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What Does Research Say is the Competitive Advantage of Data?

by Kevin Benedict

June 17, 2013

The explosion of mobile devices, e-commerce and "The Internet of Things" is introducing massive amounts of new data into our ecosystem.  Some companies ignore this data for all but the most tactical explorations, but others are revolutionizing entire industries by recognizing the value of this data and taking advantage of it.

My colleague, Ben Pring, has been conducting a lot of research this year on the impact of business analytics, big data and other fast emerging business strategies on a company's ability to compete.  In this guest post Ben shares his latest findings. 

What one key characteristic separates today’s high-flying outperformers – such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix and Pandora – from fast-followers, wannabes, and laggards? It’s a precision focus on the information that surrounds people, organizations, products and processes – what we call Code Halos ™ – to build new business and commercial models. These leading companies have realized that the data – or Code Halo – that accompanies people, organizations and devices contains a richness of business insight that far outstrips the value of physical assets that have historically underpinned market leadership. Conversely, companies that have missed or misunderstood the Code Halo phenomena are now struggling to cope in markets that are moving at warp speed; some, in fact, have already succumbed.

We are in the early stages of an exciting and important new era in which Code Halos radically reshape the rules of business competition. Built on the SMAC Stack ™ (social + mobile + analytics + cloud technologies), Code Halos are being harnessed to help enterprises advance from old-world industrial models (premised on physical assets) to new structures informed by by digits.  Our study of Code Halos, in fact, reveals a new “crossroads” that businesses across industry must navigate to achieve sustained market prosperity and avoid what we call an “extinction event.” 

From Personal to Business Code Halos

Each one of us is creating our Code Halo with every click or swipe of our phone, tablet, laptop, Glass, Nest, FuelBand, dashboard, or other smart device. Every transaction we make, every “like” we record, every preference we note, is building a digital fingerprint of who we are and what makes us tick. Our Code Halos, which have been building and deepening as more and more of our lives have become digitized, contain a multiplicity of attributes that reveal our likes, dislikes and behaviors, from recommendations of  great new books to  personalized radio stations that play our favorite  songs, many of which haven’t left their CD cases for a million years.

The Code Halos that exist around individuals are unlocking incredible new value for all of us and for the companies that we do business with.  But the Code Halo story doesn’t end in the consumer world. More and more smart companies are realizing that the concept of Code Halos isn’t confined to (relatively) simple B2C activities, such as book selling or online music. Instead, they’re recognizing that their very organizations have a Code Halo and that within their organizations they have hundreds, thousands, millions of Code Halos, made up of every digital interaction with every smart device they touch across “the Internet of Things”  (all of which of course have their own Code Halos).

This realization is sending profound shock waves through board rooms, as forward-thinking business and technology leaders begin to see the impact that the management – or mismanagement of Code Halos – has on corporate fates. In fact, many are now coming to grips with Code Halo intersections and how they can impact every meaningful aspect of their business operations, from design, to production, to selling, to talent management. 

Winning in the New Code Rush

Whether it be the hipster in San Francisco using Square Wallet on his morning latte run or the engineering conglomerate getting its turbines to Tweet or the Singaporean government establishing its homeland as a “living analytics” test bed, the leverage of Code Halo thinking is making businesses big and small think about how the code they generate can collide with the code generated by other people, devices, and organizations. And, perhaps more importantly, how this data can be mined to create new products and services that are genuinely innovative.

To learn more about Code Halos, download our white paper at

Ben Pring co-leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. He joined Cognizant after spending 15 years with Gartner as a senior industry analyst researching and advising on areas such as cloud computing and global sourcing. Prior to Gartner, Ben worked for a number of consulting companies including Coopers & Lybrand. His expertise in helping clients see around corners, think the unthinkable and calculate the compound annual growth rate of unintended consequences has brought him to Cognizant, where his charter is to research and analyze how organizations can leverage the incredibly powerful new opportunities that are being created as new technologies make computing power more pervasive, more affordable and more important than ever before. Ben graduated with a degree in philosophy from Manchester University in the UK. He can be reached


Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant

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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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