Recently, we were tasked to design a live blockchain pilot for a major industrial client outside of the Financial Services industry. This was a very interesting project as it included educational, product development and practical software building aspects.
The large Oil & Gas client wanted to learn more about blockchain technology, understand where it could be of most value for their business and to gain a better understanding of what exactly it takes to successfully apply the technology.
The pilot project was structured into four distinct phases:
- A group workshop with members of different business and functional units to identify an initial pilot use case;
- understanding the use case process and defining the functional requirements;
- building and documenting the blockchain pilot; and
- presenting, discussing and analysing the pilot experience with the business and functional units to develop next steps and recommendations.
Use Case Identification Workshop
Different business and functional units came together and identified a range of potential blockchain use cases across their areas and processes. Use cases were inspired by the following blockchain application areas:
- asset register & transfers; and/or
- automated contract management.
It proved to be an interesting and valuable exercise as the group gained, in a short period of time, a good understanding of the technology and agreed on a well-defined pilot use case after a lively and inspiring discussion.
The business requirements were the basis for building a pilot. The core aim was to understand the current process, its functions and how that could be mapped to blockchain functionality. It was important to define the ‘in and out of scope’ process steps to then go on to define the technical specifications. We defined functional user stories, created workflow charts and built a wireframe application to agree with process owners on the pilot scope and design.
Building the actual pilot comprised of selecting the right blockchain platform for the chosen use case; understanding the test & implementation environment; and building & testing back & front end software. The relatively early stage of blockchain technology development brings its own challenges, as many software tools are still developing and/or are less efficient to implement than other technologies. Finding experienced & creative staff is also vital to manage such a project. The build of the blockchain pilot was complemented with supporting documentation including a user guide, a recording of the pilot in action and an extranet for stakeholders with access to all the findings and outcomes of the project.
Communication & Recommendation
A critical aspect of the project was the learning experience for the different stakeholders. It’s important to manage the different expectations and requirements within each individual’s own context. Blockchain technology is new, the understanding of it’s complete workings are incomplete and the approach to emerging technologies is very different depending on organisational function & personality. Considerable time is needed to address the various needs and that goes beyond building a functional pilot within a few weeks.
Blockchain as a technology is still in its early phase and it is not something which can develop its potential in an isolated effort. Its potential to disintermediate value chains and its impact on processes can only be realised if organisations act in an agile, semi-orchestrated effort to address: technical topics; wider business & organisational issues; and third party relationship topics. It is a team effort and being conscious of the aspects mentioned before will be key to plan resources accordingly and to manage timing & expectations successfully.