Last week I made my annual 24-hour flying visit to the US east coast and the Progress Software analyst day. Last year CEO Rick Reidy laid out plans to create a $1billion company by bringing together a number of its brands (particularly Savvion, Actional, Apama) together under the concept of ‘Operational Responsiveness’ through ‘Responsive Process Management’ (RPM).
Unsurprisingly, the 2011 event was principally a continuation of the 2010 day—as last year, this year was pretty much all about RPM and Progress’ efforts so far in developing its technology and marketing. The meat of the event saw Reidy, backed up by CTO John Bates and John Goodson, Rob Levy’s replacement as SVP Products, announcing and (fleetingly) demonstrating Progress RPM Suite 2.0 and Control Tower 2.0.
The second release of the RPM Suite deepens the integration between Actional (transaction management and event adapters), Apama (event processing) and Savvion (BPMS) technologies, but most importantly brings Control Tower 2.0 into the picture.
Control Tower 2.0 adds a number of significant capabilities, particularly:
- Progress Visual Analytics—embedded analytics tools to help administrators drill down from high-level dashboards to underlying models, KPIs, and process instance data
- The ability to launch corrective actions on-the-fly in the Savvion platform from within Control Tower, in response to alerts regarding process problems
- Collaborative web-based process modelling from within Control Tower (this is something Savvion’s been working on for a while).
My concern at the previous year’s event was that Progress was in danger of painting itself into a corner: by highlighting RPM as the “next step beyond BPM”, it was in danger of creating for itself a very specialised niche. It seems that the company understands this challenge, and is doing some things to try and avoid this particular trap. We heard about three specific initiatives, all of which are related.
Firstly, it’s creating a set of vertical industry ‘solution accelerators’—building on the Savvion strategy pre-acquisition—aimed at tapping directly into buying needs of line-of-business executives in target industries. These are being driven by dedicated Progress VPs in six key sectors: capital markets, banking, insurance, travel, supply chain, and comms/media. Solution accelerators target particular industry issues (for example in comms/media the three currently-available accelerators target order management, integrated trouble management and order visibility and assurance).
Solution accelerators comprise two layers atop the Progress RPM Suite. The lower layer is a set of solution-specific ‘foundation components’ (protocol and application adapters and so on) that are sold and supported by Progress as products; customers will receive fixes and updates to these through maintenance contracts. The upper layer is a set of solution-specific templates and assets that are provided ‘as is’ and not supported or maintained by Progress.
Secondly, and building on its strategy of developing solution accelerators for particular industry pain points, Progress is now pitching its RPM technology set as an enabler for software solutions to problems that sit between traditional packaged apps and traditional custom software development.
Thirdly, it’s delivering a SaaS platform for its large existing OpenEdge partner base to help them use Progress RPM technologies, together with their OpenEdge investments, to deliver new offerings for customers. The platform is called Arcade, and it combines a technical platform (hosted versions of Progress technologies on Amazon and Rackspace) with a business development platform (services to help Progress partners demonstrate/promote their applications, deliver joint go-to-market programmes around joint offerings with Progress, and so on). Arcade is currently in beta and is due to become generally available soon.
The company is putting a lot of effort into becoming more business- and industry- focused but there’s more to do. For one thing, investment in industry solution accelerators isn’t unique to Progress: IBM, for one, is putting a lot of investment in this area; Pegasystems is also renowned for having a strong focus on its solution frameworks (Pega spends 50% of its R&D developing its frameworks; Progress’ investment in this area is likely very much smaller, based on remarks by Reidy on the day).
Having said all that, the steps outlined by Progress are mostly pointing in the right direction. There are exceptions, though: for example, the strangely-named “Business Process Transformation Live” methodology briefly outlined at the event is really nothing of the sort, and definitely fails the test of making sense in an industry exec buyer context.