Company typeBrand (of IBM)
FounderAlan Rushforth
Peter Glenister
Defunct2009 (2009)
HeadquartersOttawa, Ontario, Canada
Key people
Rob Ashe, General Manager, IBM Business Analytics
ProductsBusiness intelligence
Data visualization
WebsiteOfficial website

Cognos Incorporated was an Ottawa, Ontario-based company making business intelligence (BI) and performance management (PM) software. Founded in 1969, at its peak Cognos employed almost 3,500 people and served more than 23,000 customers in over 135 countries until being acquired by IBM on January 31, 2008.[1] While no longer an independent company, the Cognos name continues to be applied to IBM's line of business intelligence and performance management products.


Cognos was founded in 1969 by Alan Rushforth and Peter Glenister.[2] Michael U. Potter joined Cognos in 1972, and was its chief executive officer from 1975 until 1995.[3] It began as a consulting company for the Canadian federal government and offered its first software product, QUIZ, in 1979. During the Canadian recession in the 1980s, Cognos shifted its focus from consulting to software sales.[citation needed]

Originally Quasar Systems Limited, it adopted the Cognos name in 1982. Cognos is a fragment scissored off the Latin word "cognosco," which means "knowledge from personal experience".[4] Cognos became a public company in August 1986 trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange as CSN and on the NASDAQ as COGN. Its independent existence ended on January 31, 2008, when Cognos was acquired by IBM.[5]

In 1995, Ron Zambonini was named CEO and brought new marketing strategies. Cognos grew successful with its business intelligence products for local area networks (LAN), but new Internet technologies had come into the BI industry faster than the company had anticipated. After Cognos issued a notice informing shareholders of a slowdown in growth, many sold their shares, causing prices to fall quickly.[6][unreliable source?][when?]

This prompted Cognos to build its web technology through the acquisition of other companies rather than internal research and development. In September 2007, Cognos announced that it would be acquiring Applix.[7] It had previously acquired Right Information Systems (4Thought), Interweave (Impromptu Web Query), Relational Matters (DecisionStream), Scientific Time Sharing Corporation (LEX2000), NoticeCast, Adaytum, Frango, DataBeacon, and Celequest.

In January 2010, as part of a reorganization of IBM Software Group, software from Cognos and recently acquired SPSS were brought together to create the Business Analytics division.

On December 31, 2013, UNICOM Systems, a division of UNICOM Global acquired the PowerHouse product line including PowerHouse 4GL Server, Axiant® 4GL and PowerHouse Web®,[8] so Powerhouse products would no longer be part of the IBM product set.

Federal investigation

In August 2007, the Massachusetts state Information Technology Division awarded Cognos a $13 million USD contract for performance management software. This followed a 2006 $4.5 million USD state contract awarded to Cognos by the Massachusetts Department of Education. These contracts came under scrutiny from the State Ethics Commission and the office of state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan when several conflicts of interest surrounding Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Salvatore DiMasi and his accountant Richard Vitale came to light.[citation needed]

In the course of these investigations, a payoff from former Cognos sales executive Joseph Lally in the amount of $600,000 USD was found to have been made to Vitale's company WN Advisors. Vitale and WN Advisors were not registered as state lobbyists and did not disclose the payments, the bulk of which were apparently made on the same day that the state wired funds for the multimillion-dollar contracts to Cognos. The disposition of the funds has not been disclosed and the State has rescinded the contracts. IBM, who now owns Cognos, has refunded the improperly awarded $13 million USD paid to Cognos.[9] A second close associate of DiMasi's, lawyer Steven Topazio, was placed on a two-year $5,000 a month retainer for unspecified purposes. This retainer stopped the same month as the second Cognos contract was awarded.[10]

In addition to the payoffs made to close associates of DiMasi, it is known that Vitale helped arrange a below-market mortgage for DiMasi, which violated state Ethics laws.

On December 17, 2008, The Boston Globe confirmed that the State investigations were being joined by a Federal Grand Jury probe investigating the allegations and potential violations of Federal law. On June 2, 2009, DiMasi, Vitale, Lally, and Cognos lobbyist Richard McDonough were indicted "on a battery of...corruption charges" as a result of that probe.[11]

Acquisition of Cognos by IBM

In 2007, following SAP's acquisition of Business Objects and Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion Solutions,[12] IBM announced its acquisition of Cognos in November for $4.9 billion.[13] It continued to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary (Cognos, an IBM company) until January 1, 2009, when it was absorbed into the IBM Infosphere product line under IBM Information Management Software brand within the company's Software Group. The software is now called "IBM Cognos Analytics" and "IBM Planning Analytics" or CA and PA.

BI market

IBM's purchase of Cognos and other business intelligence software vendors was a step in establishing IBM as a BI "megavendor" (along with Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP). This consolidation may prove beneficial for customers to have fewer vendors to deal with, but this raises concerns about integration of the software as more vendors are bought out by the big four. Another challenge is maintaining the same level of customer service. Gartner interprets the lower ratings given in "customer experience" for IBM Cognos and SAP Business Objects as a result of post-acquisition issues.[14] Due to many consolidations in the BI industry, there are only a few independent "pure-play" vendors remaining (SAS and MicroStrategy being the largest).[15]


On October 26, 2015, at the IBM Insight conference in Las Vegas, IBM leadership announced a redesigned user experience for its flagship Cognos Business Intelligence software. The redesign will be version 11 and an upgrade from Cognos Business Intelligence 10.x. The differentiation in the version 11 release also required renaming to IBM Cognos Analytics, based on the same self-service design principles as Watson Analytics. The redesigned Cognos product also features smarter search that works in-context.

On October 25, 2010, at the Business Analytics Forum in Las Vegas, IBM general manager for business analytics and former Cognos CEO Rob Ashe announced IBM Cognos 10.[16] A significant upgrade to IBM Cognos 8 BI, this new software brings together social collaboration and analytics for business users to gain real-time intelligence in a single, user-friendly interface — online or through mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone and BlackBerry devices.

IBM Cognos 8 BI, initially launched in September 2005, combined the features of several previous products, including ReportNet, PowerPlay, Metrics Manager, NoticeCast, and DecisionStream. There are also Express and Extended versions of Cognos 8 BI. Full features:

IBM Cognos Express, launched in September 2009, is an integrated business intelligence and planning solution[buzzword] purpose-built to meet the needs of midsize companies. The features of Express are:

IBM Cognos also offered several application development tools (which IBM later sold to UNICOM Global):

IBM Cognos Analytics also currently offers a free trial


IBM Cognos 8 BI has won numerous awards including the eWEEK Excellence Award in Analytics and Reporting, the LOTUS ADVISOR "Editor's Choice" Award, and TechTarget's 2005 Product of the Year.

In 2007, Cognos was named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers, as published in Maclean's magazine, one of only a handful of software development companies to receive this honour.[18]

Prior to being acquired, Cognos had been named to the InformationWeek 500, chosen as one of START-IT Magazine's "Hottest Companies of 2006" and won "Best of Information On Demand Showcase" as part of the IBM Information Management Awards.

Cognos, now as IBM Cognos Software, continues to rank in the Leaders quadrant of Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence.[19]


  1. ^ Riley, Duncan (Nov 12, 2007). "Acquisitions: IBM Buys Cognos, Microsoft Buys Musiwave".
  2. ^ Roger Voyer; Patti Ryan (1 January 1994). The new innovators: how Canadians are shaping the knowledge-based economy. James Lorimer & Company. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-55028-463-8. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Biography - Mr Michael U Potter". Royal Canadian Air Force. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  4. ^ Gale Directory of Company Histories
  5. ^ IBM Completes Acquisition of Cognos February 1, 2008
  6. ^ "Company History: Cognos, Inc". Retrieved October 14, 2010.
  7. ^ Cognos Plans Acquisition Start-IT Magazine September 13, 2007 Archived November 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Woodie, Alex (2014-01-21). "Unicom Adds HP3000 Biz with Cognos ADT Buy". Four Hundred Stuff. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  9. ^ Estes, Andrea (March 10, 2008). "Software contract called improper". The Boston Globe.
  10. ^ Cognos Deals Face Federal Scrutiny December 17, 2008
  11. ^ DiMasi, 3 associates charged with rigging of state contracts June 3, 2009
  12. ^ Blakely, Rhys (November 12, 2007). "IBM acquires Cognos for $5bn". The Times. London.
  13. ^ Asay, Matt (November 12, 2007). "IBM buys Cognos for $4.9 billion as industry consolidation hits overdrive". CNet News.
  14. ^ Henschen, Doug (February 3, 2010). "SAP Questions Gartner BI Magic Quadrant Ranking".
  15. ^ Weier, Mary Hayes (November 12, 2007). "What IBM's Cognos Acquisition Means For The BI Market And Its Customers".
  16. ^ "IBM Unveils New Information Management And Analytics Software To Help Organizations Gain Faster Insight For Smarter Business Outcomes". IBM. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Cognos Analytic Applications". Archived from the original on 2011-02-26.
  18. ^ "Reasons for Selection, 2007 Canada's Top 100 Employers". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29.
  19. ^ Henschen, Doug (February 3, 2010). "SAP Questions Gartner BI Magic Quadrant Ranking". Recapping the MQ leaders quadrant, Oracle and Microsoft led on ability to execute while IBM Cognos and SAP BusinessObjects led on completeness of vision. The three other vendors in the quadrant were SAS, MicroStrategy and Information Builders...