Blockchain integration for the masses

    The power of the network is the ecosystem.

    Regardless of industry or business process, there is more than likely a blockchain network that has already emerged or is emerging as a leader.

    We see networks like IBM Food Trust in food traceability, Trust Your Supplier in supplier management, and Stellar for payments. These protocols have been in production for years and are not only becoming more stable, but are demonstrating significant ROI to those participating. 

    Currently, adoption of these blockchain networks are still primarily within Fortune 500 companies and some of their tier 1 trading partners. In order to fully recognize the potential value of these networks, all participants within the ecosystem need to be able to participate. 

    For example, in food traceability, unless the farmer, the transportation and logistics provider with all of it’s sensor technologies, the small and mid-sized distributors, restaurateurs and grocers, and the consumers can participate, the network will never reach its full potential of value. In supplier management, if only my top-tier suppliers can fully participate, I’m not able to fully see my exposure to risk. 

    There are several factors, including budget constraints and in-house technical capabilities, that are contributing to the inability for small-and medium-sized enterprises from fully participating in most blockchain networks.

    API’s are for the rich and famous

    Having worked in enterprise blockchain for several years now, I have seen extremely robust API’s delivered with the networks. This made integration fairly straightforward for most of my customers and partners. I was generally working with large enterprises, development teams, and software companies which were fully capable of integrating with generally any system that exposed an API.

    As I dug deeper, I realized that most of the upstream suppliers in the value chain were small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) that had a small IT team who likely use SaaS applications like Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, Sage, and Salesforce. Integration for these SME companies involved using plugins and services to integrate with other front-office and back-office services such as Slack, Hubspot and Gmail. Plug-and-play integration is the norm for the SME.

    We have an app for that

    To allow the SME to participate, various blockchain networks will generally provide a very purpose-built user interface (UI) for interacting with their particular blockchain. These are usually very feature-rich, allowing participants to enter or upload data and view/search the blockchain or export data if needed and authorized. There are some inherent challenges with this approach.

    1. First, it’s another UI to learn, gain access to, and divert your attention away from the systems you use on a daily basis to run your business. 
    2. Second, if you are having to copy and paste data or export and import data, you add inherent risk. A blockchain is immutable, so once on the chain, it’s always on the chain. Mis-typing, missing characters on a copy and paste, corrupted data on an import, etc. can all cause tremendous challenges in the blockchain world. 
    3. Third, the blockchain data is not timely. When a change is made in a source system, that change is not reflected in the blockchain until someone logs in to the UI and enters or uploads the data. Better hope you didn’t miss something or forget to do it.
    4. Fourth, the blockchain data is not in context. If you’re in your ERP and are looking at the orders you have from your customers and the related orders you have from your suppliers, wouldn’t you like to have the risk score for each supplier at your fingertips? Wouldn't you like to see the status of your suppliers’ supply chains? The information is in the blockchain, but you have to jump out of what you’re doing and go check the blockchain UI.

    BlockSpaces Connect: Plug-and-play blockchain

    SAP customers are pretty well covered with blockchain integration.

    But what about all the SMEs who do business with those companies that don’t use SAP?

    For SMEs, their choices are: getting used to yet another UI or getting really good at exporting and importing on a regular basis.

    Or, they can hire developers to build a point-to-point integration for each system and each blockchain they want to connect to.

    Or, SMEs best bet, is to check out BlockSpaces Connect.

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