At the recently concluded Citrix Synergy conference which I attended a couple of weeks ago, CEO Mark Templeton was on stage to speak to partners, the media, analysts, and customers, expounding the virtues of a new work paradigm.
In his keynote address, he said: "When we all look at computing the way it has developed over the last 25 years, it's been built on a set of assumptions that is actually dead. The way Citrix is thinking about the future is that the exceptions of the personal computing (PC) era are now the new assumptions of the cloud era."
Going on to explain a concept that he called "life slicing", the 58-year-old, energetic head honcho of Citrix noted that employees are no longer hemmed in by desktops running legacy applications that can only be accessed by fixed terminals.
Today we intersperse our lives with work and personal commitments, he said, noting that unlike years ago, we have the tools today to make this happen. With that stage set, Templeton went on to announce a slew of new products and services created by Citrix to help enterprises decentralize work.
Some of the demonstrations on stage were indeed fascinating as they were impressive. The vendor has been playing in the desktop virtualization and application delivery space for a long time and has had good success doing it.
One of the more interesting demos was the one that featured Danish startup, Podio, which was bought by Citrix just six weeks before the Synergy Conference.
Touting the ability to deliver a cloud-based collaboration platform, Podio can be used for companies of all sizes from as few as three to large companies such as Citrix, which has thousands of users.
Podio brings the power of mobility and social features to team collaboration, making it easy for people to work the way they want in dynamic team work spaces, across any mix of employees, contractors and partners, Citrix claims.
Templeton's thoughts on life slicing got me thinking. For a number of years now, I too have been life slicing work and personal life. As a freelance correspondent for more than a few publications, including ZDNet Asia, I find that I'm not confined to a fixed location, needing a fixed phone line, or fixed software applications to do my work
I've always used my trusty MacBook on the move and my iPhone for work, as I don't even have a fixed line. A year ago, I switched to using a tablet to write most of my stories and conduct my one-on-one interviews with.
Evernote, my trusty cloud-based notepad, is how I get all my files synchronized across all my platforms--Windows desktop, MacBook, iPhone, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Dropbox is one of my storage facilities, accessible over all those same devices. Skype, my online communication to conduct interviews and conference calls, and MSN, Yahoo or Gtalk, for online messaging.
I've grown so accustomed to all these tools that I hardly think about them anymore. But as the notion of life slicing hit me, I realize that I'm actually neck deep in it. Of course as a small business, I'm able to make such decisions to work and live this way.
But what about larger enterprises, or legacy ones that have a lot of rules and regulations?
Well, I'm glad to report that the software tools and the hardware resources through virtualization and cloud computing are already available and there are some innovative solutions out there, not only from vendors such as Citrix, but others too.
But perhaps the biggest challenge of the adoption of this new work-life paradigm is culture. With such tools on hand, work and personal lives are certainly fused even more closely together.
So the question that begs to be answered is, is this necessarily a good thing?
If work is so accessible via these tools and devices, when will we ever switch off from work? How about the expectations set upon a mobile worker when say an e-mail is sent from a boss to a subordinate; how much time much is allowed to be lapsed before he is expected to answer?
This is something I put to Templeton at the Citrix Asia-Pacific media briefing. While he acknowledged that having the tools does mean work and personal life are more fused together, he was quick to add that it doesn't mean that it's bad.
"If I sent an e-mail, then I shouldn't expect an immediate response," he said. "Of course, I would get worried if I didn't get a response within 24 hours."
Granted. Such a timeframe to respond seems fair. But ultimately, it's not so much about the technology as it is about work culture and processes, and the expectations from bosses to subordinates.
Someone at the conference shared with me: "I've known of a boss who even called his subordinate on a Saturday just to find out about something not urgent, say, a confirmation of an appointment for the following week. Is this necessary?"
At the end of the day technology can only take you so far. Culture, work ethics and expectations are the issues that must be clearly defined before technology helps to make life slicing work for us.
If not, we'll be enslaved to our work, and life slicing won't just be a term to describe work-life balance, but will literally end up "slicing", or ruining, our lives.