New Blockchain Playbook Helps Governments Embrace The Tech And Cut Through Hype
From Forbes.com, April 15, 2018
Cryptocurrency markets may still be mired in the trough of disillusionment, but interest in blockchain and distributed ledger technology continues to percolate within the United States government. Applications of the technology across the federal government are being aggressively explored, in conjunction with artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation.
But as public sector blockchain fever continues to grow - even amid reported instances of vendors trying to sell “blockchain solutions” that aren’t actually blockchain to naive agency IT procurement managers, a need has emerged for a roadmap and how-to manual designed to help practitioners better understand the technology’s potential, cut through hype and jargon and ultimately deliver better value for taxpayers.
ACT-IAC, a non-profit educational group that strives to help governments better utilize technology, has taken a first stab at this with the unveiling of its first-ever Blockchain Playbook for the federal government earlier this month.
The white paper builds off the Modernization, Migration and Management shared services framework employed by the General Services Administration, which is used to guide agencies toward successful outcomes and reduced risk when pursuing technology upgrades.
Developed by a broad team of agency technologists and outside experts and building off of the Blockchain Primer, released by ACT-IAC last fall to demonstrate the public sector pertinent capabilities that blockchain offers, the playbook seeks to serve as a guide rail for agencies curious about exploring and potentially deploying distributed ledgers in a calculated way.
The playbook offers a five-stage roadmap for navigating blockchain’s unique potential benefits and pitfalls within an agency context:
Initial Assessment - Agencies are encouraged to put due diligence into identifying small and specific use cases where a blockchain could deliver real value, while articulating what the ideal delivery results would look like. To assist in this, the playbook offers a boilerplate questionnaire to help drill down into whether a particular use case actually requires a blockchain or if a more traditional database solution would be more appropriate:
“With blockchain near the top of the hype cycle in 2017, it is important to separate reality from hype when it comes to which uses cases can actually benefit from a blockchain solution.”
Organizational Readiness - Ensuring that an organization is ready both in terms of structure and personnel to understand and embrace a novel solution like blockchain is also critical. This can be facilitated by tasks like setting up a blockchain governance office, defining the scope of blockchain services, assessing the integrability of existing systems and leveraging the expertise of a wide array of participants - from IT managers to blockchain experts to enterprise architects.
Not all organizations are ready for the amount of change that abrupt introductions of disruptive tech like blockchain might bring, so agencies should be comfortable with the level of change management that might be required by blockchain adoption, the paper recommends:
“As the industry considers the new model of decentralized organizations, consider whether executives are ready for the massive shift to the automatic execution of activities without human intervention. Also determine the qualifying factors of decentralized organizations, such as the rules and regulations that need to be adhered to and how the blockchain solution may integrate with existing systems.”
Technology Selection - All blockchains and distributed ledgers obviously aren’t created equal, so getting a handle on which specific solution is the proper fit for a particular business case within an agency requires a bit of homework.
Business considerations like governance, mode of operation, transaction costs and consensus mechanisms are important to identify, as are technical specifics like scalability and the pros and cons of public and permissioned networks. For federal government agencies, it may be necessary to obtain needed approvals to operate within the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program framework.
“The business problem and requirements must be clearly identified to ensure the appropriate blockchain platform is selected. Blockchain is a cross-cutting and transformative technology, but it is not the solution to every problem. Review and understand the description of the platform to ensure it matches the need. Look past the jargon to understand the specific differences.”
ACT-IAC expects to publish deep dives into the implementation and acquisition stages, the fourth and fifth phases, respectively, later in 2018.
The playbook is available on GitHub at: https://blockchain-working-group.github.io/blockchain-playbook/.