Blockchain: everywhere and nowhere

(Image: Blockchain)

4 May 2018

The latest Gartner CIO Survey has presented some surprising results regarding blockchain.

While it is the flavour of the month, with IDC predicting spending this year to top $2.1 billion (€1.7 billion), a doubling from last year, and for that spend to more than quadruple to $9.2 billion (€7.45 billion) by 2021, it has also topped the skills demand list, according to employment site Upwork, with a rise of 6,000% in demand.

“CIOs recognised that blockchain implementation will change the operating and business model of the organisations,” Gartner

But despite early implementations, such as the IBM, Maersk project, according to Gartner, only 1% of CIOs have indicated any kind of blockchain adoption within their own organisations, and only 8% were in short-term planning or active experimentation with the technology. Furthermore, says Gartner, more than three quarters (77%) of CIOs surveyed said their organisation has no interest in the technology and/or no action planned to investigate or develop it.

That is a pretty stark finding for a technology so hyped and of which so much is expected.

Critical understanding
“It is critical to understand what blockchain is and what it is capable of today, compared to how it will transform companies, industries and society tomorrow,” said David Furlonger, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

“The challenge for CIOs is not just finding and retaining qualified engineers, but finding enough to accommodate growth in resources as blockchain developments grow,” said Furlonger.

“Qualified engineers may be cautious due to the historically libertarian and maverick nature of the blockchain developer community,” he said, in reference to the fact that blockchain grew out of the somewhat opaque world of cryptocurrencies.

CIOs recognised that blockchain implementation will change the operating and business model of the organisations, said Gartner of the survey results, and they indicated a challenge in being ready and able to accommodate this requirement.

Bucking expectations
While this may not come as a surprise for everyone, it does buck certain expectations from certain camps. In fact, anecdotally, it has been reported to this hack that certain high profile blockchain systems, outside of the financial world, are actually running parallel with existing systems, at least in the early days perhaps betraying a lack of confidence.

“Blockchain continues its journey on the Gartner Hype Cycle at the Peak of Inflated Expectations. How quickly different industry players navigate the Trough of Disillusionment will be as much about the psychological acceptance of the innovations that blockchain brings as the technology itself,” said Furlonger.

There is no doubt that a significant amount of work is taking place within blockchain, with projects declared to tackle both its scale issues, and its governance, but actual working projects seem few and far between.

As Furlonger points out, this seems to stem from a lack of skills and perhaps a prevailing scepticism among those with real skills due to the origins of the technology.

Headline hanging
As the banking, insurance, logistics and supply chain sectors all grapple with the technology as a means to improve visibility, traceability and verification, blockchain will probably remain in the headlines for a while yet.

Gartner’s own 2017 emerging technology hype cycle put blockchain ahead of machine learning, but both firmly beyond the peak of inflated expectations, and heading into the trough of disillusionment.

It may be that technical difficulties, a widespread lack of knowledge and a tough skills market have conspired to hold blockchain back somewhat, but its promise may yet speed it through to the slope of enlightenment before it is supplanted.


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