The Future Of Business With Blockchain Won't Look Anything Like Yesterday Or Today

Susan Galer

Staring down the last couple of months of the year seems as good a time as any to take stock of where blockchain technology stands right now, and how the market might unfold in 2018. The first is part is easy. Blockchain continues to hog everyone’s attention across many industries – finance, insurance, healthcare, retail, government – because having one version of an immutable truth everyone can simultaneously see and trust is among the most seductive business promises the market has had in a long time. Add in machine learning, IoT, and smart contracts that have a life of their own when triggered by certain events, and blockchain’s disruptive potential exponentially grows.

Proofs of concept (POCs) are emerging. I’ve covered some, including the government of Bozen, Italy, and Merck & Co. in pharmaceuticals. But it’s still early days. Companies generally seem to fall into three categories when it comes to exploring blockchain (or not): heavy involvement in POCs, total skepticism towards just another technology buzzword, or somewhere in the middle of this continuum. But the truth is, many of today’s POCs won’t survive, partly because they’re being conceived based on existing business systems and processes. They will likely become lessons learned, fed into the next stage when the real innovation happens. Meantime, consortiums are forming to set standards, while over 80 different blockchain platforms are being built, all different and largely incompatible.

Companies need specific answers

What companies need most of all is education about what blockchain can and cannot do, and how to Run Live to best apply it to their business for greatest value. Like most technologies, blockchain will be a commodity function, embedded where it will do the greatest good for a company and its customers. Companies need to know how their technology partners are investing in blockchain, specifically the strategy and impact on business processes moving forward. That’s because, stripped to its core value proposition, blockchain fundamentally changes business processes.

Indeed, this is what the hype is all about. Blockchain is industry-agnostic, shining a spotlight on problems that every industry has with trace and track, and that impacts the world’s economy, not to mention the health and well-being of populations who depend on reliable, safe products and services. Leaders have a window of opportunity right now to communicate how blockchain fits into their company’s vision and strategy, demonstrating their commitment by sharing POCs, followed by actual services.

Forget the present and past

As for blockchain in 2018, that’s much more difficult to predict. Clearly, many more POCs will bubble up in other industries like utilities and manufacturing. Optimists hope for actual deployments of blockchain technology that generate meaningful results in the coming year. Besides the nuts and bolts technology issues swirling around blockchain (including cloud adoption rates, security, and scalability), blockchain demands a totally different mindset from the past. The question isn’t as much about the technology itself and what it will or won’t do, but how ready, willing, and able are we to use blockchain. People will need to rethink many aspects of how business operates, including collaboration, trust, and partnerships within the organization and far beyond company walls. For example, decision makers are understandably afraid of exposing their IP to other companies in the chain.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for any company near term is to how stop viewing blockchain through the lens of today’s processes, technologies, expectations, and competitive market. Along with workable POCs, companies will need to throw off assumptions based on what’s past or even present, and look ahead with fresh eyes to a very different future.

Learn more about what’s ahead in Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

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Susan Galer

About Susan Galer

Susan Galer is the Communications Director, SAP News Services.