To bring blockchain concepts to life, we must look at the new technology through a conceptual lens to explore the promising disruptive qualities that are present at its very core. My team and I not only seek to build the next generation of technology, but we also take time to think about how to maximize its potential at a fundamental level. This approach is applicable to blockchain, and throughout this article and my next one, I’ll explore several ideas on why data is the integral component to the composition of the technology.
When individuals and organizations first approach blockchain, they tend to focus only on the promising potential of the technology. They ask themselves questions such as “What can this new system do?” and “How can this technology improve my existing business?” Although asking these questions at the forefront is important, this process only encompasses one part of the necessary perspective on blockchain.
Ambitious new blockchain network adopters consistently think about the system itself, rather than what the system represents. When you think about your first blockchain network or minimal viable product (MVP), it’s easy to get caught up in how you can incrementally improve an existing process. It would be extremely beneficial to step back and strategically examine how the blockchain solution can actually change the way you do business entirely.
Blockchain early adopters must consider that data is the basis for all. Two years ago, in my article “3 ways data and analytics will evolve in the cloud,” I hypothesized that not only will our ability to access and consume data evolve rapidly, but also that we will treat this data as a first class citizen. Data drives business, and thus, if the technology enables more consistent and accurate sharing of data, then this can drive new business models. Reaffirming my opinion: the IBM Institute for Business Value’s 2017 Global C-suite blockchain study of 3,000 CxO executives found that almost seven in ten blockchain early adopters, or Explorers, are experimenting with a platform business model that connects entities in an interactive ecosystem and leverages the shared data available to create new value.
Within this new blockchain-enabled business model, data is now liberated — it is no longer owned and managed by a single player, but by all players that create and consume it. Blockchain essentially democratizes the ledger so that data becomes co-owned and co-managed. Accordingly, we must ask: since this is a crowd-driven technology, how does the crowd appropriately and efficiently decide on the direction of the solution, and what defines consensus in a particular solution?
The power is in sharing
Blockchain networks and distributed ledger technologies drastically change the way we work with data. Rather than relying on individual systems and platforms each to collect, store, analyze and present data, blockchain simply stores this data in its truest form. Other systems and platforms become necessary to work with and make sense of this recorded data, which we can call the distributed ledger, but in a more modular and democratic manner. With the blockchain network, the focus shifts from centralized solutions to network-based platforms that share and integrate data. In place of emphasizing how data can be tackled at each moving component, the spotlight shifts to the realization that data, or the distributed ledger, is already and inherently taken care of and that the new urgency is interactivity.
In short, the focus shifted from “How do I work with data at each stage?” to “How do I work with data as the single source of truth in an interactive, interoperative fashion?” The central question in the era of blockchain becomes how to adapt other new or existing technologies, platforms, protocols and services to support this new understanding of data in a way that creates the backbone of future solutions.
Find out more
I invite you back to read my second blog post, where I discuss how blockchain networks are transformed when they are empowered through partnerships.
Interested in learning more about blockchain early adopters and how they’re viewing data? Check out the Global C-suite blockchain study, and lessons from some of the First on the block, produced by the IBM Institute of Business Value.
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