Blockchain projects: 7 mistakes to avoid

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Successful blockchain projects require CIOs to be aware of the technology’s capabilities and limitations, according to Gartner.

What are the biggest benefits of blockchain?
At the 2018 Gartner Symposium, Gartner’s David Mahdi explained blockchain and its potential enterprise benefits.

The hype around blockchain technology is finally fading, and while interest in the distributed ledger technology remains high, few companies are actually deploying it, according to recent research from Gartner. Only 11% of CIOs have deployed or are in short-term planning with
blockchain
, Gartner found, in part because the majority of these projects fail to go beyond the initial experimentation phase.

“Blockchain is currently sliding down toward the Trough of Disillusionment in Gartner’s latest ‘Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies,'” Adrian Leow, senior research director at Gartner, said in a Wednesday press release. “The blockchain platforms and technologies market is still nascent and there is no industry consensus on key components such as product concept, feature set and core application requirements. We do not expect that there will be a single dominant platform within the next five years.”

SEE: What is blockchain? Understanding the technology and the revolution (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To launch a successful blockchain project, CIOs must understand the most common points of failure. Here are the seven most common mistakes companies make in blockchain projects, and how to avoid them.

1. Misunderstanding or misusing blockchain

The majority of blockchain projects are used for recording data on blockchain platforms via decentralized ledger technology (DLT). While this is one function of the blockchain, it ignores its other critical features, including decentralized consensus, tokenization, and smart contracts.

“DLT is a component of blockchain, not the whole blockchain. The fact that organizations are so infrequently using the complete set of blockchain features prompts the question of whether they even need blockchain,” Leow said in the release. “It is fine to start with DLT, but the priority for CIOs should be to clarify the use cases for blockchain as a whole and move into projects that also utilize other blockchain components.”

2. Assuming the technology is ready for production use

The emerging blockchain platform market is increasingly large and fragmented, Gartner noted. Vendors focus on everything from confidentiality to tokenization to universal computing in an attempt to differentiate themselves to customers. However, most remain too immature for large-scale production work, the research found. CIOs must keep an eye on the market to monitor these platforms as they evolve in the coming years, and change their blockchain project timelines accordingly, Gartner recommended.

3. Confusing a protocol with a business solution

Blockchain is a foundation-level technology—while it can be used across industries for different situations, it is not a complete application, the research said. For example, it must also include features such as user interface, business logic, data persistence, and interoperability mechanisms.

“When it comes to blockchain, there is the implicit assumption that the foundation-level technology is not far removed from a complete application solution. This is not the case,” Leow said. “It helps to view blockchain as a protocol to perform a certain task within a full application. No one would assume a protocol can be the sole base for a whole e-commerce system or a social network.”

SEE: Blockchain: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Viewing blockchain purely as a database or storage mechanism

Blockchain technology is designed to provide an immutable, trusted record among a number of untrusted parties, not as a database manager, Gartner noted. Currently, blockchain does not implement the “create, read update, delete” model used in conventional database managers—only “create” and “read” are supported.

“CIOs should assess the data management requirement of their blockchain project,” Leow said in the release. “A conventional data management solution might be the better option in some cases.”

5. Assuming that interoperability standards exist

Because most blockchain platforms are still being developed, interoperability with other blockchains is not yet fully possible, the research found. CIOs should approach vendors who discuss interoperability with caution at this point in time.

“Never select a blockchain platform with the expectation that it will interoperate with next year’s technology from a different vendor,” Leow said in the release.

6. Assuming smart contract technology is a solved problem

Smart contracts are one of the most powerful features enabled by the blockchain. However, many challenges in terms of scalability and manageability of these contracts still exist, Gartner noted. CIOs should run small experiments with smart contract technology to start, as it will change significantly in the coming two to three years, the research said.

7. Ignoring governance issues

Public blockchains require governance from CIOs, the report noted, while governance for private and permissioned blockchains is typically handled by the owner of the blockchain.

“Governance in public blockchains such as Ethereum and Bitcoin is mostly aimed at technical issues. Human behaviors or motivation are rarely addressed,” Leow said in the release. “CIOs must be aware of the risk that blockchain governance issues might pose for the success of their project. Especially larger organizations should think about joining or forming consortia to help define governance models for the public blockchain.”

For more, check out Blockchain: Top 4 challenges CIOs face on TechRepublic.

Also see

Diagonal chain, a blockchain concept, gray

Image: iStockphoto/ismagilov



Blockchain projects: 7 mistakes to avoid