The inevitable future of blockchain in the enterprise

Blockchain will transform how the world interacts, and its transformative reach will extend far beyond the world of finance, where it first demonstrated its key attributes and its disruptive elements. The question for IT and business leaders is when.

Forward-thinking organizations have used blockchain to bring revolutionary improvements to existing processes. They’re deploying blockchain to protect intellectual property, securely share documents and track items through supply chains at a level of detail that would be nearly impossible to do manually or with conventional technologies.

Such use cases highlight the fact that blockchain technology  — defined at a basic level as blocks of digital data stored in a distributed database — already supports many applications outside of cryptocurrency and other similar monetary transactions. Indeed, blockchain experts believe that questions about whether blockchain is a technology that will fuel the future are misplaced. The more pertinent questions, they argue, center around how to apply blockchain to which interactions and when — and, most important, whether such applications could disrupt entire organizations or even industries.

Executives throughout the C-suite, CIOs in particular, must think about these questions now as they form their strategies for blockchain in the enterprise. Companies need to come to terms with the future of blockchain — its potential and challenges — as it matures into an enterprise-ready technology, experts argue. To do otherwise means running the risk of falling behind or, worse, being completely shut out of new ways of doing business.

A blockchain primer

The origins of blockchain date back to 1991, when research scientists Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta published “How to Time-Stamp a Digital Document.” With it, they introduced the idea of creating a tamper-proof digital distributed ledger. Others built on the idea, but it remained a relatively obscure concept for nearly two…

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