Despite a rocky recent past, blockchain and cryptocurrency are here to stay. In fact, research suggests their use will continue to expand in the business space.
A survey from CasperLabs and Zogby Analytics found that almost 90% of businesses in the U.S., U.K., and China already use blockchain.
Big-name companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Microsoft are already using blockchain, and many more seem to join the ranks each year.
However, you don’t have to be a major enterprise business to reap the benefits of using blockchain. Let’s explore how your business can see success with blockchain implementation.
What is Blockchain Technology?
A blockchain is a series of digital programs that work together via cryptography to store information. These programs are distributed and designed to be inalterable. If one is tampered with and no longer matches the rest of the chain, it’s easy to detect that the blockchain has been compromised.
Blockchain technology secures remote transactions and removes the need for third parties — like humans and banks — that introduce additional cost and room for error.
Blockchain is probably most well known as the process by which many cryptocurrency transactions occur. However, it also has business applications.
Why Blockchain is Valuable Across Industries
One of the most significant benefits of using blockchain is that the technology is highly secure. This feature is extremely valuable when it comes to keeping database management systems chock full of consumer information, both safe from bad actors and compliant with privacy regulations.
Once a blockchain contains recorded data, it’s basically impossible to change it. In addition to the stored transaction data, a block also includes a hash, which functions somewhat like a fingerprint. Hashes identify blocks and secure them against hacking.
Hashing is used a lot in the online security world, which further shows the data safety inherent in blockchain tech. Any company that works with people’s private information — such as to serve personalized sales and marketing information — can benefit from this level of security. The benefits are even easier to see in fields like healthcare and finance.
Businesses, for instance, can integrate blockchain to overcome constraints related to time zones, enhancing cash flow by enabling 24/7 transactions. This move reduces dependence on traditional banking hours, weekends, and holidays.
Many old-school payment forms also come with additional, not-so-hidden costs. If you’re paying a vendor by credit card, for example, you’ll likely have a fee tacked on as the cost of doing business with the credit card company. For high-value or high-volume transactions, the cost adds up.
When you use blockchain, you’re saving not just time but money on those fees. Not only are blockchain transactions nearly immediate, but you’re also working directly with the end recipient in the transaction, meaning no one has to pay fees to intermediaries.
5 Steps for Integrating Blockchain into Your Business Operations
Interested in using blockchain to benefit your bottom line and improve consumer trust and vendor relationships? Here’s how to get started.
- Identify and Act on Your First Use Case
The first step to integrating blockchain into your business is understanding the “why” behind using it.
When you’re making a significant change to your business processes, it’s essential to plan out the change before taking any major steps.
How and where will blockchain improve your business operations? You’ll want to begin with a minor pilot program focused on your core use case before making blockchain implementation far-reaching throughout your organization.
Once you test out the effectiveness of the smaller pilot program, you can begin to integrate blockchain throughout your company. One thing to consider to test the effectiveness of the blockchain pilot project is to ask yourself if it’s scalable, governable, and cooperative with your business’s processes.
Consider building a technological roadmap for what your blockchain use will look like over the next several years, based on its success with this initial use case.
- Select the Right Technology
There isn’t just one blockchain platform out there, which is why it’s vital to choose the right technology for your business before attempting to integrate it.
For example, Ethereum is a well-established blockchain development platform that would be a great fit for enterprises with a heavy need for secure yet transparent transactions. Corda is another platform that was built for financial applications but has proven to be a powerful help in healthcare settings, where storing and sharing patient data securely is key.
You should take time to understand your options before choosing the one for your business. Think about each platform’s adoption rate, programming language, scalability, if industries like yours typically gravitate toward it, and how well it’ll plug and play with your current tech.
- Create a Full Proof of Concept
Now, it’s time to scale your success on that pilot project.
Here, you’re basically putting together a prototype that showcases how your blockchain integration will work with your chosen use case(s) and tech platform(s). This proof is crucial for you to prove the practicality of the integration with stakeholders.
A proof of concept can also help you find gaps in your strategy. What elements about the integration have you not considered yet? Thinking through this process can help you spot them, enabling you to put together a more thorough plan before the full-scale implementation.
- Test Your Blockchain Solution
Before fully deploying your blockchain solution, test it to ensure it aligns with your needs. Does it work the way you envisioned? Is it flexible enough for future growth? Is it integrating in all the right places? Does this technology enable your business goals and any product roadmaps you’ve previously built?
You’d much rather find out during a testing phase that you have some tweaks to work through than after you’ve already fully deployed your solution.
- Deploy and Immediately Prioritize Governance
You’re now ready to deploy your new blockchain business application.
And, just as soon as you’ve done that and everything is running smoothly — it’s time to turn an eye to governance.
Yes, ensure those who need access have it. But, as you should with all data handling, also build out a clear system of rules around who can access what and who is accountable for which data functions. This is crucial not only for data security and compliance but also for keeping your blockchain implementation working as intended.
Envision Your Business’ Future With Blockchain
Blockchain is here to stay.
More and more businesses build applications on the blockchain every year, thanks to the technology’s increased security and the decentralized approach that allows you to work directly with your end user. The result is lower costs and quicker turnaround times for transactions, which also leads to better relationships with vendors and consumers.
However, implementing a blockchain solution requires careful planning. From picking your use case all the way to building out your blockchain ecosystem, you need to research and strategize how to make blockchain work for you and how to keep it safe with thoughtful governance strategies.
By following this guide, you should soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor with a blockchain system in place that benefits your whole company.