A Building-Block Approach To Blockchain

Gil Perez

Beneath the bulletin board covered with gold stars, stacked carelessly between the tiny plastic craft table and a bookshelf lined with Berenstain Bears classics, lay my elementary classroom’s building blocks. Every classroom has them. Yours were probably in a similar area.

Many educators agree that building blocks help children develop critical problem-solving skills. A little girl may aspire to build a tower, but first she must figure out how to achieve that. Will it be a single column of blocks? Will it be shaped like a pyramid? Will one side of the tower be taller than the other?

In a way, we never stop using building blocks. As adults, our blocks don’t have colorful letters or numbers on all six sides. In fact, they’re not even blocks at all. They’re steps we take to reach a goal, whether saving for retirement or adopting an emerging technology such as blockchain to benefit our business.

What is blockchain? And how can your company use it?

You’ve probably heard about blockchain by now. Everybody’s raving about it. Gartner listed it at #6 on its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017 list. PCMag recently called it “the invisible technology that’s changing the world.”

So, you know how important blockchain is, but what exactly is it?

Blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that enables and records the secure transfer of data and documents through a public or private peer-to-peer network.

Companies today use blockchain to:

  • Serve as the foundation for cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin
  • Accelerate transactions by eliminating intermediaries like banks and lawyers
  • Increase transparency and provide records for product, asset, and process authenticity by offering transaction participants a full view of transferred data
  • Form business networks across multiple industries or markets and create leaner, more efficient, and more profitable processes

Three is the magic number

While the benefits of blockchain are promising, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a relatively new technology. You shouldn’t try to revolutionize your entire company overnight. Instead, experiment and determine the best usage of blockchain for your company by taking the following confidence-building steps:

  1. Optimize: Enhance existing processes. Use blockchain to improve the efficiency of your existing processes. By integrating the technology into your digital core, you can determine how blockchain can help improve your company’s current operations. For example, a warehouse distribution center could use blockchain to more easily keep track of purchase orders and enhance product visibility and authenticity.
  1. Reimagine: Disrupt and create new business processes. Once you’ve started making incremental improvements to your existing processes, it’s time to get disruptive and begin building new business processes. A manufacturer, for instance, could use blockchain to create an end-to-end digital manufacturing process – from product inception to end of life and recycling. Blockchain could also serve as the foundation for communicating, transacting, and collaborating with suppliers and vendors.
  1. Revolutionize: Disrupt and create new business models. Continue your disruptive streak and start getting creative. Begin building on your new digital processes by creating new business models and rolling out as-a-service offerings. You could even base a whole new business around blockchain technology. In fact, Israeli company Synero did just that, creating a product called Wild Spark that helps compensate online content creators and curators using cryptocurrency.

Remember: Don’t get ahead of yourself

Companies are beyond excited about blockchain. They have lofty goals and expectations around what precisely they could achieve with the emerging technology. But as Simon and Garfunkel sang in “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”: “Slow down/You move too fast.”

By taking a deliberate building-block approach to blockchain, your organization can realize huge value immediately. Plus, before you know it, these small, measured steps will have revolutionized your entire business.

Disruptive, digital business models are transforming the banking industry, and banks are responding. But have they gone far enough, and are they moving fast enough? Not according to a video series, produced by The Banker in association with SAP, and its accompanying report. Watch the videos to hear banking leaders and experts discuss how banks such as RBS, Nordea, and Citi are tackling some of the key topics in the industry right now: blockchain, fintechs, innovation, cybercrime, and digital banking.

Gil Perez

About Gil Perez

Gil Perez is senior vice president of Digital Assets and The Internet of Things (IoT) and general manager of Connected Vehicles and IoT Security at SAP.