Deloitte: The blockchain debate is over, and blockchain won
Enterprises are finally starting to use blockchain to disrupt themselves.
The Bitcoin spike in late 2017 was obviously a bubble, according to the most popular train of thought at the time.
When it declined, one might expect all the hype for blockchain to have declined with it.
But it did the opposite. The quieter year of 2018 saw a growth in enterprise understanding and eagerness to explore blockchain, according to a KPMG survey.
Deloitte's experience is the same, and the technology is coming to a year inflection point.
"I’m often asked is this another flash in the pan? ...Certain people reporting on this have lost their minds, because they’ve lost their patience," said Deloitte principal Linda Pawczuk.
The market movement may not have helped either.
"A lot of people are a little cool on blockchain because they followed too closely crypto performance."
But a saner take is that the technology is still in its adolescence, she said.
"The analogy I often use is two dots equal a line, but more dots is a more certain line. We are going through this period of discovery, and all of this legitimises [the technology] though the process of answering the harder questions."
"I speak on behalf of the Deloitte organisations [when I say] executives are asking more granular questions... we're seeing a lot more sensible discussions."
"Not only are wee seeing more viable use cases, we are seeing more results," she said.
It helps that certain dominant industries can immediately see obvious use cases.
The healthcare industry, for example, can probably come up with countless billions in theoretical savings every time it brainstorms some blockchain applications.
"You suddenly hit a pivot point and everything snaps into place. A lot of those are being put into place by healthcare providers," suggested Deloitte principal Tim Davis.
One example is to obtain patient consent on a more granular level. For example, whether a patient consents to one procedure but not another, whether they've given their consent to have the information used in other places and if so, which.
This has seen a level of buy-in from government agencies as well, looking to streamline veteran treatment, national health insurance programs and more.
There's a strong degree of blockchain buy-in across a wide range of industries, noted Deloitte partner Rob Massey.
"It really is across every industry. The data shows there is just a ton of them into it out there... there are real dollars going towards it."
But obviously it's not without its challenges, one of which is the tendency to apply a very narrow view to the development of blockchain, and regarding it as a technological bandaid to apply where needed, rather than a more holistic way of overhauling systems across an entire business.
"If your project team is mostly technology led, you will fail," Pawczuk said flatly.
The tech itself isn't really the hard part, according to Deloitte. Rather, it's untangling the increasingly complex inter-organisational web created by the introduction of blockchain.
That might be another, softer lesson taught by the blockchain industry's startups.
The "emerging disruptors are giving us some extraordinary things," Pawkzuk observed, and now we're seeing enterprises teaming up with those startups to do more than just develop proofs of concept, or design new trials.
Now blockchain is making its way into the real world in a much deeper and more meaningful way.
That's not to say it's the future is looking like the original Bitcoin anarchistic free for all, David emphasised. There's still a need to proactively work with regulators.
That's not to say Bitcoin doesn't have a place in the future though. Well-regulatedness might not be the traditional Bitcoin ethos, but perhaps it could be the new one.
Taproot and Rootstock could dramatically increase the value of Bitcoin, Davis suggested. Similarly, Grin and Beam - often regarded as the Mimblewimble cypherpunk favourites - pose regulatory issues but are a potentially interesting development in the field of privacy, he noted.
Maybe Bitcoin's rebellious phase was just part of that technological adolescence, and it's time to grow up? Or maybe the industry risks losing some of its spark without the ideological backbone to challenge the status quo.
Disclosure: The author holds BTC, BNB, ATOM at the time of writing.