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Is blockchain the answer?

Posted by Tim Cummins, President of IACCM, Professor, Leeds University School of Law; Chair, International Commercial & Contract Management | Apr 5, 2018 2:29:00 PM

Many people ask “what is blockchain?”, but much more important is to understand “what can blockchain do?”

One answer to this question is that blockchain can act as s foundational layer that sucks data from multiple sources and creates an accurate, verifiable record, based on which many of today’s manual decisions can be automated.

In that context, blockchain has the potential to remove delays, cut costs and reduce the need for specialists. It has massive implications for any activity that requires verification or validation – for example, in acquisition processes, in transactional records and exchange, in contract management. Arguably, for example, it could automate many aspects of world trade, cutting through laborious procedures such as customs and documentation checks.

An answer for Brexit?

It seems probable that blockchain will gain rapid publicity through some role in resolving the issues created by a post-Brexit world. It would be surprising if it is not being considered as a potential answer for the dilemma of a reconstituted border in Ireland. Blockchain could make that border ‘virtual’ and a successful pilot there would rapidly spread across international markets.

But much more broadly, there are already exciting pilots underway, a number of which were discussed at this week’s ACT-IAC forum in Washington DC. The use of blockchain can overcome the complexity of gathering and reconciling data from multiple sources – and the beauty is that it overlays those sources, it doesn’t replace them. Hence the cost and politics associated with its implementation can be low. Contract award procedures, compliance checks, performance management, identity verification, ownership rights – the areas which today cause extensive costs and delays are all within the potential scope of blockchain-based solutions.

This ‘democratization of data’ has massive impacts on business and society. Those impacts must be evaluated. But the answer for those who are affected is not to ignore blockchain and hope that it goes away, but rather to understand how it can benefit your area of activity and the nature of your work. Certainly, at IACCM we are closely involved with the development and use of blockchain, providing our members with the insights and understanding they need to ensure that blockchain is indeed ‘an answer’, rather than a threat.

I hope we will see you at one of our forums – be inspired!

Topics: contracting excellence, Brexit, contract management

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