Cognos (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. 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. Michael U. Potter joined Cognos in 1972, and was its Chief Executive Officer from 1975 until 1995.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.

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”. 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 officially acquired by IBM.

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.