Just say no to blockchain (for now) advises Gartner

Face down CEO FOMO on blockchain recommends research firm

In response no doubt to the huge amount of interest it receives from chief information officers about the technology, Gartner hosted eight sessions on blockchain at it's annual Symposium event on the Gold Coast this week.

And at every talk the advice from the firm's analysts was the same: just don't do blockchain, at least no time soon.

"It's still not appropriate for the vast majority of enterprises to consider blockchain technology at its current level of maturity," said Gartner research fellow David Furlonger on Wednesday.

"I don't think it has sufficient levels of mission criticality associated with really fundamentally changing the system of record," he added.

'Blockchain' has been the top search term on gartner.com since January 2017. That is a result of the noise about blockchain for which Gartner has a nuanced definition – having become increasingly difficult to ignore in recent years.

Some argue that the technology has the potential to "revolutionise the world economy". The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) last year said it expects the uses of distributed ledger technology to grow “exponentially” over time. Others, like the government's Digital Transformation Agency say “for almost every use of blockchain you would consider today there is a better technology” such as databases and APIs.

"I often feel I'm in the middle of this maelstrom of hyperbole and general commentary in the market. Virtually every day there's someone saying something positive or negative about blockchain," Furlonger said.

"From our perspective this is still really early days here. This is part and parcel of the noise that you often experience when we're at these paradigm changes," he said.

According to Gartner, the technology has a number of issues that need to be addressed before enterprises can confidently roll it out at scale.

Gartner research director Adrian Leow shared data that the majority of blockchain proof of concepts were based on Ethereum, followed by HyperLedger and Corda. But businesses could expect that within just couple of years another platform would replace them.

Recalling how Nokia and Blackberry initially emerged as leaders in the mobile phone market, before Apple and Samsung displaced them, Leow said that "probably the dominant blockchain platform of the future doesn't exist yet".

That gave CIOs more reason to wait for the technology to mature, Gartner argues.

"We need to take it carefully over the next few years until we reach a stronger point of robustness, both within the technology but also within the business itself," Furlonger said.

On top of the technological issues, businesses will also need to "be willing to embrace decentralisation in their business models and processes. It is not straightforward," said Rajesh Kandaswamy, research vice president at Gartner.

Collaborating with long-standing competitors has been highlighted as a significant challenge in getting blockchain projects off the ground, with a number of CIOs saying it was "the hardest step" and "actually very difficult". 

"If we built our companies, our industries based around a paradigm of centralised control centralised control of customers, product, manufacturing environment etc are we prepared to relinquish some of that control? Maybe into a consortia environment, maybe into an association of affiliated networks, what are the boundaries for that and how is that going to affect our ability to make money, to generate revenue for our stakeholders?" Furlonger said.

"Do we really want this to happen?" he added.

No, no FOMO

For now it appears most companies are not diving into blockchain – although the conference heard from ASX CIO Dan Chesterman about the Australian Securities Exchange operator's distributed ledger technology overhaul – or even dipping their toes.

A May survey from Gartner found fewer than one per cent of CIOs globally have invested in or deployed any kind of blockchain-based solution within their organisations. 

The survey of 3138 CIOs – including 113 in Australia and New Zealand – found adoption of distributed ledger technology to be almost non-existent, although eight per cent indicated they were at a ‘pilot execution’ stage. More than a third of respondents said they had absolutely no interest in the technology, and 43 per cent said it was ‘on the radar but no action planned’.

"For the foreseeable future, if you have a CEO that is coming down to you very worried about FOMO the fear of missing out it seems pretty clear to us this should not necessarily be any fear here," said Furlonger.

"I don't mean this to be a totally negative message, and I've been accused of being the big curmudgeon…I want to give some practical reality," he added.

@georgepnott

The author travelled to Gartner Symposium as a guest of Gartner.

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Tags GartnerresearchASXASICGold CoastsymposiumdecentralizationadviceDavid FurlongerBlockchaindistributed ledger technologyDTADLT

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