Three Steps To Start With Blockchain Technology
Using blockchain to order the next pizza may be hi-tech, but low utility
The interest level of enterprises in the blockchain technology is at an all-time high -- partly driven out of FOMO (fear of missing out). Competitor’s marketing teams are busy inserting blockchain into the press releases, meetings are concluding with “are we doing anything on blockchain?” and no conference is complete without blockchain on the agenda.
Customers are demanding blockchain solutions and suppliers are caught in a catch-22 situation. Blockchain necessitates new levels of understanding - from engineers to the executives, radically reimagining the established ways of working and jostling with an “unproven” technology.
How do enterprises overcome the fear of the unknown and safely embark on their blockchain journey?
Knowledge of the technology
Understanding the blockchain technology is perhaps the most crucial step in the journey. Imagine the endless discussions within the enterprises during the decision to move to the cloud and open the corporate network for BYOD (bring your own device)? Compound it by at least 10 times for blockchain, as blockchain will demand changes to the basic fabric on which enterprises were built over the past decades and centuries.
Enterprises need to be prepared for long debates and tough decisions. Being a nascent technology, rapidly advancing daily, doesn’t help the cause either. However, a deep understanding of the core concepts of blockchain and distributed ledger technology, at all levels of the organizations, will make the debates worthwhile and the journey fruitful.
Choice of the problem to solve
The choice of the problem solved through blockchain is the next step in the journey. Stories of companies appending blockchain to their names to drive the share prices up abound. Suppliers websites now have a webpage dedicated to blockchain solutions -- usually a generic write-up on the blockchain.
But what problems are being solved? This question largely draws a blank. Using blockchain to order the next pizza may be hi-tech, but low utility.
At its core, blockchain helps in addressing three primary aspects:
Decentralization (no single point of failure)
Transparency and traceability (one view of the truth)
Immutability (irreversible chronology of events)
Enterprises are better off staying away from the blockchain technology if their blockchain enabled solutions don’t address these primary aspects.
Run pilots to shore up the confidence
“You cannot expect to reap the corn you have not sown” goes the saying. Running pilots to build up confidence in the technology and evaluating the fitment to the ecosystem, is the third critical step in starting with the blockchain technology. Given the elevated level of interest and hype, finding executive support for blockchain pilots shouldn’t be a mountain climb.
Most of the blockchain technologies out there is open source – source codes are freely available for download and support through online documents and open-source communities. This makes it easy for the supplier and buyer ecosystems to fast track pilots – either independently or jointly collaborate -- instead of having to build everything from scratch.
One needs to look within to draw inspirations for the pilots. All it takes is to look around one’s own business to realize how heavily the systems and the process are fragmented and manipulated day-in-day-out. Risk-averse? Start with the most benign of those problems.
Waiting for the planets to align?
Every single day governments, enterprises and individuals are adopting and advancing the technology. No one can clearly answer what blockchain technology will look like in a few years --it may have matured, morphed or mummified. But, as the saying goes, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take”.
Vijay is the co-founder at PrayingMantis.in, a tech-startup working on Digital Twins, Blockchain and AI/ML. He also advises leaders on digital technologies. He lives in Bengaluru, India.