the benefits that they are seeking to achieve before they decide on the best solution, and make sure those services are scalable for how the business will change over the long term.