I have been working with enterprise blockchain since 2016, when I became obsessed with understanding the technology behind Bitcoin. I joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance in early 2017 and joined Oracle in late 2017, where I started to work with hyperledger fabric and a large number of enterprise customers who were exploring blockchain solutions. In my new role at my current company, I am fully responsible for driving the blockchain practice, and one of the first questions I am often asked is: Where do I start with the enterprise blockchain journey?
Is enterprise blockchain a good solution to my business challenges?
There is a significant increase in blockchain solutions for enterprise organizations, and I want to share my advice on where to start. As with all emerging technologies, blockchain is still in the growth-and-development phase. This means that we as a community are still building solutions for use cases and working with different platforms to deliver the correct blockchain solution for the business challenge.
How do I know if my challenge requires a blockchain technology solution?
When you first start to explore blockchain, you will inevitably become overwhelmed by the opportunities, challenges and lack of information around enterprise blockchain. My advice is to start small and find a business challenge where you think blockchain will solve this challenge.
Remember, enterprise blockchain is a solution for challenges that fit a few of these criteria (not an exhaustive list):
• Complex cross-organization transactions
• Transactions crossing boundaries and borders
• Areas where there are constant reconciliations and regular discrepancies
• Transactions that need certainty and audit logs
• Areas where third parties are needed to validate or authorize transactions
• Transactions where regulators need to approve or investigate your transactions
There are many more areas to look at for where blockchain technology can solve your business challenge, which I will talk about in future articles.
How to identify the blockchain solution?
Once you know that blockchain technology is the likely solution, you need to validate this and then investigate how this will be delivered and with which blockchain solution. As with all technology, there is not just one blockchain-based solution; rather, there are many different blockchain solutions, and they are all able to solve different challenges and use cases.
At my company, we have a tried and tested process to find out what blockchain combination works best for a particular company’s challenge. In order to find the ideal solution for your company, we recommend using a sort of litmus test to arrive at three potential outcomes: ideally suited, somewhat suited and not appropriate. This is important to ensure you only apply blockchain solutions to business challenges you can fix.
When we discover a business challenge has met either the “ideally suited” or “somewhat suited” criteria, we then take a structured look at the business case evaluation and, if required, our blockchain design thinking workshops. The end result will be a blockchain solution that’s designed for a company’s specific business challenge. If you plan to follow a similar pattern, you can then test all the latest enterprise-grade blockchain solutions and use one (or a combination of them) to build your blockchain solution for your business challenge.
Where do you start with your blockchain enterprise journey?
Finally, where do you start with the journey? My advice is to start small. Find a manageable challenge where you believe that blockchain technology can be the solution. For example, if this is your first attempt at implementing an enterprise blockchain solution and your company deals with global supply chains, then I would advise you to not implement blockchain across your entire ecosystem. You would spend more time trying to develop the end solution than you would building and implementing it. Start with a small section of the supply chain. Maybe pick a product range or a specific part of a complex manufacturing process.
Let’s summarise the next steps to start your enterprise blockchain journey:
1. Find a small use case — a specific area where blockchain technology will help (see list above).
2. Review the enterprise blockchain solutions to find the relevant solution(s).
3. Scope the solution for the first stage PoC (proof of concept).
4. Build and implement the PoC.
5. Test and learn from the PoC.
6. Build a wider ecosystem (if you used 50 “nodes” on the network, try the next with 200).
When getting started on your enterprise blockchain journey, starting with a small, current business challenge will reveal the potential of blockchain technology while fixing the challenge in the process.