Reinventing Progress Software—Boston’s Next Billion-Dollar Company?

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whatever you need to build, deploy, manage, and merge in business applications, you can get it from Progress.

X: Describe how the company got to this stage, with so many separate parts that need unifying.

RR: About 10 years ago we embarked on a diversification strategy, which culminated in us starting companies on our own but also acquiring other companies—14 of them so far. For example, we started Sonic Software, which pioneered the whole category of enterprise service clouds, which is now the standard way people interact with clouds. People think of it as Sonic, but we started it.

Over the course of seven or eight years, we built up a collection of products and divisions and companies with different brands that were utterly unassociated with Progress. You had to carry business cards that were from Sonic or Data Direct. If you wanted to buy a Sonic or a Data Direct product you had to go to two different offices and call two different numbers for tech support.

And we had doubled the size of the company to half a billion dollars a year, but now we want to get to a billion. To do that, we have changed our strategy. More and more, we are going to integrate and go to market as Progress Software, with a more complete set of products that can be bundled and sold together. We’re pretty much 80 percent of the way there now, and we are now beginning to proselytize and promote Progress Software as a brand.

X: Why the change in philosophies from diversification to unification? Was the old philosophy mistaken in some way?

RR: No, it was for a very good reason, and I used to be the biggest separatist in the company. I ran one of those divisions, and I wanted nothing to do with Boston [i.e., headquarters]. For Progress, it was the right strategy at the time, based on the fact that we were trying to become best-of-breed in each segment. The market at the time was accepting of companies that did it this way, versus pulling everything together. I thought we did a good job, and one of the reasons we were successful is that we were able to keep a lot of these teams together.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it just isn’t the right thing for the next transformation we have to go through. Our size and scale is different, so there is a lot more to the synergies than we might have had 10 years ago. And the market has changed. People are not looking for best-of-breed, they are looking for solutions. So, I make no apologies. If there is anything we did wrong, it may have been … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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One response to “Reinventing Progress Software—Boston’s Next Billion-Dollar Company?”

  1. Charles Finkelstein says:

    Layoffs. Moving jobs to India. Used to be a good company. Not any more.