Simplifying The Blockchain Implementation Conundrum

Deepak Sharma, Global IT Director, Agility | Monday, 11 November 2019, 09:25 IST

A solution looking for a problem is how one CIO defined Blockchain. This is a technology which is was invented back in 2008 but is still not understood by most. Stephen Colbert said everything about Blockchain in four words. “It’s gold for nerds”.

It was created to serve as the public-transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The invention of the Blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency to solve the “double-spending”[1] problem without the need of a trusted authority or central server. Arnon Grunberg explained the value of trust in his quote, “The relative success of the bitcoin proves that money first and foremost depends on trust. Neither gold nor bonds are needed to back up a currency.”

“As more and more executives understand the benefits Blockchain can bring, and as they complete the implementation of other digital technology initiatives, they are finding the bandwidth and budget to start seriously looking at Blockchain”

The success of Blockchain in the cryptocurrency world led to the entry of Blockchain into the business world. But why was the business world interested in it? With the advent of the Internet the process of buying and selling has become even more anonymous than it was before. This has resulted in a decreasing level of mistrust among businesses. Blockchain addressed the issue of trust through the use of a trustworthy ledger. A ledger which is resistant to data modification.

                                    Deepak Sharma, Global IT Director, Agility

"an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way".[2}

Blockchain Advantages

• Greater transparency.

• Enhanced security.

• Improved traceability.

• Increased efficiency and speed of transactions.

• Reduced cost.

If The Benefits Are So Great Why Is It Not Being Used?

The real benefits Blockchain brings is when there is a network of companies in it. The more the volume the higher the benefit. But unlike other digital technologies likes IoT, AI, RPA and many others it is a single organization implementing it for themselves. The advantages that come out of it extend to the organization, their customers and vendors. Therefore the company is in control of when & how to create solutions. But Blockchain is a totally different beast. This being one of the reasons companies are struggling to implement Blockchain and in most cases they do they do not see any value. So there has to be a paradigm shift to deliver the value of Blockchain; a model in which the organization owns & controls theirs systems and to a model in which systems are shared. In other words to build “trust” you have to trust other. Somewhat of an oxymoron!

Blockchain has been around for over a decade. A lifetime in the world of information technology. And yet it has very few, if any, best practices, fragmented at best a proven ROI and little experience of companies who have implemented it fully. But as more and more executives understand the benefits Blockchain can bring, as they become more familiar with the technology and as they complete the implementation of other digital technology initiatives, they are finding the bandwidth and budget to start seriously looking at Blockchain. As a result ideas and best practices are emerging to initiate the use of Blockchain.

1. Industry Collaboration

One needs to look at history to understand the importance of this. The United Nations was formed in October 1945. Imagine back in 1940 when Communism was active in major countries of the world. Britain was still ruling over India and dictatorship was still around. Yet the world took a leap of faith and decided to create an organization where all of these countries would come to together to solve problems i.e. the United Nations. This was something akin to Blockchain where everyone had to trust everyone to solve common problems.

In other words collaboration was the key. And it was motivated to address common problems, if not resolved may even read to oblivion. Today, Climate Change is bringing all countries together to battle a common problem. The world of industry is no different. Industries constantly face situations where a rule or law or natural events may seriously harm the industry. So common pain needs a common resolution.

This means organizations need to come together to address a common problem for their own benefit and for others.

2. Build A Better Mousetrap And The World Will Beat A Path To Your Door– Not With Blockchain

The age old adage of “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” cannot apply to the implementation of Blockchain. The very crux of Blockchain is collaboration. So building a wonderful Blockchain solution on your own and then asking other companies to subscribe to it will start with resistance. Any Blockchain implementation must be done together with other companies. Each must trust and believe in the other to address the core problem they are facing.

This is further complicated because the understanding of Blockchain is very limited across organizations. So getting everyone to the same baseline will need leadership from one or a few.

3. A Third Party

Bringing competitors together to develop a solution is in itself very hard. Ensuring they continue working together without issues developing is close to impossible. The solution is to have a neutral party in the room. Someone who everyone trusts.

4. Evolve

Organizations are still getting their heads around Blockchain. Combine this with the fact they have to work with other organizations makes it even harder. So what is the solution? Use the Agile methodology and produce systems in 1 of 2 week sprints. Success promotes confidence. Shorter sprints also ensure that as you develop you can change. Developing a system with one user giving the requirements is hard enough. Multiple organizations giving requirement makes it much-much harder.

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