In 2017, much of the focus was on vision setting,
long-term projects and the sizzle of cryptocurrencies. We also got CryptoKitties, a star of 2017 blockchain usage that is cute and fun, but of limited benefit. As someone who joined the community because of the technology and social impact, the vision is compelling, but nowhere near sufficient to sustain this ecosystem until 2022-2024, the time when most predictions of meaningful production applications are settling. The question for 2018, then, is more tangible: How do we get real cost savings? Improve the customer experience? Increase revenue? Decrease risk? Arrive at stakeholder benefits more quickly?
First off, we need to make the entire blockchain ecosystem more actionable, more real, even better – simpler! Maybe because this is a technology-led community, most blockchain discussions get more complicated rather than simpler. With simpler, quick-win, use cases, there is an opportunity to move organizations from research and into action.
You might think, there are already plenty of use case lists, just get going! True, there are plenty of lists, but they lack actionability. They are too high level – it'd be almost the same as telling a salesperson to "just go sell something" without the context, the training, the experience and the technology underpinnings for them to be successful. My company is helping to change the process by thinking this way: "What benefit can we bring using existing blockchain technology in 3-6 months?" Though we certainly don't have these simpler, quick-win use cases nailed down yet, we have identified four patterns where we believe there can be
- Decrease digital storage costs while learning blockchain
- Improve trust and usability of recorded data
- Next generation business process management and integration
- Speed up and reduce costs of payments.
The goal of this list is to combine the fundamental values of blockchain, existing technology and real organizational needs. The first pattern on the list is a perfect example. Hardly anyone would say that storage is visionary and while it’s cheap, the continual expansion of data, necessitates better solutions. With Sia, Storj, and others, you can reduce your costs over AWS – a practical benefit from a blockchain. Another quick win example is a private equity administration blockchain developed by Northern Trust. In its solution, the company looked at how to leverage the trusted data resulting from using blockchain. Their blockchain leverage turned into reduced costs and duration of transactions along with increased transparency for audit and compliance.
Giving up control
In addition to simplifying the use cases, we need to address the proverbial elephant in the room: everybody wants the benefits of a blockchain but is hesitant to dive in because of competitive and control concerns. These are valid concerns, and we've already seen these issues manifested in the bitcoin community. Since we won't eliminate the concerns directly with blockchain, a better way to speed adoption is to create a set of patterns to follow.
For example, take a look at a simple hierarchy of business network models:
- Public data + Own Organization + consumer
- Vertical value chain with dominant origin or end point
- Complementary Proprietary Data/Contracts/SLAs + Own Org + consumer
- Complementary Proprietary Data/Contracts/SLAs + Own Org + Proprietary Data/Contracts
- Competitors via alliances, consortiums and direct relationships
The model at the top is the easiest way to get started since it has the fewest direct participants while the one at the bottom is the most difficult because these are your numerous, direct competitors. Not surprisingly, each of these models has examples. Public data is the key to the first model, whether it’s flight departure times or from a governmental entity. The second has many examples (Tencent, Daimler, Cargill, Bloomberg…) where a dominant organization can drive or forestall change within a business network.
The third and fourth are about disruption – both avoiding it, and creating new combinations to improve a customer’s experience. And finally, there is the straightforward combination of direct competitors working to create some sort of new standards. Like a lot in blockchain these days, these patterns and models are only the beginning. Feel free to use them as a guide to prioritize your thinking, minimize blockchain readiness objections and get to the nuts and bolts of creating a real blockchain project. Meanwhile, we’re working on enhancing these patterns with specific scenarios to make them even more actionable. We can see a better world using blockchain. Let's get there faster by focusing on creating simpler, more practical, use cases. We may even get to the world-changing visions more quickly.