Blockchain, like every other new, cool thing in technology, can only thrive if it is tightly integrated with your business.
As I said in my last blog about chatbots, blockchain cannot operate in a vacuum. Any organization that is serious about using blockchain needs to also be serious about connectivity to a partner ecosystem, access controls, governance, integrating blockchain with internal systems and data repositories, plus visibility into – and real-time monitoring of - blockchain based transactions and more.
My motto is “integration drives innovation,” and as long as organizations keep treating cool new things as point-to-point solutions, they will struggle to operationalize them. Making blockchain applications work in the real world is as much of a challenge, and maybe even more challenge, than building the blockchain application itself.
For those who look at blockchain as a new phenomenon, you should know that it is actually just a new approach to solving an age-old problem – automating transactions between multiple parties. Traditionally, transactions were made using a B2B approach, such as EDI-based document transfers, where the business on each side of the transaction “owned” the logic. If a manufacturer was dealing with a buyer for its widgets, for example, the manufacturer owned the data and actions associated with the sale, while the buyer owned the data and actions associated with the purchase.
With blockchain the logic is in the middle of the transaction and acts as a “handshake” that not only automates the deal but also ensures that the data and actions of each party remain secure and verifiable by all parties involved. In fact, anything that can be handled with the B2B approach can now be handled, and possibly displaced by, blockchain. But as with all new technologies, it is not for everybody. API management platforms represent yet another way that parties can perform a similar function, automating B2B transactions programmatically, but using different technology. Both APIs and blockchain are disrupting traditional B2B solutions.
In my opinion, blockchain will disrupt B2B in areas where data is at the most risk of being abused, for example in financial services. The financial sector is seeing an increase in the use of blockchain technology for fast and secure payments. But we could just as easily see blockchain implementations in healthcare data or anywhere else that the data is critical and security is the driving factor.
In terms of implementation, whether you use API management or blockchain, all required data must be integrated into back end systems. You need to be able to access and update the data with minimum disruption, effectively using “plug and play” integration as the conduit.
First, you have to integrate blockchain applications with existing technology. This is not as easy as it sounds, as you have to decide how to manage and plan for blockchain (and other cool new things) now and in the future for architectural changes. You also have to decide how to interact with the blockchain ecosystem, with regards to security and access controls, and figure out how to monitor transactions and events on the blockchain and react to them in real time.
Then you have to decide how to reconcile data that exists in blockchains and legacy applications, and automate, coordinate and manage all processes that span existing technologies and blockchains. As I said, it is not as easy as it sounds to integrate cool, new things, but it is the integration part that will help you to keep your cool when implementing them.