Transparency in Blockchain

Any organisation’s data needs protecting. It is also important to know that within any large organisation or corporation, each department produces its own specific data. For example, within a large corporation it might be necessary to agree on certain language in order to keep the sales process running smoothly: within an e-commerce company, its separate departments might have different definitions for the term ‘delivery’. The warehouse management company defines ‘delivery’ as their product leaving the warehouse; the sales team defines it as the product arriving at the buyer’s house; and the support team only calls ‘delivery’ once the product has been installed. This discrepancy may seem trivial, however, in order for the business to run smoothly, this terminology needs to be agreed upon by all departments within the company. This is a small part of what a data governance consultant can help businesses with.

Consider a business user within an organisation, called Tom, who has just purchased a laptop and is expensing it to his company account. The accounting team flags the purchase and asks him to provide more details about the expense. He replies: ‘You’re the money guys, figure it out yourselves!’ This doesn’t help Tom in getting his money back for his laptop, but it also doesn’t help the accounting team better understand his purchase. Inconsistencies like these between the business team and the accounting team occur frequently when applied to data as well. The data guys in the IT department don’t create the data, but they have to monitor it, and when your data is inconsistent between systems, they have to figure out what’s going on. And who are they going to call? Tom, of course, the business user. Unfortunately, data problems arise in mass quantities of transactions and interactions inside application systems, and as a result of this, these problems can’t just be fixed with a meeting or telephone call. The IT team doesn’t have enough context to fix the data, and the business users believe that it is an IT problem. Reports begin adding up incorrectly as the data isn’t corresponding, different systems have their own customer records, setting up a new system requires lots of rework, and business roles end up consisting of rectifying spreadsheets between departments in search of consolidation.

Consolidation means harmonising the data resources to achieve consistency across all departments. An effective way we can achieve this harmonisation is through the implementation of blockchain technology. In the healthcare industry, hospitals and healthcare centres all use different methods of storing and using patient data. We are already witnessing in the industry the effective use of blockchain technology in consolidating patient data across these different institutions and centres: Medicalchain aims to create a smart medical ecosystem which gives patients total control of their medical records, making it easier and more efficient to provide their data to hospitals on the chain.

Good data governance implementation means that quality data is accessible to the right people throughout an organisation. It is about the accuracy, ownership, transparency, and routine use of the data. Transparency is another fundamental aspect of blockchain technology. Blockchains are distributed digital ledgers. What does distributed mean? Distributed in this context means that all users on the blockchain network are able to witness any transaction which occurs there. It means that if any bad actor were to attempt to tamper with the blockchain’s list of transactions, all other users would be able to publicly object, and in so doing, nullify the actions of the bad actor.

The transparency that blockchain facilitates can also be implemented throughout supply chains. Perhaps you are concerned with where your food comes from exactly; it is important to you, from an ethical and sustainability point of view, to establish where the beef you buy from the supermarket actually originates from. Or perhaps you are a coffee aficionado in search of your favourite bean, and the origin of your coffee beans is important to you. Blockchain ledger technology facilitates the storing of relevant data along these supply chains. We can store each and every transaction on a digital ledger from the sale of a Chianina bull, sold by a herder in rural Tuscany to a butcher in Florence, and then packaged by a distributor, before a customer in a restaurant orders it as a bistecca alla fiorentina in New York City. By scanning a barcode or QR code, this whole supply chain could be visible to the consumer and each stage within the chain, making the provenance of our meat much more verifiable. Total transparency and traceability.

This technology can be applied to any consumer supply chain, whether it is T-shirt production and sales, food production, or wine production and distribution. Georgia (the country) boasts a history of wine production spanning millennia dating back to the neolithic period: at least 8000 years of wine production. Georgia’s position as the home of wine is little known, given the proclivity towards French, Italian, and New World wines especially.

Blockchain technology has the ability to bring this kind of transparency and traceability to life in many consumer-based supply chains, and it is only getting started.