Progress Revolution in Boston: more steps in the right direction, but what's around the corner?
Having attended Progress Software’s analyst day in the spring, not much of the high-level announcements and presentations at last week’s Progress Revolution in Boston were new to me, as such. But when I attend customer events like these, it’s not really about new announcements; the more interesting and important thing is to listen to how customers and partners are responding to the big noise on the stage and to each other.
Revolution is the first time that Progress has put one one unified customer and partner event for all parts of its business – from the heritage OpenEdge business (heavily driven by a large partner base) to Apama, Actional, Sonic, Savvion, and others. This is of course a natural consequence of Progress’ strategic shift to create ‘One Progress’ – and it also represented a huge opportunity not only for Progress customers to discover and explore unfamiliar parts of Progress’ portfolio; but also for Progress employees themselves to get the bigger picture of the overall business and how customers viewed it. From what I saw and heard, I’d say that Progress will end up being pretty happy with how the conference turned out.
From a product perspective, the connection with ‘One Progress’ is Responsive Process Management, or RPM – a vision that Progress is laying out for customers, but also a product suite. Here, there were a couple of pretty interesting things to report. First, with the release of version 2.2, it’s clear that RPM isn’t just focused on pulling together process automation with ‘sense and respond’ event processing technology in the operational environment; it’s about providing tools across the whole business improvement lifecycle. Business Transaction Monitoring technology from Actional can provide visibility (think process mining) into existing application portfolios, creating models that can then be used as a foundation for hooking in targeted process automation pieces (improved exception handling is one good example of what a customer might focus on); now, visibility is extended to mainframe environments, as well as SAP and TIBCO middleware installations. Progress Control Tower now provides not only dashboarding, but also some nice visual process performance analytics (courtesy of Tableau) and the ability to drill-down right to make targeted process optimisations, using a new web-based collaborative process design environment from the Savvion side of the house.
Right now the RPM vision appeals to a small advanced set of Progress customers; but it’s important not to dismiss it for that. RPM has important value beyond product sales, because it acts as a rallying point for different Progress brands and also shows customers and prospects that Progress has a vision of how it can help them move beyond use of point technology and process improvement tools.
Another element of the ‘One Progress’ strategy playing out that I think is pretty important is the new release of Progress OpenEdge, which is now integrated with Savvion’s BPMS (to create ‘OpenEdge BPM’). With this, Progress is now making a pitch similar to Pegasystems – it’s a provider of a platform for process-driven dynamic business applications. There is a difference, though – where Pega talks primarily directly to its enterprise customers, in Progress’ case the story is really aimed at its large ISV and OEM community. Progress has a big opportunity here: if it can convince its partners that BPM technology will help them turbo-charge their applications and businesses, it will not only strengthen its partner community and enable those partners to create deeper relationships with their customers; it will also potentially obtain a very broad BPM technology footprint in midsized enterprises that could create a competitive defence against potential encroachment by technology providers like IBM, SAP and Oracle. Early signs from the conference are promising: the partners I spoke to were very interested in finding out more about the role of BPM and how it could help them. Of course Progress has to follow up on all this interest with a solid product roadmap that will take partners forward over the next year or two.
Amid all this positive direction, though, there is one important issue hovering in the background: the uncertainty over who will take over as CEO and when (hat tip to Sandy for alerting me to the caretaker status of Rick Reidy). With a new leader the danger is that the company will lose momentum or make a radical strategy shift, or be tempted to ‘clear the decks’. When things seem to be headed in the right direction strategically, it would be a massive shame if Progress were to suddenly veer off course.