Ron Zambonini, the former chief executive officer of Cognos, passed away at 70 on Sunday after suffering from lung cancer.
Born in Motherwell, Scotland of Italian heritage, Zambonini migrated to Canada in the 1970s. Earlier in his career, he worked as a programmer and later on held executive positions in various tech companies.
Zambonini was one of Ottawa’s most notable individuals contributing to the technological success of the region. He was a well-respected visionary leader who spearheaded the growth of software company Cognos – from the company’s beginnings as a specialized business intelligence provider to a global leader in corporate performance management.
Under his 19 years at the helm, Cognos’ revenue grew from $120 million to a reported $700 million and 22,000 customers upon his retiring in 2004. Later in 2007, IBM announced it would acquire all of Cognos’ shares for $5 billion.
The energetic Zambonini was known by his colleagues as a consummate showman dressing up as William Wallace from Braveheart, Zorro, and Scottie from Star Trek. In an interview, he conveyed showmanship just might have helped to generate sales.
For Zambonini’s family, he was much more than an executive or strategic salesman, he was a devoted father and grandfather who enjoyed time with his family. Away from the office, he was a very private person. His friends described him as a flamboyant man who was down to earth and a role model to all.
Zambonini did not consider himself highly technical but believed he was destined to be a manager. A leader to many, he was trailblazer who turned a budding tech company into a global software powerhouse.