Breaking Down The Complexity Of Blockchain: An Everyday Use-Case

Alan Bradbury

My previous blog looked at how a technology such as blockchain might be used to manage customer data, enabling its use for any government transaction. In this blog, we turn our attention to how blockchain technology might transform back-end processes.

Banks, governments, and retailers all transact with customers. Customers are often notified of the results of these transactions via paper or electronic means, such as SMS or email. Many of these entities, such as banks, have successfully embraced online technologies, providing customers with the ability to access and manage all of their accounts online through a portal or app. The situation with governments is more challenging, owing to a range of factors, including legislation, resulting in complex business processes as well as different systems and technologies.

With these challenges, most governments are  progressing with the digital agenda. Some are using portals and apps to provide a gateway to services managed by individual agencies, offering customers a trusted and secure path to services. Others are more advanced, providing an integrated account view using technologies such as omnichannel. However, few have made progress in offering a holistic view of all services, irrespective of whether they are provided by governments, corporates, or others.

Here end lies the challenge! Looking at my own situation, I couldn’t tell you how many accounts I have access to, let alone tell you which ones require attention. So I rely on being notified, nearly always via a link to see what it is that I need to do. The situation is made more complex based on who I am—for example, I am an employee, a rate payer, a trustee, and member of multiple community groups, and in a number of situations there are crossovers and links, especially when it comes to dealing with government agencies.

To cope with this variation and complexity, and to ensure that I comply with regulatory requirements, I keep a paper record of every transaction. This takes effort and space. It also means that I find it difficult to retire some of these records. While I acknowledge that I could image everything, or move to an electronic document records management system (EDRMS), the pain and effort in doing so just seems complex and costly.

So wouldn’t it be good if institutions could provide a record of my dealings that could be consolidated and kept in a secure place of my choosing? To succeed, this would need to be structured in such a way that the outcomes of any type of service could be recorded; for example, payments made or received, medical services provided, entitlement cards received, and so on. The structure would need to be massaged and presented in a consistent format that changes little over time. Access needs to be secure and consistent, achieved from any device, anywhere, and at any time. And finally, the records contained within must not be able to be changed, allowing a complete and chronological record, much like an EDRMS.

The application would be capable of extension to support disposal of old entries, and also to provide a means to “trigger” actions. Such an application would provide a simple, convenient, and reliable service, which could be subscribed to institutions at a customer’s request.

Although a number of accounting systems are heading in this direction, solutions that embrace the blockchain philosophy will deliver better value in the medium- to long term.

Stay tuned for my next blog: “Blockchains to the Rescue.”

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About Alan Bradbury

Alan Bradbury is a SAP Industry Principal for the public sector, with over 30 years of experience in IT and government industries. Alan is also an Associate of the SAP Institute for Digital Government.