With its game-changing potential to disrupt entire industries, blockchain technology arrived on a wave of hype, fuelled primarily by the success of bitcoin. By and large it has delivered, but while the headlines may have waned, we are now seeing a maturing and evolution of its scope beyond the world of crypto currency and finance.
More and more industries are seeking to capitalise on the tamper-proof assurance that distributed ledger technology brings to critical transactions. Adding to that assurance, is the fact that members can track and exchange assets over the internet, with a record of all digital exchanges (ledger) replicated to those participants.
It is most certainly driving efficiencies in manufacturing for example, specifically when tracking containers during the shipping process. Thanks to blockchain, all participants in the supply chain can access the information relevant for them and can act on it with a convenience that reduces effort and the usual amount of paperwork involved.
Healthcare has become another notable proponent. As with other industries where the exchange of information can be heavily fragmented, the sector is starting to reap the rewards of replacing the reliance on the verification of middleman with the watertight encryption blockchain provides, bolstering security and working to eliminate human error.
Yet in common with many disruptive technologies, the potential and opportunity here can still be compromised, specifically with regard to implementation. For example, how blockchain is integrated within the rest of an IT infrastructure becomes a major determinant in deriving optimal value, as bottlenecks and siloes will only serve to compromise any value.
Ripping out existing systems deeply embedded into the architecture is an unviable option for many organisations which have come to rely on established systems for multiple critical operations and simply cannot afford the business disruption. As such, the focus shifts to how we manage the migration of blockchain to form an additional layer to the incumbent system, both from a technical and cultural standpoint.
First, we need an organisation-wide mindset that recognises the opportunity that blockchain represents. Opportunities that are breathing new life into existing systems and supercharging them with additional capabilities such as greater automation, business process improvement and deeper business insight. Technically, this demands a solution that enables ledger applications to be interconnected with the rest of the enterprise architecture, be on premises or in the cloud and to combine with analytics for real-time monitoring. Indeed, tools that glean deeper data insights through enhanced visualisation are a critical component for deriving actionable intelligence from the technical and business data that blockchain is constantly generating.
But this must be in tandem with an approach by blockchain developers and architects whereby the purpose, capabilities and scope of blockchain is always aligned to specific business outcomes. It may sound an obvious point, but a common shortfall I often see around this technology is a siloed approach and even the most disruptive technologies are stunted by a lack of collaboration, where the entire purpose of the technology is to function in a tightly networked chain.
True success depends on continuous evolution, which means practitioners require an agile and innovative dev-ops mind-set, over and above pure technical proficiency. Such a mindset, combined with a solid foundation in cryptography skills and highly effective implementation, make businesses well placed to capitalise on a maturing, but still evolving, addition to the digital transformation journey.