The following is a very high level management overview of Blockchain technology at this point in time and next steps to take for those who want to further explore the business potential of this new technology.
|Blockchains are a novel approach to the creation of a distributed database that incorporates a number of existing technologies that can now be used in new, innovative ways by individuals and organizations to more securely create, transmit and store seemingly permanent records of a wide variety of data transactions.|
The book ‘Blockchain for Dummies’ mentions three types of Blockchains: Large public blockchains like the Bitcoin network, permissioned blockchains like Ripple, and a growing number of smaller private blockchains typically used by a consortium of trusted members. All three types of blockchain solutions are decentralized peer-to-peer systems that make use of cryptography, secure wallets, smart contracts, protocols, tokens… To better understand the key components you’ll need to do some further study on your own.
|Bitcoin – This term is confusingly used to refer to the public blockchain Bitcoin network, as well as to the cryptocurrency token used by the system to exchange value when a financial transaction takes place. Don’t get caught up in the obsession about the value of the Bitcoin token.|
The open source Bitcoin network was the first and most famous of the blockchain systems to emerge. However it has many limitations and several other prominent blockchain systems have emerged. The key ones include: Ethereum that has a built in programming language and uses a cryptocurrency token called ether; Ripple, that uses a cryptocurrency called ripples; and Factom Inc., which has built a variety of useful tools and apps.
Some of the major companies and organizations working on blockchain networks and solutions for industry include Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Hyperledger, IBM, Intel… and they are working with major financial organizations like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan. They are also now branching out into the healthcare, insurance, real estate and many other industries – including the government and ‘smart cities’..
The coming decades are going to be very exciting as blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, robots, and the Internet of Things (IoT) come to pass. Blockchain technology is going to play a key role in the future for almost every industry. So, if you are a public or private sector manager – Pay Attention!
It may be time for your management team to start putting together a high level Blockchain Development & Implementation Project Plan - so you don’t get left behind over the coming decade by your competitors.
Prior to starting the project, there are a series of preliminary steps that need to be taken, e.g. obtaining senior management support; selecting the ‘core’ members of a proposed project team headed by a business manager; conducting more in-depth research into blockchain technology by the team; developing an initial high-level project plan and budget for the proposed project.
Once management if on-board and approves moving forward with the project, the following is a brief description of the four major stages that should be incorporated into your project plan - no matter what the industry.
Stage 1 involves the development of a preliminary business use case and an initial information technology architecture.
Stage 2 involves development and testing of a prototype solution in a laboratory setting to produce a proof of concept (POC) for the new technology.
Stage 3 involves development of a pilot system in a field setting, which will go through a number of iterations testing a variety of potential features that may eventually be included in the first version of he system to be rolled out in the next stage of the project.
Stage 4 will involve the phased roll out of the new system over a period of years as more features, partnering organizations, customers, and the technology evolve.
Whether doing a blockchain implementation internally or with outside help, it's very important for companies to gain expertise in-house with blockchain technology because it is both new and fairly complex. Most companies will choose to contract for outside help with blockchain. It's going to be way too hard to get up to speed in a sensible way on the multiple complex technologies involved.
Several big IT vendors are active around blockchain, notably IBM, JP Morgan, and Microsoft. Keep these organizations in mind. You might also want to seriously consider partnering with ‘open source’ blockchain community initiatives related to your industry, e.g. Insurance, Healthcare, Real Estate...
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