The rise of blockchain and blockchain-as-a-service
Historically, blockchain has suffered from a branding problem. For years, the general ledger technology has lived in the shadow of artificial intelligence. Confusion with bitcoin and blockchain’s highly technical nature have only made the problem worse.
But that may be about to change. Blockchain is capable of revolutionizing any process in which a ledger keeps track of data – from smart contracts to supply chain management to voting – and businesses are finally taking note.
Blockchain is essentially a new kind of ledger – a distributed database that can hold changes in data in real time and in a secure fashion. The blockchain is distributed across millions of computers without being moderated by just one user. This structure allows for an unbreachable log of financial or other data transactions. It also creates the perfect conditions for organizations to provide vendors, customers and employees with visibility into their operations.
SpringCM, for example, has tested the use of blockchain with our document workflow and contract lifecycle management platform. Our main objective in using blockchain is to increase trust in the smart contract process. When a contract is executed, we create an electronic signature for it, know as a hash. The hash is unique to each contract and if the contract changes, so does the signature.
In the world of contract lifecycle management, the blockchain guarantees the integrity of the contract between two parties. Although use cases vary, blockchain technology has similar benefits for organizations situated across a wide range of industries.
But like other technological innovations, blockchain initially remained out of reach for many organizations. The talent pool for coding blockchain is relatively small, which has made it difficult for organizations to develop proprietary blockchain solutions.
Now, big tech players like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon are beginning to offer blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS). This means organizations can utilize blockchain technology on a subscription-based model, similar to IBM making AI and machine learning accessible through Watson.
By plugging the API into their own software and customizing it to their own needs, organizations can take advantage of blockchain, while continuing to focus on their business needs rather than myriad implementation details.
How organizations can start taking advantage of blockchain
For now, organizations should invest in education. Blockchain is still a relatively new concept and IT teams need to be educated on the possibilities it holds for their organizations before moving forward.
Increased emphasis on education will also help clear up the public confusion that has historically surrounded the concept of blockchain. In 2016, 92 percent of all open-source blockchain projects were abandoned, according to Deloitte. The high abandonment rate suggests that users weren’t acquainted enough with the technology to fully execute their original intentions for the tools they set out to build.
Over the next few years, expect many organizations to shift into the implementation phase. Although widespread adoption will take time, enterprise leaders are optimistic. Fifty-seven percent of larger companies (more than 20,000 employees) planning to utilize blockchain technology expected to implement into their IT ecosystems by the end of 2018.
After years of false starts, blockchain has finally arrived. It’s generating the same buzz as AI as organizations recognize that it’s more than just a cryptocurrency tool and educate themselves on the impact blockchain could have on their offerings and operations. The technology’s move to BaaS is icing on the cake and will likely be a determining factor in making blockchain accessible to organizations of all shapes and sizes.