IBM Corp. is making its largest acquisition ever, a deal announced Monday to buy Cognos Inc. for $5 billion in cash in hopes of keeping up with rivals in "business intelligence" software. The acquisition would follow similar moves in the same market this year. SAP AG recently linked up with Business Objects SA for $7 billion and Oracle Corp. grabbed Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion. Cognos shares had soared recently on expectations that it, too, would be acquired. They leaped another 8 percent on Monday's news.
Business-intelligence software helps big organizations gather data in "dashboards" that can be used to model such things as the financial impact of staffing changes or marketing moves. Because that capability meshes with other things business software does, big vendors like SAP, Oracle and IBM have moved to include business-intelligence applications in their product packages. But their challenge will be to technically integrate business-intelligence offerings in a way that is easier and less expensive for customers. David O'Connell, a senior analyst with Nucleus Research, said he was skeptical that will happen with IBM and Cognos. "I'm not sure it will become more than a bolt-on," he said.