Charities sometime speak about ‘compassion fatigue’, where communication between stakeholders and the public starts to break down due to the sense of being overwhelmed by the scale of the task, or simply by information overload.
In the tech world, we have a similar communication bottleneck created by successive waves of disruptive change. In both cases, the underlying issues are real and important to address; it’s their frequency, speed, and scale that causes stakeholders to become weary and leaves them wanting to separate the music from the noise.
Working in technology, we have seen many waves of change in a short time. It can be overwhelming to imagine that even greater change is just around the corner. Nevertheless, it’s important to embrace change as we start to experience the full disruptive potential of Blockchain. We’ve already experienced the hype and confusion caused by dramatic swings in the value of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, but common sense is also needed, to cut through these distractions.
Firstly, Blockchain is not just about cryptocurrencies. It is just one form of what are called Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs). These do not relate to anything monolithic – in fact there are multiple different flavors of DLT, each of which offers specific advantages and opportunities.
One capability that is causing the most excitement is DLTs specifically engineered to facilitate smart contracts. These can be used to automate processes and transactions to the point where much of the minutiae of entire value chains can be conducted automatically, even in the case of machine-to-machine, with huge potential for efficiency gains.
Benefits coming into focus
We’re at the stage with blockchain technology where the opportunities of smart contracts and other DLT capabilities are coming to the fore. Multiple projects are getting the green light from organizations, most motivated by either a desire to land a knock-out blow on their competitors or because they simply want to stay relevant in value chains that could soon be disrupted, with possibly fatal consequences for some players.
During this push to deliver blockchain projects, we constantly see a reliance on the tried-and-tested project workhorse – the Proof of Concept (PoC). However, we believe that this is the wrong tool for the job. The far-reaching consequences of smart contracts – that is, distributed databases managing shared control over data and machine-to-machine transactions – are such that the technology lens of a PoC is too narrow. A different, wider perspective that addresses the fundamental reason for using blockchain in business is needed. We call this the Proof of Business (PoB).
A PoC is often a technology-focused exercise designed to demonstrate that your idea is operationally feasible. As a result, it is most often used to garner support from internal stakeholders, whereas a PoB focuses on the business value of the project and includes possible external stakeholders and the enterprise fabric of a company, including the potential effect on the organizational structure. A PoB also demonstrates a basic Minimum Viable Product (MVP) geared towards a specific business process.
At the Fujitsu Blockchain Innovation Center (BIC) in Brussels we have created one of the world’s most advanced hubs for the application of DLT in business, drawing expertise from Fujitsu’s worldwide resources. Fujitsu already has an extensive track record of achievement in DLTs and we have been working on several projects at the BIC, including one called InvoiceChain.
This exploits DLT’s potential to enable smart contracts and consensus algorithms. It also wraps in the security and immutability benefits of blockchain to allow businesses to manage invoices in a way that existing technology just can’t.
Benefits include reduced cost of managing invoice flows, reduced risk associated with late, part or non-payments, reduced invoice fraud, plus enhanced fraud detection and prevention. In addition, there are reduced reporting costs and a lower burden of compliance for both internal and external bodies. InvoiceChain achieves this by increasing the speed, accuracy and quality of decision making based on near real-time data.
We have also recently launched a new, extremely rapid blockchain productization framework. This is designed to support organizations that want to either jump-start new blockchain development or de-risk existing blockchain projects. Using the framework we can enable the development of an MVP in just five days.
We achieve this by identifying and demonstrating aspects of specific business processes that have the potential to become full-scale implementations. This PoB approach, before committing to a PoC, avoids many of the common pitfalls of blockchain projects and focuses on creating business value.
Blockchain is opening up exciting new ways of approaching old problems, and it’s therefore tempting to go ahead at full speed. Our new blockchain productization framework is intended to help people who are working on these leading-edge innovations to ensure they keep their feet on the ground and don’t get blindsided by the technology.
If you’d like to know more about what Fujitsu’s extensive blockchain expertise could do for your business, you can find out more on our website.