Blockchains secure billions of dollars of assets in an ecosystem with no governing body, no knowledge of who is running the servers and no guarantees about any user's real world identity.
The above statement has no hype, those are all facts that attracted me to this technology.
The features of blockchain that enable things like bitcoin are the same features that inspire articles about the future of banking, insurance claims, IOT devices, KYC, etc. The web has endless content on how blockchain is going to revolutionize [insert industry here]. But it has very little information on the steps you can take to vet and integrate this technology into your enterprise.
This article distills Gem's experience working with enterprises creating blockchain solutions down to a roadmap that will help you answer the question: "Is blockchain a good fit for my organization and if so what are the steps to start taking advantage of it?"
"Is blockchain a good fit for my organization and if so what are the steps to start taking advantage of it?"
At the time of this writing, implementing a blockchain solution will require a plan accompanied by human and capital commitments. While the security and performance of this technology have been proven on an international stage using cryptocurrencies, there are (to the best of my knowledge) very few off the shelf blockchain solutions that you can plug into your organization. The reason being the small supply of blockchain engineers not participating in the cryptocurrency gold rush.
There are a few companies, including, Gem that have made blockchains accessible via API, making it possible for any web developer to integrate this technology into their stack. Early movers do not yet have the benefit of an off-the-shelf solution. However, they will have a huge advantage over their peers once these processes are put in place. If your situation permits investing resources into new technology projects, continue reading. Otherwise check back in six months as smart people are working around the clock to make this technology more accessible.
Given that this is going to require resources, we have found that a crucial first step is getting an executive level leader on board. Our experience has shown that the three most important things to understand at an executive level are:
- What problems are blockchain uniquely suited to solve?
- What symptoms can identify these types of problems?
- What are non-cryptocurrency applications of blockchain that have been implemented today?
This is a lot of information to grasp, so I would recommend hiring outside expertise to come in and educate the team or make sure internal resources on this project have at least a few weeks to dig in and focus on this research. If the features and philosophy of distributed blockchain technology are aligned with your organization's strategic goals, it is time to start thinking about what your first implementation will be.
The second step to vetting and implementing blockchain in your organization is to find processes that suffer from the symptoms blockchain is uniquely suited to solve. You should know those symptoms at this point because learning them was a part of step one. This is the time to bring in an expert who has experience implementing blockchain solutions. Gather a list of a few processes and locate business and technical stakeholders who are very familiar with how these processes work today including what works well, what is painful, and what you wish you could do but can't. Try to keep initial conversations about the way things work today and let the blockchain experts identify whether or not your workflows could benefit from a blockchain solution.
We find this process takes longer when teams come in with preconceived workflows about how blockchain would fit into the solution as it can lead to omission of what could otherwise be crucial details about the current workflow. We typically go through three or four potential process workflows with our clients before we find one that can yield short term immediate efficiency benefits to unlock previously impervious revenue streams. This phase can feel frustrating, but remember, implementation will be a commitment so let’s be sure we get this right. Once you are able to find a workflow that makes sense it's time to draft a plan.
The final step in preparing for your first blockchain solution is to draft a plan and line up your resources. Blockchain technology really shines when it connects multiple servers or databases. This means most projects will involve participation from at least two teams. Make sure that you have a project manager as well as engineering resources on both teams. Establish realistic timelines, set goals and make sure that you have a partner with real experience implementing blockchain solutions. We typically plan our first solution to be a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can be validated at least on a small scale within three months. Once you have your two internal systems working together through a blockchain, you can begin to scale out other internal systems and then extend the network outside your firewall to securely collaborate with external parties.
The road to blockchain is a very rewarding one though it does require commitment. If you are not yet ready to walk down the path it is understandable. If you are curious to learn more about how your organization can win with blockchain, send us a message.