35 Years At Cognisoft

Emma Cook: Celebrating 35 Years at CogniSoft

On this day in 1988…

September 5th 1988 is a day I still remember to this date. It’s the day I started a 3 month office job to help my dad out whilst I waited for my place at Hope Hospital Radiography unit.  It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, my father, Robin Lord was the Managing Director of CogniSoft and the phones were ringing off the hook.  They had just released their new software application, for new schemes, Youth Training and Employment Training (YT and ET),  following on from their success supplying software to JTS (Job Training Scheme) providers. He needed someone to answer the phones and package floppy disks into the post to customers.

Roll on 35 years, and I am still here.

Things have changed. A lot.

Join me in taking a stroll down my rusty memory lane….

Software in the 90s

Our Youth Training (YT) and Employment Training (ET) applications were DOS based applications written in a powerful 4GL language called TAS with a Btrieve backend database. The DOS system displayed on monitors with black screens and green character sets (or orange depending on your monitor). We copied the software onto 5.25” disks, packaged them up and posted them out to clients to be installed. My first computer was a dual floppy drive machine without a hard disk!

I quickly became more than the office admin and within 6 months I started supporting customers over the phone. This consisted of asking the customer to talk me through their problem, whilst I put the same moves in on my computer to work out what was happening, then talking the customer through the resolution. Many hours were spent on the phone to our customers back then and many long lasting relationships were formed.

We received copies of reports and printouts via the fax machine, we sent written instructions the same way. Within a year our desktop computers got hard disks – all 20 megabytes! 5.25” floppy disks were replaced with 3.5” ones which contained more data and reduced the number of disks we sent out.

 Then, our world changed in the very early 90’s when we could place fixes on our Bulletin Board using dial up modems and customers with the technology could download their updates by dialing in and downloading their files.

Windows applications quickly followed and in the early 90’s we re-wrote the software as a Windows application with a ‘modern’ look and feel.  CD Roms made the copying of software easier and only required 1 disk to be sent to those without the ability to download from our Bulletin Board.

Onset of the Internet

With the early appearance Internet content in the late 90’s, CogniSoft quickly realized that web based applications were the way forward, and we were one of the early software companies to release fully web based software applications. We created an online support system and released it in 2000 along with the first release of IO for the Connexions and Youth services.

YETI followed on a year later, both applications were re-written from the ground up and a few years later replaced Btrieve with Microsoft SQL as the backend database.

With Web based applications, support became easier, we could remote into customer systems to be walked through the issue, the quarterly software releases, no longer needed to be copied to disk and posted, but placed on our website for customers to download … no more production lines of copying and labeling the disks and packaging them for the post with release notes and compliment slips and finally the placing of hundreds of stamps – what a joy!

Our software model moved to Software as a Service (SAAS), CogniSoft provided a robust and secure hosting environment, and we took the IT headache away from our customers and fast forward to 2023… our service is now primarily hosted.  Our support team have direct access to all of our customer systems, we apply an update every 2 weeks bringing new features and bug fixes to our customers at a greater speed.

From Office admin to Managing Director

I started as an office administrator, onto support and then to implementing new systems which I did for 30 of my years here, until in 2020 when the responsibility of being Managing Director meant I could no longer dedicate the time to customer projects.

My role now is to lead my team in providing the best possible software for our customers. Our drive for improvement in our application never stops, we are passionate about supporting the learning and employment sectors and delivering software that makes it easy for our users to enter the data and for the senior teams to have access to their statistics and reports. The CogniSoft team consists of people who have worked in the sector and have a great understanding of the needs of our users as they have been there!

I still look back on my dream of becoming a radiographer in my Sliding Doors moment and wonder how different my life would have been, however I have loved every second of my 35 years with CogniSoft and I believe this is where I am meant to be.

I hope to continue to build on the reputation that my Dad started nearly 40 years ago and I look forward to each new year as it comes. We continue to build great partnerships with our customers, some of which date back to the mid 90’s,  embracing change whether technically or within the sector and  continuing to provide solutions to support our clients. 

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