Remove failures, improve your success by removing innovation and POC failure risks for Blockchain and emerging technologies. R&D and innovation experiences translated to business and technology considerations for selecting the right technology for a use case. This is part one of a two-part mini-series. Part one addresses business and general considerations, and part two addresses technology considerations. Both parts are independent of each other.
“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Both databases and Blockchain store information. Each technology has its strengths, excelling in different areas. Understanding their strengths and drawbacks can help with technology selection.
Databases are established and well understood. Blockchain platforms and related technologies are not. They are relatively new. Without understanding both, comparison becomes harder.
This article provides insights into when a Blockchain technology or a database makes sense. If you are familiar with Blockchain, please continue. For those getting started with Blockchain, please read my Blockchain primer called “Blockchain Demystified!” posted in the Blog section.
Please note that through this article, I am not suggesting an absolute choice — either Blockchain or a database. Both are not mutually exclusive. Depending on your business needs, both may be required.
This article is written in two parts addressing General and Technology considerations. General considerations offer overall planning insights. Technology considerations provide information to assist with the selection of Blockchain or database technologies.
Both are complete articles. They can be read independently of each other. Reading in a sequence is suggested.
I was at a local professional networking event. “We will architect our solution using Blockchain,” said an excited voice near me. I turned around and noticed a small group talking. They were discussing Blockchain and AI.
I walked over to the group. “May I join you?” I asked. “I hope I am not interrupting your conversation”.
“Sure”, said one of the people in the group. “We just met, and you can introduce yourself too”, she added. I joined the conversation.
The person discussing Blockchain worked for a large company. His company is planning to experiment with Blockchain technologies. The group discussed many things. These included:
- Private vs. public Blockchains,
- Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT)
- Open vs. closed systems
- Databases, Blockchain information storage and,
- Generating Blockchain reports
As an individual involved with Blockchain, AI and IoT, it was a stimulating conversation. I forgot all about networking with other attendees.
I concentrated on the Blockchain and AI conversation. I pitched in, offering my insights and opinions. There was a debate regarding Blockchain vs databases. Strong opinions existed on how to select a Blockchain platform from Ethereum, Corda, Hyper Ledger, IOTA, and others. It was interesting to listen to different views. It was also interesting to notice confusion around databases and Blockchain technologies.
Listening to our animated conversation, a few more attendees also joined us. When the conversation finished, I had thoughts humming in my head. There was a lot of information to process.
In the excitement of using new technologies, talent considerations get missed often. Here is an important question to answer before introducing Blockchain technologies.
– Is Blockchain talent available within your company?
– If required, are you willing to supplement in-house Blockchain talent with higher-priced talent in the market?
Blockchain is only a decade-old technology. Talent availability is thin and expensive. Support may have to be developed internally, or outsourced at higher prices. Architecture choices need to be examined closely. And, a Blockchain platform meeting the needs has to be selected carefully.
Though these are big issues to consider, the rewards are compelling. Disruption, especially emerging tech-based disruptions have become the norm. To thrive in such an environment, a company should be disrupting markets; or be exploiting the powers of emerging tech. Or, it should be responding to disruption in the market. Complacency can be disastrous. Playing catch-up is not an option anymore.
Proven Technologies vs. Emerging Tech
Databases are based on proven and established technologies. The talent for database technologies is readily available at reasonable prices. Therefore, support and troubleshooting knowledgebase is well established. Database solutions can be architected using industry best practices. They are easier to implement than Blockchain.
If your company is committed to exploiting the power of Blockchain and is willing to invest in Blockchain talent, then Blockchain consideration is viable. Otherwise, stick to a database-driven solution, even if Blockchain appears to be a better technology for your use case.
Proof of Concept (POC)
Database-driven solutions and best practices are well-established. From POC through product development, the process is well understood. Therefore, I have covered only Blockchain POC in this section as if Blockchain was selected as a technology for your use case.
If your company is new to Blockchain, select a straightforward “use case” that is not going to disrupt your existing workflow in a major way. Conduct a proof of concept (POC) to implement the use case.
A POC is a small experiment or a pilot project. The purpose is to verify that the concepts used, and the use case has real-world applicability. It establishes that the concept and solution have enough potential to develop it further. And, it establishes that the fully developed solutions can provide the intended benefits.
There are additional benefits to conducting a POC. Your teams shall gain experience and confidence in Blockchain technology. Risks shall be exposed. You are better off addressing them at the POC stage before they cause issues during mainstream operations.
Note that Cisco studies in 2017 have revealed that close to 75% of IoT projects fail and close to 60% of initiatives stall at POC stages. (Link: https://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?articleId=1847422). There are many reasons for such a failure rate. In my experiences, one of them is not involving the right partners for the POC.
From my knowledge and numerous research published on the Internet, Blockchain and AI projects fare no better. Proper planning, business, IT, operations, process gurus, and talent involvement are critical to a POC’s success.
Innovation is hard. Scaling innovation is even harder. Thorough preparedness is the key to success.
There are several business factors to be considered before embarking on an emerging tech POC. Depending on your company’s position, you may have to plan your POC approach.
I am sharing a few thoughts based on my innovation experiences. I am also sharing experiences from my work at Research and Development labs like AT&T Bell Laboratories, and others. I hope they help you also plan for success.
- Are innovation and emerging tech-based solutions supported by your company?
- Is there a history of deploying emerging technologies of the time at your company? If yes, your work just became easy.
- Is your company exploiting new technologies, or is it responding to its wide-spread adoption by competitors and is feeling the impact? Both positions show different mindsets. You may have to manage to these.
- Will your team’s existing workload be reduced to spend time on POC, or would they have to work extra hours? In the former case, teams may be self-motivated. In the latter case, motivation would be hard. You may have to plan accordingly.
Selecting the right technology to solve a business issue is important for supporting the business. A wrong selection can lead to mediocre outcomes.
Both Blockchain and database technologies have their strengths. These need to be understood for effective comparison and selection.
Proper planning and is important for testing and launching any new product or solution to the market. This is even more important for emerging tech-based products and services due to lack of expertise in the market. And, remain cognizant of your most valuable partner – the customer and their requirements.
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