It is impressive and interesting how there are so many ideas that exist today, because of the presence of blockchain technology. From cryptocurrency to smart contracts, blockchain has the potential to fundamentally transform how global business transactions are conducted.
What is blockchain? The buzzword is inescapable
To understand this technology to its full potential and see how organisations are getting ready to include blockchain into their organisational structure, we will look at what it has and will bring to our table.
Satoshi Nakamoto was the creator of this exceptional technology. In 2008, Satoshi jump started the development of blockchain. 'Satoshi Nakamoto' is a pseudonym – no one knows who Nakamoto is. In 2008, Nakamoto sent out a publication in a cryptography mailing list outlining both the concepts of blockchain technology and the most popular application of blockchain – cryptographic digital currency, or 'cryptocurrency' for short (most people know of one variation: Bitcoin). Since then, the concepts have ballooned into various forms of currency, programs, and technology, with many applications yet to come. Instead of keeping all data centralised on one or a couple of company-owned servers, it distributes the data across the entire network of computers on the system (each known as a 'node') such that there is massive redundancy and lack of point vulnerability. When a change is made, it’s transmitted to the whole network, and the overall network is updated with the change.
This makes it hard to attack the data; given that the data is distributed across all the computers on the network, you would need to have the processing power of all of the computers on the network (which can range from thousands to millions to billions of devices) in order to make an unauthorised change – no single-entry point can be used to access all the data like with the centralised model. With this kind of security and use of cryptographic technology mixed into everyday applications, blockchain is poised to reshape the way that data is distributed and accounted for.
What are blockchain’s implications and uses? How does it work in practice?
This type of data safety is the “holy grail” for many business applications. The first sector that it has made an impact is the finance world. Banks have already announced huge partnerships with tech companies to create distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and redundant banking applications so that people feel safer about their money.
Additionally, blockchain is showing promise in many spaces – audit, Internet of Things (IoT), insurance, tax automation, digital voting, and medical reporting to name a few potential applications. Not only can blockchain make complex processes more automated, it can reduce operating costs and streamline business processes drastically as well.
How could blockchain impact customer experience?
Blockchain has various applications for the future of computing – many of which we have not even been identified yet. Predicting blockchain’s future would be like attempting to speculate how revolutionary smartphone technology would be on the day of the first iPhone’s release. Despite the uncertainty, there are immense projects underway that incorporate this technology into existing and new company IT infrastructure and others being defined to allow blockchain into the world of business applications – and namely, customer experience (CX).
One of blockchain’s key features is its ability to create business transparency. Since it depends on visibility of transferred data, this feature can be leveraged to foster trust among consumers (for example, a company-owned portal that shows all blockchain activity associated with a customer, which the customer can view any time in order to see how their business relations stand). This can create increased brand loyalty, and better CX overall thanks to this increase in trust.
A huge potential application for CX applications is to change the underpinnings of the way finances are handled in CX apps. Instead of requiring a completed order to go through a standalone accounts receivable tool and risk the security concerns of that interaction of data, the application could simply use blockchain in order to confirm an order/payment has been completed and can move the business process along shortly after confirmation is received. This could also reduce the amount of human capital required to sort through and verify these sorts of transactions.
Finally, the concept of an open distributed ledger and its implications on CRM is probably one of the most prominent disruptions we could see. A distributed ledger leveraged in CRM could allow quick existing data matching and merging, along with data integrity checks that happen with every block generation that occurs (which, on existing blockchains, can happen as frequently as a few seconds apart).
Currently, the financial sector is extensively using blockchain, it is just a matter of time before organisations, across industries, start investing in this emerging technology as a means to improve their customer experience, eliminate repetitive and manual tasks, lower costs and increase productivity. Amongst all, blockchain or distributed ledger, is one of the most disruptive technologies that has the potential to transform both back-office, as well as customer facing functions, by creating a new paradigm for the way information is shared. In no time, will Blockchain like many other technologies, spread through other our technology consumption as well and become an essential part of our day to day activities.
The author is the vice president, Applications at Oracle India