How Integrated Process Management Can Unlock Blockchain’s Potential
Distributed ledger technology promises to make digital transactions safer for all parties. To fulfill that promise organizations must take a holistic view by applying traditional business orchestration and integrated process management to tightly connect legacy systems of record with emerging blockchain networks. The result? Trust and true collaboration across their value chains.
Digital technologies are reshaping everything from business models and consumer behavior to our social relationships and culture. By securing digital transactions through a distributed cryptography framework, blockchain technology has emerged as the new “trust protocol” to support digital solutions that entail collaboration among disparate stakeholders such as customers, vendors and partners.
Since its inception, blockchain has evolved from a mechanism powering the Bitcoin cryptocurrency to a technology that is poised to streamline the entire enterprise landscape. Blockchain networks now support smart contracts that automatically facilitate, verify and execute transactions when the contract terms are satisfied.
The next step in blockchain’s evolution will be the industry-wide deployment of value chains including the integration of enterprise systems and encompassing boundary-less process automation. Blockchain’s ability to coordinate and streamline business processes across organizations, employees and customers relies on its ability both to establish trust among participants by verifying tamper-proof records and also to provide decentralized storage and communication across organizations. (For more insights on how blockchain works, see our report “Demystifying Blockchain”)
In our view, blockchain will become imperative for any organization seeking to survive and thrive in the unfolding digital economy. To unlock the technology’s full potential, modern enterprises will need to leverage integration and process management as strategic enablers for gaining competitive advantage via blockchain-powered networks.
Figure 1 illustrates how integration can help enterprises realize blockchain’s true power.
Automating Claims Processes in the Airline Industry
Blockchain could be employed to streamline the claims process for delayed or cancelled flights by maintaining passenger flight information on a blockchain network, coupled with smart flight-cancelation insurance contracts that would execute and pay out automatically. A blockchain-powered solution would eliminate manual processes, reduce transaction errors, create an immutable audit trail, and enhance security.
Such a solution would require integration of blockchain with back-end systems to retrieve passenger information, with external application programming interfaces (APIs) for making refunds and with communication channels to notify passengers. This approach would expose channels to external applications (i.e., airlines) to create records in case of flight delays or cancellations, and trigger complex event processing (CEP) rules (if necessary) to generate system alerts for possible delays. In addition, this approach would have a business process management (BPM) process in place as an overlay in case of payout authorization.
Streamlining Partner Management
While most organizations have embraced B2B platforms, end-to-end visibility is often not available. Blockchain can address this deficiency and eliminate the need for a B2B platform to reveal the exchange of records validated by smart contracts. A blockchain solution could deliver a complete view of order status to all parties involved, which would make disputes less likely. Unlike traditional B2B systems, a blockchain solution delivers to participants a secure, auditable record of events in real time. In addition, events and documents can be recorded on a blockchain as blocks representing the status of an order, out of the box.
Extending Business Process Management to Processes that Span Multiple Organizations
Business processes that span multiple enterprises have not been adopted widely due to a lack of trust and to challenges in joint design. Blockchain technology has the potential to support interorganizational business processes by providing the required level of trust. The know your customer (KYC) and customer due-diligence regulations in the financial industry provide a good example of the potential of blockchain in making industry-wide processes feasible.
Each time a customer starts a new relationship with a bank, she submits a set of identification documents that are typically housed on a BPM platform. Since these systems are maintained by individual banks, customers must provide the same information each time they begin a relationship with a new institution.
An industry-wide blockchain solution would instead allow customers to provide this information only once, validating and then sharing that information each time the customer begins a relationship with a new bank. This industry-wide approach would vastly reduce the duplication of information and manual checks for both banks and customers, while enhancing the quality of the information that is stored.
Despite blockchain technology’s great promise, organizations face some significant challenges in taking advantage of its potential. They include:
Building awareness: Greater awareness of the potential of blockchain is needed, both within functional areas and also among key decision-makers.
Developing integration standards. Systems integration standards will need to be established and enforced.
Securing talent. Organizations will need additional blockchain talent such as in skills around the relevant technologies (e.g., chain-code developers, experienced hands-on Go language coders, etc.).
Addressing cultural issues. Many organizations underestimate the cultural change required to move from centrally administered systems to decentralized systems where they must share information with outside entities.
Monitoring regulatory requirements. Most regulatory authorities have not addressed the issues raised by blockchain technology. Recognition of crypto keys as value as e-signatures and recognition of digital assets as legally valid would be important steps.
Enterprise blockchain is poised to redefine the future of digital enterprises, bringing new levels of efficiency, security and trust to applications across all industries. With increased adoption of blockchain solutions, organizations will gain visibility into how their business transactions occur in real time.
However, harnessing the power of blockchain technology will require businesses to understand its impact on their core business processes and address the systems integration challenges present both within their organization’s own walls and also with external stakeholders.
Blockchain technology can help build trust by delivering benefits such as increasing security and curbing fraud, providing insights to transaction records and reducing substantially the cost of transactions by eliminating intermediaries. Once organizations experience the benefits of blockchain technology, there will be no turning back.