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Is Blockchain a “Future of Work” Gamechanger?

Innovation within the business world is now an accepted attribute. It does not surprise many professionals within the realm of procurement, human resources, finance, or other key functions when new technologies, platforms, and solutions arise to automate and/or enhance core business processes. And, in an age when the bridge between the consumer and business worlds are continually blended and crossed, an interesting scenario plays out regarding the “future of work.”

Alternative and digital “cryptocurrency,” like bitcoin, represents an evolution in the world of finance. Although bitcoin is utilized by millions worldwide, its benefits have not yet fully translated into the business world (although it’s currently making an impact in trading and other specific financial markets). However, the underlying technology that supports the transactional components of this currency is where the interesting aspects truly lie…and, this is also where there could possibly be an impact beyond the financial realm.

“Blockchain” is the innovative and supporting foundation for cryptocurrency, and creates a database of transactions that are linked by “blocks” of transactional data. As blocks are added, they create a “chain.” Blockchain essentially creates a permanent record of transactions, data, agreements, and other key pieces of enterprise information, and can be considered an “ultimate” record of truth. The database itself is open, but its creators have long insisted that it is impossible for the system to be hacked. This is because every piece of new information added to the chain creates a new block connected by a “hash.” Any new changes that are made in the earlier parts of the string (for example, attempting to cancel a payment that was already agreed upon) disrupts the dynamic of the chain, and, subsequently, any future blocks added.

The extension of blockchain’s strengths, the very notion of creating a permanent source of truth, has implications far beyond the financial. The “future of work” dictates that the way work is addressed is consistently evolving, with non-employee and on-demand labor revolutionizing how businesses support projects, initiatives, and the innerworkings of their organizations. Innovation is at the heart of the future of work, thus, blockchain could potentially be yet another gamechanger.

There are two potentially gamechanging ideas at play. First, blockchain software can be the foundation for new applications and solutions that utilize its cryptography as a baseline. New networks, even peer-enabled freelancer and independent worker networks, would allow an organization to perfectly map business requirements to external workers and create an untouchable system of record that captures payment, project, and contract (i.e. SOW) information. The real-time nature of engaging talent becomes more holistic and simplified, and organizations will have the ability to increase their contingent workforce. (As a side note: freelance/independent workers will always have the scope of their projects mapped back to the blockchain.)

Secondly, the tactical roles of “control” within an organization, which manage the aforementioned transactions, contracts, agreements, etc., would be contained (permanently) within the blockchain. Businesses may be able to pare down tactical staff, and even positions higher up the ladder, if a permanent source of control and truth existed and could be accessed at any time. An interesting scenario, but truly, how viable is it?

There’s an additional element at hand that sits on the opposite side of the blockchain dynamic: the human touch. Enterprise information will be secure and available to anyone in a secure system, but for those businesses that rely on creativity and “the human element” of innovation (the other “side” of innovation, as we previously noted here at CPO Rising) will be turned off by the cold, mechanical nature of blockchain. Too, like any software or aspect of innovation, business leaders want the ultimate hand of governance to be connected to a human…not a machine.

In any event, blockchain has the potential to be a gamechanger for “future of work” theories, especially as the way talent is engaged and leveraged continues to evolve. How much it changes the world, though, remains to be seen.

The “future of work” is a common discussion here at CPO Rising. Resident Ardent Partners research director Christopher Dwyer has just recently launched a new study on how procurement and other business professionals are adapting to the ever-changing world of work. Help him shape his new research study by taking 15 minutes to participate in the new State of Contingent Workforce Management online survey. All participants will receive a complimentary edition of the resulting research report in October. Click here to participate.


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