How government can get the most out of blockchain
- By Aleks Zelenovic
- Nov 14, 2017
The federal government is slowly and steadily starting to embrace blockchain technology that could affect public sector organizations in many positive ways. Digital distributed ledgers can enable smarter decisions, reduce transactional friction and increase process efficiencies, because the technology cuts down on manual work and increases data security.
Such ledgers are not an application or a database or a background architectural piece. Blockchain is a foundational technology that can connect pieces of a puzzle within a system, creating an ecosystem that accelerates information sharing and leverages automation for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Although there are a number of ways agencies can take advantage of blockchain's benefits, they should keep the following guidelines in mind.
Blockchain is a foundation. Think of blockchain as a fundamental building block or data-layer platform that stitches together many disparate components to support agency use cases.
Blockchain is about the business. Focusing on use cases where there is an actual need to improve the business process will help agencies better understand the technology's capabilities and power. Blockchain will open new ways to look at business processes to enhance them.
User experience must be at the center, starting with a simple and intuitive interface. Ensure the right user experience design is in place to support blockchain applications. Users don’t care what is running under the hood -- they want to clearly see and understand new possibilities. A good user experience will help the adoption.
Ensure flexibility and scalability by starting small and starting smart. Don’t put everything on blockchain in step zero. Agencies can expand scope and capabilities of their blockchain projects as they become more familiar with its use and value.
Use microservices architecture. The IT architecture should be designed so all blockchain capabilities are developed as microservices. This ensures all capabilities are interconnected while enabling flexibility and the ability to evolve the technology stack with minimal disruption.
Keep it simple and open. Blockchain data architecture is inherently open source and can bridge many different standards, systems and users. As agencies experiment with the technology, they can ensure flexibility by maintaining this openness rather than using complex or proprietary datasets that may minimize blockchain's effectiveness or inflate future costs.
Account for culture change. Blockchain solutions are best built using incremental development and basic principles of agility that enable users to adjust their business processes and bring new ideas to the table. IT managers must plan for strong collaboration and ensure users are the central part of the process.
Focus on enabling future technology by programming rules, smart contracts and logic into the blockchain platform. This will provide the ultimate benefit of automated, real-time value by continuously adding machine learning to the ecosystem. Together, this further speeds processes and improves decision-making across use cases.
As federal agencies begin creating blockchain ecosystems, they should deliver them in logical pieces using an agile/DevOps approach in combination with rapid prototyping/visualization and continuous integration and deployments. This approach will not only allow developers to quickly and efficiently demonstrate value, but also will help create stability in the tech environment and provide control over speed, costs and scope.
The arrival of blockchain offers exciting possibilities for federal agencies and organizations. By following these important guidelines, IT managers can help make blockchain use and acceptance an easier and more enjoyable experience.
Aleks Zelenovic is strategy and consulting practice lead at Publicis.Sapient.