Blockchain, business and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (DLT), is an emerging technology that seemingly everyone is talking about—and a growing number of professionals are asking the question, “Will my industry, company and role be affected?” While some evidence suggests specific applications of distributed ledger technology (such as cryptocurrency) are cooling off from a corporate perspective, the answer to the question is still “yes.”
This is because society is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where rapid technological developments are shifting the line between jobs performed by humans and those carried out by machines and algorithms. With blockchain being one of those disruptive developments, companies will need to make strategic decisions regarding hiring and skill building to leverage DLT and enhance the economic value it creates.
As certain tasks become automated in the future, companies will need to reconstruct or augment traditional job roles (or create new ones entirely) to increase their productivity. To maintain business growth in an era of evolving technologies that necessitates an ever-changing set of skills, businesses must invest in human capital.
Blockchain’s impact across industries
While nearly half of all companies surveyed intend to adopt DLT by 2022, blockchain is predicted to have the greatest impact in the financial services industry, where 73% of surveyed executives expect their enterprise to adopt it by 2022. This is in line with current market trends, as countless projects are cropping up with the aim of utilizing blockchain to increase the efficiency and security of cross-border payments, share trading, contract enforcement, online identity management, rewards programs and more.
The two other industries most poised to deploy DLT tools are global health & healthcare and information & communication, with 67% of companies in these industries expecting to adopt blockchain in some form by 2022. Changes could be seen in optimizing existing business operations and disrupting the way sensitive information is kept private. Enabling the decentralized and secure storage and transfer of information, blockchain has been recognized in Blockchain in Healthcare Today, a new academic journal, as having prominent potential to improve areas such as medical record keeping, distribution and patient consent management.
While the survey found that 55% of companies are not projecting to adopt DLT within the next three years, it’s important to note that they’re still anticipating an overall transition toward more technology adoption—and it’s reasonable to expect that blockchain will have an ancillary impact on some of the technologies. For example, a majority of companies project the adoption of encryption (54%), digital trade (59%), cloud computing (72%), app-and web-enabled markets (75%), and the way these technologies evolve could be significantly altered by as-yet-unknown advancements in blockchain.
Changing roles and new jobs in blockchain
The First Industrial Revolution made a number of jobs redundant through mechanization while necessitating new roles to complement these technologies, and the proliferation of automation and artificial intelligence that will come as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be no different. Non-technical roles such as bookkeeping, material-recording and data-entry clerks will be rendered redundant by DLT. However, The Future of Jobs Report predicts that companies’ shifting task allocation and juggling of roles in the workplace will yield a net positive return in employment; an estimated 75 million jobs will be displaced by all new technologies, but 133 million additional roles will become available.
Given blockchain is still a novel, difficult-to-understand technology for many industries, it’s no surprise that the three industries anticipating the largest adoption of DLT are already thinking about how to address large skills gaps. In fact, at least 20% of companies in finance, healthcare and information sectors anticipate an average of 6-12 months of reskilling to get the workforce prepared to adopt new technologies.
What’s next for blockchain?
There is an undeniable opportunity to take advantage of DLT, but it requires planning and significant reskilling in order to produce results. As you look to the future of blockchain for your company or your team, here are three industry-specific considerations to keep in mind: