Blockchain – a big theme in innovation?

  • Posted on January 3, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Blockchain innovation

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Ellen Cowan.

Is blockchain a passing fad, an element of technology transformation, or a new business paradigm? I interviewed Sanjay Marwaha, one of Avanade’s blockchain leads and author of this MoneyInc article, to gain a better understanding of what blockchain is and how it works. Here are some of our key discussion points.

Block what?
In a recent survey of C-level executives, Avanade uncovered some surprising findings:

•    80% of respondents felt that blockchain is a passing fad.
•    Suspicion is high around the potentiality of this emerging technology, yet 90% of executives couldn’t articulate a single use case.

Education around blockchain is certainly required, but once people understand it they tend to experience “ah hah” moments. Sanjay predicts that we’re going to see blockchain in multiple industries – it’s going to be everywhere.

Connecting the dots
Blockchain isn’t just a technology transformation; it’s also a business process transformation which allows for new business paradigms. To fully realize the benefits of blockchain – and they’re significant, organizations should carefully analyze and select cases where application of blockchain can disintermediate third parties to improve business efficiency.

From the bean to the cup
Sanjay gives us a real-life example of how a global coffee retailer uses blockchain to achieve full visibility, closer monitoring and interaction all along the supply chain – from the coffee bean farmer to the consumer. As an example of this, according to its website, Starbucks is piloting a program with coffee farmers to “log and share real-time information along the journey of coffee beans with the aim of driving positive impact to smallholder farmers within its supply chain.”

During a one-day innovation event in our NYC Innovation Studio last spring, a clever team of Avanade engineers created Blockaccino – a demonstration and further foray into the bean to cup analogy, against which one can consider various business use cases across multiple industries. Blockaccino is a blockchain based platform and mobile application that tracks the coffee journey from bean to brew, across suppliers and geographies, proving the origin and showing the lineage of the product through its entire lifecycle. It uses blockchain to store information linked through a product origin key stored in a unique barcode. This proof of concept contemplates a disruptive solution to a market, tying together farmers, suppliers, distributors, hardware makers, coffee shops to help shape the future of the coffee drinking experience.

Applications to digital identity and social innovation
A few of us from the Avanade innovation team recently had the opportunity to join humanitarian and distributed ledger technology specialists a panel on blockchain for humanitarian use cases at the Humanitarian Blockchain Summit at Fordham University in New York. Avanade and Accenture have been working in partnership with Microsoft on digital identity solutions with blockchain for a few years as part of ID2020, together creating a tool that combines blockchain record-keeping and biometric data to create and track a human identity. The transparency and distributed nature of blockchain allows for a person to own his or her identity, vs. a current dependence on documents or institutions. Fordham’s Innovation Fellow Aiden Salwin helped clarify for me that it is not the technical or CIO concerns (such as security) that are the differentiator for a blockchain identity solution, as much as the change in the paradigm of the operating model, such as organizational planning and user control.

Taking the bean to cup analogy all the way to use cases for attaching records to human identity and social innovation, we can explore better ways for refugees to access aid or education, methods to reduce corruption, and new paradigms for cash transfer programs, land registering and titling, election monitoring, health systems, and more.
Blockchain innovation

Business process + trust + new experiences
In summary, my interview with Sanjay clarified for me that blockchain is an important consideration point for innovation and transformation, in that it has the potential to improve business processes, add trust via the data model vs. depend on third parties for trust and validation, and unlock new operating models and experiences. I encourage you consider an Innovation Day (iDay) to learn more about what blockchain is, and isn’t, and how it or other technology trends could impact your business in positive and unexpected ways.

Learn about Avanade’s approach to blockchain and other new business models.

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