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

3/24/10Follow @wroush

Most businesspeople around Boston can give you a thumbnail description of anchor companies like EMC (storage devices and information management) or Nuance (speech recognition) or Boston Scientific (medical devices). But what does Progress Software do, exactly? Considering that it’s the largest software-only company headquartered in Massachusetts—with $500 million in annual revenues, 1,800 employees around the world, and 70 of the Fortune 100 among its customer base—the Bedford, MA, business has a remarkably indistinct profile.

But Richard Reidy, who joined Progress (NASDAQ: PRGS) shortly after its founding in 1981 and became CEO in 2009, is out to change that. Under his leadership, the company’s disparate operating units and products—the legacy of 14 acquisitions and at least two big restructurings since the company went public in 1991—are being brought together under the slogan “One Progress.” That means not just eliminating redundant staff (the company laid off 250 workers, more than 12 percent of its workforce, back in December), but making it much more obvious to customers how the company’s products and services, which are designed to help companies build and run business applications, fit together.

Reidy says he wants to double the newly consolidated organization’s revenues to $1 billion per year, and make it the go-to software provider for organizations seeking to improve their “operational responsiveness”—a bit of management lingo that boils down to knowing more, sooner, about changes in the conditions affecting your business and having the means to act on them.

In a way, increasing this responsiveness is the whole reason companies buy enterprise software. But in practice, things don’t always mesh.

You might think of Progress as the BASF of the enterprise software market. The German chemical manufacturer’s tagline is, “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the product you buy better.” Well, Progress doesn’t make a lot of the software that big corporations use, but it makes that software work better.

Its main specialty is “business process management” software, which ties together other systems such as financial, human resources, and supply chain management programs and makes it easier for managers to routinize repeated tasks and spot problems. Closely related to that is the company’s “complex event processing” software, which can spot patterns in business data that aren’t detectable by humans, allowing organizations in industries such as financial services, transportation and logistics, and telecommunications to respond faster to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Charles Finkelstein

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