Blockchain is an emerging technology for organizations to almost instantaneously make and verify transactions, streamlining business processes, saving money, and reducing the potential for fraud. Public entities and government institutions, for example, may provide more secured and transparent payment services to their customers, through a CRM-based citizen portal.
We probably have heard that Blockchain is the technology that powers Bitcoin, and it is a decentralized exchange system with no bank or government monitoring. Let me take from you just a couple of minutes to explain the technology behind the Bitcoin payment systems, so we can appreciate some potential CRM applications.
At the heart of the Bitcoin payment system, lies a Blockchain digital ledger that described a chain of transactions for every bitcoin exchanged in the system. Every time a peer-to-peer transaction occurs and there are bitcoins involved, these transactions are added to a transaction block. This block contains information that helps identify where the sender of bitcoins got their bitcoins from, and the various hands it exchanged: This is a chain of transactions, this is the Blockchain. It is very important to track how a digital currency moves from entity to entity, since there is no physical currency here, and no centralized authority monitoring it. So, for you to be sure that the sender actually had bitcoins to pay for, you need to know where they got their bitcoin from.
Blockchain also solves the double spending problem, where an owner of bitcoins tries to do spend the same digital currency more than once. Every transaction is time-stamped and every bitcoin used can have only one destination at a time. All of these transactions are secured by a public-private key encryption mechanism, and are completely anonymous.
Before a new block gets added to the chain of transactions, it has to be verified. This process goes under the name of “proof of work”. The public verification consists of more than one party in the network, called miner, validating the transaction by solving a complex math puzzle. This requires computing power, which comes at a cost for the miner. Their incentive for providing this computing capability is the possibility to win bitcoins on successful validation of a transaction. Each verified block is then added to the chain, and replicated to every other peer having their own copy of the digital ledger. Distribution and decentralization of the digital ledger reduce the risk of data tampering or fraud.
Blockchain and CRM
What does this have to do with CRM? While it is still too early for any CRM player to seriously invest in Blockchain, there are a few scenarios that could be definite CRM advantages for any organization or CRM player to invest in, and not necessarily in a financial / payment context.
Large CRM applications suffer of data duplication or inaccuracy. Blockchain could enable a customer to own one block that presents a unified and accurate picture of their personal information, service transaction history, and other data (affiliation to organizations, club membership, payment reminders, etc.). Public entities like local councils or governments, or private merchants and service providers, no longer have to worry about inaccurate, obsolete or duplicate data. Eliminating this, would accelerate data aggregation, lead to improved consumer insight, and more personalized and accurate offers to customers.
There is not much around about application of Blockchain to CRM scenarios yet. A contribution by Manny Grewal, Technical Architect at SMS Management & Technology in Australia, describes a solution for a shopping portal backed by a product catalog in Dynamics 365. Payments are handled by the Ethereum digital ledger. Ethereum is another Blockchain ledger in alternative to Bitcoin. For more information about this project and its integration with Dynamics 365, please refer to Manny’s blog post: Blockchain integration with Dynamics 365
When to use Blockchain?
Answering the following questions can determine if Blockchain is appropriate for your business scenario.
- Do multiple parties share data?
- Is there a requirement for verification of information?
- Can intermediaries be removed and reduce cost and complexity?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you have a potential scenario to apply Blockchain.
Industries using Blockchain
The potential impact of blockchain is significant across all sectors and industries, from banking to government to healthcare and beyond. As we have understood so far, Blockchain:
- Eliminates intermediaries increasing efficiency and speed.
- Simplifies operations by reducing cost and time related to reconciliations and disputes.
- Potentially enables new business models increasing revenue and savings.
According to market analysts and leading consulting firms, the top five industries that blockchain will likely disrupt by 2020 are financial services, government, real estate, supply chain management, and media distribution.
Microsoft has also shared an insight of industries of their customers on Azure that are also experimenting with Blockchain. There are financial services institutions, including insurance companies, travel and transportation, retail, power and utilities, and others. Definitely a landscape to follow…
In the next weeks, there are a few contributions of mine to CRMUG about Blockchain and CRM.
More will follow. If 2017 was the year of Machine Learning applications to CRM, 2018 promises to be the year of Blockchain!
CRMUG Academy e-learning workshop on 7th December.
- Azure Blockchain as a Service
- Enterprise Smart Contracts
- Crowdfunding with Blockchain
CRMUG Webinar “Blockchain, the next frontier of CRM” on 12th December.
This webinar introduces Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) in Microsoft Azure to build a secured data structure and create a digital transaction ledger that is shared between customers (citizens) and businesses (public entities, government institutions, organizations). By combining the openness of the internet with the security of cryptography, the BaaS solution provides everyone with a faster, safer way to perform peer-to-peer financial transactions in Dynamics 365.
For a very introduction to Blockchain, I am also contributing to the “Blogchain Space” blog.
Blockchain, a Distributed Digital Ledger