Computer Business Review

SMAC heads and their Halos

by | 13 June 2014

Book Review: Some advice for those ready to embrace digital disruption

Despite its clunky title of Code Halos, How the digital lives of people, things, and organizations are changing the rules of business. A playbook for managers, in the end I found myself rather enjoying this book.

I've read 'Digital' revolution business stories before starting back in the 1995 with Nic Negroponte's Being Digital.

The problem with far too many of these books is that they are endorsed as 'important' by Amazon or Nike C suite execs and gush about how corporates thrived by embracing the transformative power of IT, while ignoring the efforts made, dead ends travelled and luck involved in success.

This effort does occasionally fall into some of the same traps. Citing the winners in the digital business wars - see above and add Netflix - is easy after the fact and I've never won anything by naming a winner after a race.

This is a 'playbook for managers' and is a three way collaboration by staffers at Indian services firm Cognizant- see below.

The book offers some solid advice but also cites some strange references - when exactly did Compaq Computer manage to cope to Dell's ecommerce strategy? By being bought out by HP?

Paul Roehrig, one of the authors, said: "You might look at this and think that you have seen this movie before with people talking about paradigms. But this is a Spielberg blockbuster. This isn't just about an architectural shift, this is about IP enabled competitive differentiation. Computing power is providing a platform to generate data from every IP address on every item including wearable technology and Internet of Things. Smart companies will rewire who they are and what they do."

"Who the winners are can compete on code, are shifting from the physical value chain to the physical and data chain. Ones that are able to convert massive info and data into usable business information."

So what are they offering? A code halo is the notion that as actions are increasingly digitised, therefore recorded, they can be analysed and used to build business.

The authors offer a model, or several models to make up an engagement methodology.

The proposition that this digital disruption revolution is different. Because the internet exists we conduct more of our individual personal and professional lives via Social and Mobile tech activities. And companies will succeed if they use the data generated through more and better Analytics and Cloud. That's the SMAC stack.

The author's take a long time to get to the proposition for IT

They borrow heavily, (nothing wrong with that) and suggest the three horizon model - (Baghai, Coley and White, published 1999 in The Alchemy of Growth) be applied to IT.

H1: Extend and defend core business. H2: Build emerging business H3: Create viable options.

IT also needs a federated structure, core infrastructure, systems of record, and systems of engagement.

This is a lens, they say and can be applied to many different use cases.

"A lot of budgets for the innovative stuff in tech now sit outside the IT department and in many businesses the CMO is doing the sexy part while the IT guys are doing the boring bit. What we lay out is how tech pros can back in the driving seat. They are the people to get this story stitched together," Paul Roehrig says.

Picture a meeting where a CIO, a CMO, a COO and a CTO discuss how the Code Halo strategy is going.

If you want to be the one to don a halo and consider, as the authors urge: 'How might you disrupt the entire industry in which you operate?' you should do so with caution.

If your halo slips it can be very difficult to get it back in place.


Code Halos, How the digital lives of people, things, and organizations are changing the rules of business. A playbook for managers.
Malcolm Frank (Strategy and marketing) Paul Roehrig (MD, Center for Future Work) Ben Pring (Director Center for Future work)
Wiley ISBN: 978 - 1 - 118 - 86207-0

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