Blockchain technology is rapidly evolving beyond cryptocurrencies, offering the potential for a revolutionary approach to business process management (BPM). Recent research has shed light on the intersection of these two technologies, and this article highlights the implications of this research for the eight BPM lifecycle phases.
Before delving into the implications of blockchain for BPM, it's crucial to understand the basics of the technology. The term "blockchain" stems from its core data structure, which is a list of "blocks" linked together in a chain. This chain of blocks is maintained across a decentralized, peer-to-peer network, where each node possesses the most recent version of the blockchain.
Each block can store information about transactions. New blocks, once added to the blockchain, are signed with cryptographic methods to ensure the integrity of the data they contain. Every block is also linked to a unique hash, created from its contents and the hash value of the previous block. This hash not only represents the transactions within the block but also the order of the blocks. Therefore, any attempt to modify a transaction would alter the hash value of its block and subsequently break the chain.
The creation of new blocks in a peer-to-peer network is subject to a consensus mechanism. This mechanism ensures that all nodes agree on the version of the blockchain that includes the new block.
Blockchain also introduces the concept of "smart contracts," which holds immense significance for business processes. A smart contract can encode business rules to handle specific conditions. For instance, if a vendor fails to deliver goods within a stipulated time, the buyer could be entitled to a penalty payment. This rule can be encoded into a smart contract, which automatically enforces the rule when the condition is met.
Implications of Blockchain for BPM
The research by Mendling et al. (2018) identifies eight implications of blockchain for BPM. These implications are as follows:
- Traceability and auditability: Blockchain provides a tamper-proof record of all transactions, which can be used to trace the history of a process and to audit its compliance with regulations.
- Transparency: Blockchain makes all transactions visible to all participants in a process, which can help to improve trust and collaboration.
- Security: Blockchain is a highly secure technology, which can help to protect sensitive data and to prevent fraud.
- Efficiency: Blockchain can streamline business processes by automating tasks and reducing the need for intermediaries.
- Cost savings: Blockchain can help to reduce costs by eliminating the need for paper-based documentation and by streamlining business processes.
- Flexibility: Blockchain is a flexible technology that can be adapted to different business processes.
- Scalability: Blockchain is a scalable technology that can be used to support large volumes of transactions.
- Innovation: Blockchain can help to drive innovation by enabling new business models and applications.
The research by Mendling et al. (2018) provides a comprehensive overview of the implications of blockchain for BPM. The eight implications identified in this research offer a roadmap for organizations that are looking to adopt blockchain technology to improve their business processes.
The use of blockchain in BPM is still in its early stages, but the potential benefits are significant. As the technology matures, we can expect to see even more innovative applications of blockchain in BPM.