Selecting a new technology to introduce in your enterprise can be a harrowing choice.  Jaana Simula, co-founder at EBCS, recently concluded a study of blockchain project success. The results aren’t surprising; projects fail, adopting the right platform is difficult, and very few have successfully led a project to completion.  How do you choose a project that puts you on the path to blockchain success? As blockchain has matured from experimental to production ready, we wanted to review some of the common questions in evaluating blockchain projects.

  • Does the use case align with blockchain technology?
  • Do you have the resources for the technology to be easily adopted?
  • How can you accelerate project development?
As technologists it’s exciting to look at the possibilities of blockchain and the opportunities associated with those solutions.  Some of the projects that have had early success are where consortium or common interest entities can share trusted information between parties.  TrustChain is a recent project on Hyperledger Fabric for a jewelry group including Helzberg Diamonds to provide provenance data for gemstones. Its a great example of linking the parties together to provide a new level of assurance to consumers regarding the trace-ability of their jewelry. Key use cases for blockchain solutions are supply chain, financial, medical, KYC (Know Your Customer) and robotics.  Clearly defining your use case and reviewing existing samples or demonstrations can help lower time to return on investment for the project.
Once you have a use case that is perfect for blockchain,  deciding how to integrate into your existing team is important.  Dependent on how development resources are allocated in your organization, you can introduce some platforms to engineering through open source communities and experimentation.  There are good general knowledge presentations on smart contracts plus a large sample repository available on github to gain exposure. The open source community for blockchain development platforms is active and supportive.  Set up a team outing to a local meetup or reach out to a partner for a lunch and learn to kick start interest.  Get some feedback from your team on a couple of open source projects they find interesting.  You may have resources already involved.  If your team is unable to take on additional workload; there are growing partners and developers that can complement your team to add blockchain solutions.   Adding a partner to educate and provide ramp up knowledge will enable early returns and accelerate integration.  All of the major cloud providers offer multiple platforms, making it straightforward to provision systems for development.
A blockchain project is not a short commitment.  Many have compared blockchain adoption to that of the internet.  Some think we’re in the message board phase of blockchain.  Our research has shown that many projects are taking 9-12 months to reach demonstrable solutions.  The learning curve can be steep.  There are an increasing number of solutions reaching production and those times will reduce as best practices and design patterns emerge.  However, ideas are still being tested and standards are emerging.  Be prepared to invest in education outside of engineering to uncover more opportunities for adoption.  All areas of a business can be impacted by blockchain, investing across the organization in education will help transition from public blockchain concepts like bitcoin and crypto-kitties into true enterprise solutions. 
Blockchain projects add a level of complexity by integrating the needs of a broader network of stakeholders and organizations into a shared solution. Negotiating and managing disparate requirements into a clear actionable project can be a difficult challenge.  Leading a project in an open and collaborative manner will reduce friction between parties as decisions are clearly understood and common practices are shared.  Blockchain projects have failed for a number of reasons – poor fit, lack of resources, misinformation are a few.  Put your project on a path to success by having the right information and leadership on your project.