Four Smart Investment Ways to Get Started with Blockchain

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Click to learn more about author Andrew Sohn.

There is no shortage of buzz about Blockchain – for good reason. But there’s less talk about how to make it work for you now. The answers lie in this working definition:

Blockchain implements a database that can be used by multiple entities while ensuring real-time data visibility, immutability, privacy, security, availability and other critical business requirements.  Pretty much any information can be stored in the Blockchain, from data that represent value, registration information or even electronic documents or pictures.  Once written into the Blockchain, the data can’t be changed and authenticity can be verified. Also, the Blockchain can implement smart contracts, which are programmatic actions triggered by events written to the chain.

This is a real breakthrough on a number of fronts, all of which can impact the bottom line.

So the word is out – a lot of businesses are starting to bet big on Blockchain becoming a competitive advantage that offers critical capabilities in the not-too-distant future. But what about now? How can a company get experience with Blockchain without investing mega bucks and resources to get in the big game?  Here are top four methods that will let these players position themselves to take advantage of Blockchain benefits while driving some immediate value from the technology.

  1. Gain Experience and Knowledge About Blockchain and Related Ecosystem.

Before your organization can realistically develop potential use cases and understand the efforts necessary to implement a Blockchain-based solution, they must gain get some first-hand, practical experience with the technology.  There are several avenues to follow.

To gain experience with the tools and development issues, it’s easy to sign up with a Blockchain as a service provider from IBM or Microsoft, or explore services like Ethereum or Ripple.   They all have sample projects and good tutorials to guide someone through the basics. Just like learning a new computing language and paradigm such as programming in Python against a NoSQL database, it will take some time to understand what differs from the status quo frame of reference.

Another path that should be taken is talking to Blockchain startup companies and industry consortiums and other companies already exploring Blockchain.  Understanding the use cases they are tackling and understanding their challenges will be beneficial in helping surface opportunities within your company.

  1. Identify and Perform POC for Internal Use Cases

Once your organization has a solid understanding of Blockchain, look for opportunities to develop and pilot inside your company.  Using the Internet analogy again,  start with an Intranet type project that does not expose you to outside customers or partners.  For use cases that can ultimately bring real value to your organization, look for inter-departmental or inter-LOB businesses that use different systems and exchange data or a regular basis. Look for processes where reconciliations and other processes are time-consuming and costly and can be simplified using Blockchain and smart contracts.

By starting inside your company, it will be easier and less risky. This will give your company more insight into areas to focus on and challenges that will be faced in broader organizations. This step will also help you understand the type of work that will need to be done to work with external entities.

  1. Identify and Perform POC for Controlled External Use Cases

After succeeding with one or two inter-company implementations, look for a small ecosystem of external partners to implement a shared business process.  Find a process where there is a lot of data exchanged on a regular basis and where each partner can benefit from simplifying the processes.  Some typical processes that come to mind are an inventory or asset management functions, a managed services provider timesheet submission system or a service level dashboard system.

Depending on the size or clout of your company, you may either lead the development of the system with input from the partners, or perform a join development effort.  Since a project like this will most likely need to integrate with or replace an incumbent system, the system vendors may be interested in participating or contributing to the initiative.

  1. Keep Involved with Industry and Partner Initiatives

Development in this space is moving fast. With new startups continuously coming on the scene, new partnerships formed and vendors and consulting companies investing in Blockchain, it’s important to keep some level of involvement in the space.  By being involved, you will be able to keep ahead of the completive curve.

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