By Sherree DeCovny, Co-Founder and Research Principal
Confusion comes with the territory when tackling an innovative project or new, highly technical subject matter. It’s often difficult to know where to begin. One could argue the best approach is to start anywhere. Just start.
Blockchain, a completely new paradigm for recording and sharing data, is no exception. The financial services industry has already spent more than $1 billion on proofs of concept (POCs), and 2017 could be a make-or-break year where the rubber meets the road. Some projects will move into production, and others will likely fall by the wayside.
Many believe that the next wave of blockchain innovation will occur in supply chain management, a function that has gained in strategic importance and which lends itself to the unique benefits of the technology. The supply chain industry lags financial services, but many blockchain POCs have been launched in an array of areas including apparel, biopharma, commodities, food and trade finance. It’s very early days, but the industry has started to make progress.
So has Chain Business Insights. As a research and analysis firm specializing in blockchain in supply chain and trade finance, Chain Business Insights is committed to monitoring these initiatives and keeping our members abreast of the trends. Our first eBook, Blockchain Meets Supply Chain: Rewiring Business Operations for the Digital Age, has won plaudits. We’ve published some blogs about some real and potential implementations of blockchain, as well as what is under the hood of the technology. We initiated our presence on the speaking circuit, and other publications, including an eBook, are in the pipeline.
Most recently, we did a benchmark survey to gauge the awareness and level of knowledge of blockchain among supply chain professionals and to determine how advanced implementation plans are.
Somewhat to our surprise, most respondents were fairly familiar or very familiar with the technology, and many were already working on implementations. As a result, we feel that we’ve tapped into a group that is already forming definite opinions about the opportunity for blockchain technology, and the challenges that need to be overcome in supply chain applications.
We asked participants how they might use blockchain, the primary advantages of the technology, when they might implement it, and the obstacles to adopting it. Given the move toward the digital supply chain, we also asked which other technologies will likely have an impact on the industry. Among our respondents were supply chain practitioners, shipping agents, technology providers, consultants and others.
Respondents indicated that tracking/tracking/traceability and communications are important applications of the technology. As far as complementary technologies go, big data/analytics, Internet of Things, cloud computing and to a lesser extent RFID, will likely have an impact on supply chain management.
This is the first in an ongoing series of industry surveys on blockchain’s development and usage in the supply chain domain. We believe that future surveys will underpin our feeling (backed by much informal dialog with industry professionals) that the awareness of blockchain is still relatively low across the industry. Moreover, lack of standards and awareness are key obstacles to adoption.
Clearly, the first development projects in the supply chain domain are emerging – but as our survey underlines, there is still a long way to go before the technology gains widespread acceptance. Importantly, the industry has made a start. Chain Business Insights is excited to keep our finger on the pulse, be part of the conversation and help to fill the awareness gap as supply chain professionals move from POCs into production.