Crossing the blockchain chasm
Moving from visionaries to early enterprise users
Insightful analytics is the secret sauce of our current data-driven hyperconnected economy to run effectively any kind of trade, no matter the business size, vertical or geography. The driving demand and hyperinflation of data in our reach, is due to the digitalisation of almost everything around us. Digitalisation is the essence of digital transformation, which is the evolution that traditional brick and mortar enterprises are currently undergoing. The result is an ongoing demand for new and innovative digital solutions.
When it comes to blockchain technology there is not a lot more we can add to the myriad of articles on the internet. For completeness a simple intro can be viewed below.
We will not go into cryptographic monetary assets like bitcoin and surely we will not get involved in the bitcoin vs blockchain discussion. We believe there are specific use cases of digital transformation where trustless distributed databases like blockchain are an ideal solution and this is the focus of this post.
In the classic innovation work Crossing the Chasm, the author begins with the diffusion of innovations theory and argues there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). In the case of blockchain the early adopters are the users that started getting involved in the crypto world since the 2008 genesis paper of bitcoin up to late 2017, the peak of the blockchain hype bubble. We are now in the chasm phase in anticipation of the slower but deeper adoption of the technology by an early majority of enterprise users.
The hype that blockchain has generated the in the last few years seems to have steamed up the industry with various PoC projects in numerous different industries. In 2018 and 2019 we have already witnessed some of the experimental MVPs see the light of production and blockchain to become a vital part of the digital transformation strategy of different businesses. Like AI, Blockchain is high on the innovation agenda of all major enterprises.
There are public, private, protected or hybrid blockchain networks. Whilst the technical details and differences of each are not a focus here, the main gist of each is exactly the same as we have with the Internet when you compare it to Intranet, or LAN networks. Each of them has a very critical and very justified role to play in the technology ecosystem. And while public blockchains are receiving most of the media attention these days we feel hybrid networks are the future for most enterprise users.
New technologies, are new pathways, that enable you to activate new revenue models, that otherwise you couldn’t even conceive.
The main areas where blockchain’s impact will be most strongly felt are :
Fintech : Banking, Payments, Capital Markets, Credit Scoring, Remittances, New Currencies
Identity : Personal Data, Medical Records, Authentication
Charity : Donations, ESG Investing, Project Monitoring
Asset Tokenisation : Democratising ownership and transferability of real tangible and intangible assets
Logistics : Supply chain, physical goods trade
Among the plethora of use cases there is an urgent need for early adopters to experiment easily with blockchain solutions to develop a clear understanding of the cost-benefits involved within the context of a wider enterprise digital transformation. That experimentation brings its own challenges, namely in two main areas : infrastructure and analytics.
In terms of infrastructure, despite the rich open source ecosystem of the toolsets created by the vibrant crypto community there is a lack of easy integration within enterprise workflows. Blockchain-based integrations require a whole new architecture paradigm. This brings a new challenge to the IT operations the enterprise : gone is the simplicity of CI/CD, monitoring, logging, alerting, cloud native integrations, or serverless stacks. There is no support team to ask for an SLA, on-call hours, or DevOps cookbooks. To introduce anything that uses blockchain as part of the solution, the enterprise has to be prepared to throw enough investment to facilitate an experimentation and eventually production-ready infrastructure. Problem is … when you cannot fully understand the benefits how do you decide how much to invest ?
Another issue at hand is the analytics required to understand the operational efficiencies of the blockchain experiments. Blockchain is all about trust. But how can you trust something, if there is no easy way to explore it and understand what is happening in the network and why ? Blockchain networks hold raw data that answers questions such as who interacts with whom, how much value is being exchanged and when, how does every move in the network impact the other parts of the network and so on. The mining of the rich graph data embedded in the blockchain is paramount to the validation of any PoC experiment and eventual enterprise deployment and productisation.
“I think it’s a technical tour de force”
- Bill Gates
Mentat guest blog post in collaboration with Evangelos Pappas, CEO of Ocyan, the enterprise ready cloud native blockchain platform.