Deloitte Survey: Corporate Executives Having Hard Time Wrapping Heads Around Blockchain

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According to a recent Deloitte online survey of 308 senior executives at U.S. companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue to find out about corporate sentiment towards blockchain technology, understanding of the technology is uneven and many senior executives still know little or nothing about it, while others place it among their company’s highest priorities.  Commitments to Blockchain vary by industry, in ways that are surprising.

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Key findings from the survey showed that 28 per cent of respondents had invested $5 million or more in blockchain technology, while 10 per cent had invested $10 million or more.

On the other hand, 39 per cent of respondents had little or no knowledge in the technology.

Blockchain technology is emerging as a key business focus for US companies in many industries, with many executives in the consumer products and manufacturing; and technology, media and telecommunications sectors planning to spend the most in 2017.

Hype, or agent of transformation?

Many of these Blockchain-informed executives see the technology as crucial for their company and their industry. Fifty-five percent of this group said their company would be at a competitive disadvantage if it failed to adopt the technology. Forty-two percent of those surveyed who claimed some knowledge of Blockchain believe it will disrupt their industry.

“It is fair to say that industry is still confused to a degree about the potential for Blockchain. More than a quarter of surveyed knowledgeable execs say their companies view Blockchain as a critical, top-five priority. But about a third consider the technology overhyped,” said David Schatsky, managing director, Deloitte LLP

Solid progress on Blockchain deployments

The survey revealed that Blockchain investment and adoption patterns may be more complex than many observers believe. For instance, despite the relative immaturity of the technology, 21 percent of Blockchain-informed senior executives across a wide range of industries indicated that their firms have already brought Blockchain into production, and 25 percent plan to do so within the next year.

Investments made, and planned

This progress around Blockchain production is due in part to investments many companies say they have already made. Twenty-eight percent of these respondents reported that their companies have already invested $5 million or more in Blockchain technology, with 10 percent investing $10 million or more. Looking forward, 25 percent of respondents expect to invest more than $5 million in Blockchain technology during the next calendar year.

“This diversity may be a testament to the versatility of the technology,” added Schatsky. “But it is likely also a reflection of the fact that, despite the hype, the impact that Blockchain will likely have on businesses in various industries is not yet fully understood.

Significant Blockchain activities outside of financial services

Investment and adoption patterns vary by industry, in a pattern that defies conventional wisdom. Although the financial services industry was early to show interest in Blockchain, and accounts for a significant amount of investment and activity, the survey revealed that other industries may be even more aggressive in pursuing Blockchain strategies.

“Most financial services companies have been involved in Blockchain via their labs, investments, and pilots for a while now. Other industries are now starting to realize the potential for disruption, as well as the new opportunities that Blockchain creates,” said Eric Piscini, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Global Financial Services Blockchain leader.

Executives surveyed in the consumer products and manufacturing industry, for instance, expressed the most bullish Blockchain outlook, with 42 percent of respondents in this industry planning an investment of $5 million or more in the coming calendar year. Technology, media and telecommunications executives follow at 27 percent, and financial services at 23 percent.

Technology, media and telecommunications executives cite aggressive Blockchain deployment

As with investments, the pace of Blockchain technology deployment varies by industry, with technology, media & telecommunications; and consumer products and manufacturing in the lead. About 30 percent of respondents in those industries say their company has already brought Blockchain into production. In contrast, just 12 percent of surveyed financial services company executives say their company has deployed Blockchain in production. Surveyed financial services firms aim to pick up the pace: 24 percent say their companies plan to go live with Blockchain in the coming year. Health care and life sciences have the most aggressive deployment plans of any industry: 35 percent of respondents in that industry say their company plans to deploy Blockchain in production within the next calendar year.

Signals of innovation vary by industry

Patent filings are often taken as a measure of innovation. These, too, vary sharply by industry. Twenty-one percent of respondents stated that their organizations have filed for Blockchain patents. The most inventive industry as it relates to Blockchain may be consumer products and manufacturing, where 38 percent of respondents say their company has filed patents. This suggests that industry may be on the threshold of a period of significant Blockchain innovation.

Barriers to adoption: Technical standards and support from regulators could create a tipping point

While views on Blockchain’s primary value vary, there is rather more consensus about the main barriers to its widespread adoption. Per the survey, a crucial obstacle is the lack of technical standards in a still-immature technology. More than half (56 percent) of respondents believe technical standards would create a “tipping point” leading to widespread adoption.

Another key barrier according the respondents is regulatory uncertainty. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents say federal regulations that support the use of Blockchain for business purposes such as contracts and financial audit will likely tip the scales in favor of mass adoption. For example, does private Blockchain activity represent an inherently reliable confirmation? Does a smart contract represent a legal contract in a court of law? Answering these questions in the affirmative will likely require changes in regulations, laws, practices and protocols.

About the Survey

This survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online between Nov. 14 and Dec. 1, 2016. The survey polled a sample of 308 senior executives in the US at companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue. Respondents had at least a broad understanding of Blockchain and were familiar with and able to comment on their company’s Blockchain investment plans.

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About Richard Kastelein

Founder and publisher of industry publication Blockchain News (EST 2015), a partner at ICO services collective Token.Agency ($750m+ and 90+ ICOs and STOs), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) – Vancouver native Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of some two dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1500 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat. Irish Tech News put him in the top 10 Token Architects in Europe.

Kastelein has an Ad Honorem - Honorary Ph.D. and is Chair Professor of Blockchain at China's first Blockchain University in Nanchang at the Jiangxi Ahead Institute of Software and Technology. In 2018 he was invited to and attended University of Oxford's Saïd Business School for Business Automation 4.0 programme.  Over a half a decade experience judging and rewarding some 1000+ innovation projects as an EU expert for the European Commission's SME Instrument programme as a startup assessor and as a startup judge for the UK government's Innovate UK division.

Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London (5x), Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, Prague, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara (2x), Shanghai, Singapore (3x), Tel Aviv, Utrecht, Venice, Visakhapatnam, Zwolle and Zurich.

He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and, and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French. A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world. In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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