Describing a tech company as ‘legacy’ isn't always seen as a compliment.
Even if the company invented an innovative computer system, application program or technology, once it has been deemed a legacy institution, it’s implied that the company is outdated and its technology in need of replacement.
That's why so many major companies have rebranded themselves in recent years — in tech and non-tech. From Southwest Airlines and Pizza Hut, to 10gen’s metamorphosis into MongoDB, rebrands are lengthy processes that involve more than just changing a logo.
Progress, a 35-year-old software company based in Bedford, knows this well. The company underwent a massive rebranding effort in 2016, hoping to shed any doubts it was not living up to its name.
We recently caught up with Jerry Rulli (pictured below), chief operating officer at Progress, to learn more about the company’s rebranding efforts and what it takes for legacy tech giants to stay relevant.
Progress (formerly known as Progress Software) helps companies build business software. It's used by more than 60,000 organizations like Adobe, SanDisk, Cigna and Nationwide to develop and deploy apps for any platform and device.
But despite Progress’ impressive list of clients, it’s been challenging for the company to market itself — especially in Greater Boston, where the booming tech scene has upped the ante for attracting and retaining top talent.
“For the longest time, we didn’t ask clients to put us on their websites,” Rulli said. “The unique thing about Progress is that we’re not an app — we’re a technology infrastructure provider.”
By 2013, Progress was profitable and continuing to provide tools for application development and data connectivity, but it wasn't growing. The company decided to rethink its modernization strategy and settled on returning to its key development roots, which involved purchasing companies to help it modernize and grow.
Progress began this growth process in June of 2013, buying Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider Rollbase before purchasing Modulus, a PaaS application for Node.js developers, a year later.
Progress’s largest purchase would happen in October 2014, however, when it acquired Telerik for $262.5 million.
While Progress works on the backend providing tools to build applications, Telerik offers tools for building the interface on the front end. The two companies complemented one another, and the acquisition gave Progress a stronger portfolio of products across platforms, providing customers a comprehensive development platform in mobile, cloud, on-premises or the web.
This was a huge win for Progress, but the company still struggled with its old-school image.
By 2016, the company decided it was time for a brand reboot.
“We spent a solid year working with an all-star digital agency to ensure our branding efforts were done right,” Rulli said. “Brand is so much more than a color scheme or logo, it describes what we represent, not only the technology we provide, but also our dedicated employee base, our loyal customers and the larger community that we serve.”
The rebranding effort included several phases that afforded the company the opportunity to dig deep, answer some difficult questions, assess who they were and determine who they aspired to be, Rulli said. From there, they defined a course forward that held true to their unique identity.
“A brand means nothing if it’s not built upon a solid foundation — it has to be authentic and represent who we are and who we want to be,” Rulli added.
After consulting with customers, investors and company insiders, Progress Software lost the ‘Software’ and simplified its name to ‘Progress.’ It also updated its logo, keeping its iconic gray text, but losing an orange starburst. Instead, Progress incorporated lime green building blocks to its logo, which Rulli said represented “urgency, aggressiveness and more energy.”
Rulli said he hopes that with the rebranding, Progress will attract even more local talent.
“If you’re going after a young developer, you have to show them a cool career developing cool stuff,” Rulli said. “We’re focused on building an amazing company that attracts top-notch talent. We work with the best developers to deliver the technology necessary for our customers to drive business forward.”
In the coming year, Rulli said one of the biggest challenges will be helping Progress’s customers transform digitally. He said he's confident that between Progress’s rebranding effort and recent additions to its technology portfolio, they can help their customers meet the challenges and reap the opportunities of digital business.
As Progress celebrates its 35th anniversary, Rulli added that he couldn’t imagine the company being located anywhere else.
“We are prouder than ever of our Boston heritage and the heritage of technology innovation that’s associated with the area. It’s a vibrant, diverse and exciting city where people want to be,” Rulli said. “We rely on the appeal of Boston itself to recruit the talent we need to succeed.”
Photos via social media