What can we do with blockchain? There are so many possibilities it can be overwhelming. It's helped me to organize use cases into four categories. Hopefully, these categories will help you think of use cases in your areas of specialty--be it a horizontal application like procurement or an industry vertical like healthcare, retail or telecommunications.
1. Enable distributed, autonomous marketplaces
Blockchain allows asset owners to track and trade things of value—such as outstanding invoices—in a secure, transparent, private and self-reconciling "chain" of transactions. This capability adds speed and flexibility to cash and asset management. For example, using verified invoices from ERP applications, companies could raise needed cash quickly or accelerate cash flow by selling invoices on an autonomous invoice-factoring marketplace.
2. Reduce friction in business transactions
Blockchain technology enables decentralized trading networks, with no reliance on a third party, as the network validates transactions. So we can enable an autonomous procurement network, where the business rules are written into smart contracts that will execute automatically on the network, using pre-agreed rules. All business documents--such as purchase orders and shipping and receiving documents--are shared, agreed upon and updated on the network. That provides a single source of truth. It also eliminates delays and disputes, as well as reduces the need for reconciliation to multiple systems.
3. Manage and secure decentralized private records with encryption
Today, anywhere that we have a need to securely share information, but only to authorized parties, we rely on either a centralized database (such as a credit rating database) or use of manual, insecure, slow, expensive and unreliable processes (such as background checks on potential new hires).
A logical application for this example is employee or student records, where employers, educational institutions and even industry certification bodies can add new qualifications, grades or work positions as they obtain them. Imagine giving an employee a key for access to all his or her employee records as part of a secure blockchain that Human Resources also participates in. Individuals would be able to share their college transcripts or employment with employers or other educational institutions securely and not rely on faxing copies of certificates that are unreliable and easy to forge.
4. Track the provenance of products and materials
Blockchain can help guarantee product quality and safety by making it easier to track and locate in-use products and materials. For example, let’s say an auto manufacturer forms a quality-focused blockchain that includes parts suppliers, sub-assembly makers, a quality-control provider and the public regulatory body (such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Recalls of defective parts would then progress much faster, and thus be more effective. This is significant considering tens of thousands of lives are lost annually because of defective auto parts. We can also use a similar model to track the provenance of pharmaceuticals, preventing counterfeit drugs from entering the supply chain or even the history of the food we buy from farm to fork.
Blockchain Is Likely in Your Future
These are only four of many ways we see your customers potentially using blockchain. We recently announced Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service at Oracle OpenWorld, and we’re encouraging you, our partners, to think strategically about the technology. Take some time to learn about blockchain, and then consider pilot projects that can add value in your business. In some cases, using blockchain will require building new business processes or reconstructing existing ones using Oracle Cloud applications. But it is a flexible technology that could benefit any industry.
It may be a few years before blockchain is present in a large percentage of our customers’ technology stacks, but we are building paths for easier ramp-ups of blockchain initiatives when customers are ready. This goes not just for our applications but also for our expertise. The same function-specific specialization Oracle maintains for implementations of financial, human resources and supply chain applications will also be part of blockchain projects.
Will you join the movement?
David Haimes is Senior Director of ERP Development, Oracle.
This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.