Blockchain is the hot topic of the IT industry – the explosive and rapid growth of BitCoin has taken the obscure technology of distributed ledgers into mainstream consciousness. But the question we want to ask is “Does Blockchain have a role to play in Information Management? Does it have a role beyond cryptocurrencies?”
The short answer to that question is yes, and it could become one of the most important innovations for our industry in decades. That’s a bold statement for sure, and there are a mountain of naysayers to overcome before that is a reality. Although it’s still early days, we believe strongly that Information Management professionals should start to gain an understanding of what blockchain is, how it works, and how it can and will be used in our future professional lives. Technology adoption curves keep getting shorter, and as Amara’s Law suggests, we tend to overestimate the effect of a new technology in the short term, and underestimate its effect in the long term. If blockchain has the long-term impact we think it will, we need to get onboard.
To “disintermediate” — or remove the middleman — is the potential of blockchain in Information Management activities. In the future, Blockchain could play a role in everything from records to contract management and beyond, bringing unchangeable data and unbreakable digital assurance to business transactions.
The challenge is that today few people outside of the world of cryptocurrencies have any real understanding of blockchain, and fewer still have considered its future role in Information Management. Recently a group of tech CEOs I met with in the US told me that they would never use Blockchain because BitCoin has a bad reputation. It’s clever stuff, they told me, but the customer would never adopt it.
When I listed the many public and private organizations that I knew of that were planning to use or already using blockchain, they were astounded. The word “disintermediated” came up in my mind again — what if organizations around the world were to use blockchain technology without the help of traditional Information Management technology vendors? Some may already be doing exactly that.
The possibilities are still being discovered, but already the worlds of shipping documentation, legal contracts, healthcare records, and land registry records are actively exploring blockchain. From our perspective, the exciting thing is that this is a great time for anyone to get involved, to get up to speed, and be there at the start — the doors are wide open for anyone to become one of the new leaders in reimagining how we manage information with blockchain, and avoid being disintermediated in the future.
The first step forward in learning the implications of Blockchain for Information Management is to understand the fundamentals.