How blockchain is emerging as a core building block

Bitcoin is an example of blockchain. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Blockchain technology seems to warrant our attention. Once seemingly confined to cryptocurrency, today blockchain is relevant to entities across many industries. It is even enabling some longstanding competitors to collaborate for mutual benefit. With applications that seem endless and enriching, blockchain may require consideration by companies and potential regulatory oversight by governments.

So, what is blockchain? In its simplest form, it's a way of storing and sharing digital information without an intermediary. Once the data is recorded, it can't be changed, and users can access it anonymously. The most well-known use of blockchain is probably bitcoin, a digital currency. However, there are many other uses for blockchain, such as tracking loyalty points and allowing people to pay for purchases using virtual wallets.

For Deloitte's 2019 Global Blockchain Survey, Deloitte's independent research team interviewed 1,386 senior executives from companies that use or may consider using blockchain, and employees from 31 companies that facilitate blockchain use. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents believe that blockchain is no longer a theoretical concept, but a technology that companies should consider using to keep pace with their competitors.

Houston innovating with blockchain
As an InnovationMap article notes, multiple Houston companies are embracing blockchain. Iownit.us has developed a platform for digital private securities, providing an easier ongoing connection between companies and their investors. Data Gumbo is using blockchain to create smart contracts between businesses in the energy industry. Social Chain allows individuals (rather than social networks) to earn money when their personal data is sold to marketers. Another Houston company, Topl, has six platforms to provide supply chain information — e.g., in agriculture, tracking food products from farm to shelves. Houston innovators have formed the Houston Blockchain Alliance, a blockchain networking group that meets regularly to discuss opportunities.

Beyond cryptocurrency
Now that the focus is no longer on if blockchain will work, but how, business leaders are faced with the challenge of incorporating it into their business models. Deloitte's 2019 Global Blockchain Survey states, "executives should no longer ask a single question about blockchain but, rather, a broad set of questions reflecting the role blockchain can play within their organizations." These questions address topics ranging from how blockchain is expected to change industries to what the organizations' "blockchain blind spots" are.

Collaborating with competitors
Blockchain is usually not organized and run by a single entity. For optimal effectiveness when using blockchain, some companies may opt to join a consortium, which as the InnovationMap article states, allows companies to come "together with others in [their] horizontal or vertical ecosystem, in common purpose." Consortia members must agree on their goals, governance, funding, intellectual property ownership, and more. Despite these challenges, 92 percent of survey respondents are either already consortium members or plan to join one within the next year.

Conclusion
The future of blockchain appears bright. This technology is no longer a vision, but a reality — one that companies and countries should consider implementing as technology becomes more and more relevant across industries and around the world.

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This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as "Deloitte Global") does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the "Deloitte" name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Copyright © 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.

Workers think in terms of projects, not long-term employment. 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Not that long ago, employees had a defined role at a consistent worksite for the same company for many years. The employer-employee relationship seemed stable and well-defined. But times have changed. In a recent Deloitte Insights article, "What is the Future of Work?," Deloitte highlights how "forces of change" — e.g., accelerating connectivity, new talent models, artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, etc. — are radically redefining the who, what, and where of work.

The workforce of the future has significant implications for everyone. For employees, planning out a 50-year career is almost impossible. For employers, their traditional approach to attract, develop, and retain workers has been shaken. The focus now is accessing and establishing flexible work engagements around specific projects. Deloitte's insights, summarized below, are eye-opening and portend potentially significant societal impact.

What is work?
Deloitte notes that technological advances have long impacted the nature of work in the Western world. The chart below shows the evolution across three eras.

Source: Deloitte Insights

In today's postindustrial era, robots and automated systems are replacing some jobs. Yet workers need not fear: their relational skills and insights can't be replaced by technology — and, in fact, enhance the value offered by technology. For example, online juggernaut Amazon opened a tech hub in Houston in July 2019. As the name implies, the hub will use technology, but it will also create 150 jobs, per a recent InnovationMap article. This is just one example illustrating that work now focuses on the ability to capture value from technology, solve problems, and manage human relationships.

Who is working?
The relationship between employers and employees will likely never be the same. Per Deloitte Insights, "[o]rganizations now have a broad continuum of options for finding workers, from hiring traditional full-time employees to availing themselves of managed services and outsourcing, independent contractors, gig workers, and crowdsourcing." This means companies should be adept at recruiting, engaging, and retaining workers in new types of relationships.

Workers in Houston are wading into the new model. In a study profiled in a recent CultureMap article, "Houston ranked second statewide and 11th in the U.S. among major metro areas for the size of the skilled-freelancer workforce per revenue produced." The relationship between workers and their jobs is shifting from long-term employment to project engagement.

Where are people working?
One thing is clear: workers are spending less face time with work colleagues. More and more work is being accomplished from home or coworking spaces. Many workers appreciate the flexibility of working remotely; companies can benefit from reduced overhead.

Houston is experiencing huge growth in the number of coworking spaces. The Cannon Houston moved into its new 120,000 square foot building in July 2019, and WeWork is planning to open another location, which will be its fourth in Houston and second in downtown Houston. These spaces offer not just desks and offices, but a variety of events and programming designed to foster community.

The new frontier
Deloitte notes that the full impact of these changes may just be starting — and the future of work is not a "foregone conclusion." We can allow technology to merely "drive more efficiency and cost reduction, or we can consider more deeply the ways to harness these trends and increase value and meaning across the board — for businesses, customers, and workers." Deloitte urges organizations to "zoom out and imagine the possibilities" to create positive outcomes for work, the workforce, and the workplace. As Deloitte sums it up: "[p]urpose will bring the future into focus."

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This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as "Deloitte Global") does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the "Deloitte" name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Copyright © 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.