What impact has the first phase of blockchain had?
The irrational exuberance phase has had two demonstrable effects: evolution and hucksterism. Blockchain has been used successfully in cryptocurrencies, but the technology is still not “enterprise ready”. In 2017, we saw some evolution on that front as blockchain platforms such as Hypeledger Fabric announced new versions closer to enterprise use and Ethereum progressed towards making these solutions perform and scale to suit enterprise needs.
However, the exuberance has also led to new levels of hucksterism. For example, we have seen companies with dubious blockchain abilities add blockchain to their name or business to try to increase their stock price. In response, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it will crack down on such companies It is critical at this stage in blockchain's evolution that hype is recognized, and the emergent nature of the technology and its capabilities are clearly understood.
At this early stage, how should companies approach blockchain projects?
Gartner does not expect large returns on blockchain until 2025. Which means today companies will have to try different blockchain projects to determine if there is value for them in blockchain — that is, whether there will be new revenue possibilities, cost savings or improvements in their customers' user experience. However, obtaining that value may require organizations to wait until the technology is more robust, is more reliable or requires less custom development.
Most current uses of blockchain are not disruptive, because the majority of organizations that undertake blockchain projects find it hard to conceive of systems that are outside of their legacy, centralized models (both business models and technology platforms). As with other waves of technology-driven business transformation, disruption will likely come from small risk-taking ventures rather than established, risk-averse companies. In the case of blockchain technology, it is possible that the greatest social good will come from the nondisruptive transformation of global supply chains, although eventually many other sectors will be impacted, in both disruptive and nondisruptive ways.