Progress Software CEO Richard Reidy Talks “Major Transition” and “Whole New Strategy”

Who’s the $500 million tech company that nobody has heard of? That would be Bedford, MA-based Progress Software, one of the largest software makers in the state. Progress (NASDAQ: PRGS) has been on quite a run lately, with its stock rising steadily since September—from a low of $26.71 on Aug. 31 to around $41 for the past few weeks in December.

In advance of the company’s quarterly earning announcement later today, I spoke with CEO Richard Reidy to get an update on the firm’s, well, progress toward some pretty ambitious goals. I particularly wanted to know what’s new at Progress since March 2010, when Reidy (pronounced “reedy”) and chief technology officer John Bates sat down with my colleague Wade Roush for an extensive two-part interview (here and here). One comment Reidy made in that Q&A stood out to me—that Progress is like a $500 million startup in some ways.

Turns out he didn’t mean that in the usual sense that big companies talk about—that they can innovate, do lots of R&D, and be nimble like a startup. He meant that Progress is making a fresh start, given its 30-year history—it has been publicly traded for 20 years—and given its extensive experience in lots of distinct business software markets. “Now we’re in a major transition into a very focused company,” Reidy says.

“We’ve always been way too entrepreneurial, way too curious, and meandering all over the place,” Reidy adds. “The notion of the ‘$500 million startup’ is now we’ve got all those assets, customers, technologies—what do we do to double the size of the company going forward? We’re embarking on a whole new strategy.”

Progress’s focus in the past year has been on selling software that helps companies be much more “operationally responsive.” That means if you’re an airline or travel agent, and your customers are all grounded by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, you figure out the logistics of trains, boats, and cars, and help them get on their way. If you’re a telecom company, you handle the day-to-day billing and services as mobile customers sign up across different devices. If you’re a bank, you need software to manage your computerized trading and react quickly to changes in the market.

In all these cases, what Progress provides is a sort of “control tower” that a business or operations person can use to track patterns and adjust to events as they occur. The interface goes beyond … Next Page »

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