When you hear about blockchain, it’s usually in the context of financial transactions, most notably its enablement of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
But in its elemental form, blockchain is simply a decentralised ledger in the form of a database, shared across connected computers where transactions can be independently verified and trusted.
In an increasingly connected world, it’s no surprise blockchain technology has sparked much chatter about how far-reaching its application could be, with the potential to transform nearly every industry. So, could blockchain change project management? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, most likely through industries first and then the discipline as a whole.
Here are just a few of the ways blockchain technology is expected to impact the future of business, including project management:
In industries where competition is razor sharp, and every business is looking for that next “edge,” whether it’s blockchain or drone delivery, blockchain will attract many early adopters.
“We’re quite confident that it has big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics,” FedEx Chief Executive Officer, Fred Smith, told attendees at a blockchain conference in New York last year. “It’s the next frontier that’s going to completely change worldwide supply chains.”
They aren’t alone. FedEx rival DHL co-authored a study that shows how blockchain could change the industry by eliminating the manual processes that cause friction across the global supply chain. Their 2018 study predicts blockchain will have far-reaching implications—increasing data transparency, saving money, accelerating “the physical flow of goods,” reducing counterfeiting and creating “more innovative business models” among other advances.
It will still take physical materials to build things, but that doesn’t mean the disruptive power of blockchain won’t transform construction as well. Here’s one academic’s take on the future for that industry:
“On the construction site, blockchain can improve the reliability and trustworthiness of construction logbooks, works performed and material quantities recorded. In the facility maintenance phase, blockchain’s main potential is the secure storage of sensor data which are sensitive to privacy.”
Improving project delivery
Blockchain technology will surely change the way project management professionals engage with all aspects of their discipline and eventually increase the quality and lower the cost of projects overall.
Take contracts, for example. The Australian government is pairing up with IBM to create blockchain “smart” contracts. This new Australian National Blockchain (ANB) platform will enable “companies nationwide to join the network to use digitised contracts, exchange data and confirm the authenticity and status of legal contracts,” according to the consortium leading the effort.
Therefore, instead of a project manager tracking each stage of a contract lifecycle, business events could be automatically and digitally triggered with full transparency on all sides.
Delegating this type of low-leverage work to technology can free up time for more true collaboration, the kind that requires human perspectives and inputs.
‘Internet of value’
In all, blockchain is predicted to reach a USD $23.3 billion global market by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate exceeding 80% between 2018 and 2023.
But the true potential and promise of blockchain is as boundless as the Internet itself. Or, as one of the more noted experts on blockchain, Canadian executive and author Don Tapscott, writes:
“The first generation of the digital revolution brought us the Internet of information. The second generation—powered by blockchain technology—is bringing us the Internet of value: a new platform to reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.
These are exciting times ahead.
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