This article is the third in a series that is investigating the success and failure of blockchain projects. A couple of articles of failed blockchain projects inspired me do a research study about management of successful blockchain projects, a quest to find out if there’s something we could all learn from the successful blockchain projects. This study was the first of its kind in the world. It was sent out to over 150 people in companies that actively do blockchain application development. The study was narrowed down to successful and active projects to flush out the secrets to their success. You can read the two first parts of the series about differences between blockchain projects and standard software development projects here and here.

Blockchain Project Success Factors

Without further ado, let’s get into what the research subjects told about their success.

During the study, the respondents were asked to name all the things that had made their blockchain projects successful. One factor stood out above others: 62% of respondents thought that key to their success had been the ability to have the right team in place.

Team’s impact on success was further emphasized when the respondents were asked to self-evaluate and select their most successful project phase, and explain why that phase was successful. The respondents named Execution phase their most successful project phase, and team’s experience, commitment, communication and teamwork were mentioned as the reasons why team was so important for the success of the phase. Team’s importance was recognized in other project phases as well.

Here is a clear difference between a traditional and a blockchain project. For traditional projects, team is often mentioned as one of the 5-10 key success factors, but not the most important thing. Ahead of it are things like executive sponsorship for the project, stakeholder engagement, clear objectives, proper plan and a good project manager. In my study, there was a big gap, 16%, to the next biggest success factor, picking the right technology.

All of this makes sense when you think about the early phases of a new technology and the people that are immersed in the blockchain world now. Resolving issues around immaturity of the technology, or building something new, highly relies on the modern day explorers, individuals and teams who boldly face uncertainty and find out ways to work through and around issues. These early adopters are excited about the technology and the opportunities that it brings. Create a team from these people and they’ll move the world to get things done. “I’m just doing my job” is not an attitude you see around.

Other top success factors named after right team and right technology were visionary leadership, 42%, good and well managed project plan 35%, team experience 31% and good governance model 23%.

Quick Wins for Success

Blockchain projects are complicated, but there are two easy and basic ways to increase the success rate of your blockchain projects: following best practices, aka using a well proven methodology, and having a dedicated project manager for the project.

Agile was the most popular methodology used amongst the survey respondents. It was used as pure agile, or in combination with others. Regardless of whether used as a standalone methodology or in a combination of multiple methodologies, projects reported greater success rate than the projects that were not following any methodology. Having a dedicated project manager for the project had a similar impact.

 

Lessons Learned

Finally in the study, the respondents were asked to share one piece of wisdom with the rest of us: if they could have done one thing differently during their blockchain project, what would it be? There different themes were clear amongst the answers: training, product and team.

Training

The need for additional and more in depth training came up in multiple responses. As discussed in the previous article in this series, it takes a long time for a team to learn the selected platform and to become efficient in designing and developing on it: 6-12 months for 42% of the respondents, and over a year for 15%. Training should be done upfront and only when a level of proficiency is achieved, then start planning and developing.

Product

User experience can make or kill a product. For end users, it’s the user experience that counts. Technology underneath can be the finest and greatest, but poor user experience can undermine a lot of it, which was emphasized by the survey respondents as well. In addition, understanding the customer needs and priorities helps focus the effort on the most important features. It is impossible create every feature and functionality customers want. Instead of trying to please everybody, focus should be put on the most important features. And the path to the most important features goes through truly understanding your customers.

Team

Even though teams were given a lot of praise, the respondents felt that things could have been done better. More clear role definitions, picking the right leadership team, right partnerships / less partnerships would have made some projects even better.  Difficulties scaling up development team were also brought up, and tightly relates to blockchain training and educating the team. As described in the previous article in this series, learning blockchain technology takes time not just from the technical team but from the customers and whole project team. The time to train and the fact that there are very few blockchain experienced people out there make the team ramp up a challenge that needs to be taken into account in project planning.

Conclusions

In order to ensure your blockchain project’s success:

  • Keep in mind that blockchain is a new technology and new technology often comes with challenges
  • Make sure there’s a business need for a blockchain solution
  • Take time to learn and understand the technology and how it can be applied to your use case
  • Follow a methodology and have a dedicated project manager
  • Plan appropriate amount of time in your project plan for the team to learn designing and developing on the blockchain platform
  • Projects will get more complicated with a network of stakeholders, ensure that good governance model is in place