Progress Software to Restructure Again – Changing Corporate DNA

DNAI see that Progress Software is in the midst of another restructuring and that to achieve this it will shed 12%-14% of the workforce.

This article details the problem and describes how “One Progress”, an alignment of the different divisions under the same banner, is the plan to turn the company around. I for one really hope that Progress can find some upward momentum. I worked for Progress for many years and still have some close friends at the company and its demise and inability to capitalise on the excellent technology it produces frustrated me then and it saddens me now.

President and Chief Executive Rick Reidy is tasked with a tough mission. To turn around a company whose main product line has reached maturity and whose growth initiatives and acquisitions have failed to gain traction. All of this in ultra-competitive markets and a pretty tough economic climate. My colleague Steve Craggs asked the question a little while ago whether the time is right for Progress to be acquired. It obviously wasn’t then but surely that point is getting closer.

In another article, some detail is provided on how the company plans to turn things around. It plans to:

1.Enhance Progress Software’s product strategy by focusing on growth opportunities in the enterprise software market and bring new products and solutions to market;

2.Change the way Progress Software takes its products to market by becoming more customer and solutions driven. This strategy will enable the company to be even more focused on ensuring customer and partner success.

3.Increase Progress Software’s market awareness, leveraging its more visible product brands that carry strong recognition in their respective markets.

It looks like a good to-do list. The question is whether it can be done.

The last two items struck a chord with me. Historically Progress always saw the technology as primarily important and the marketing function as a necessary evil and cost-centre. Instead of viewing marketing as the creative engine room that could give its products the platform they deserve, the engineering team had a disproportionately loud voice.

This approach came from the previous leadership’s engineering roots coupled to a negative attitude to the very concept of marketing. Instead of listening to the needs of companies and aligning all sales and marketing efforts behind them, products were developed to solve internally perceived technical problems or to match competitors’ functionality. Products were marketed based on esoteric features which resulted in ephemeral technology leadership but not continued sales dominance. It was still great technology because Progress is an engineering company but it was technology for technology’s sake.

I must say that whilst I worked with Rick years back, since he’s taken the helm I really don’t know what priority he places on strategic marketing within the new One Progress. But to achieve 2 and 3 on that list above will involve a fundamental change of corporate DNA.

I just hope that they try to sell and market their way out of the problem and not engineer their way out.

Danny Goodall

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