Basically a Blockchain-like protocol allows the implementation of decentralized trust for things like ledgers, audit trails, transactions records etc. The idea is that you don't require a central party in order to implement this sort of functionality. An escrow/title agent in a real estate transaction is a classic example of a centralized party enabling functionality like this.
So basically it boils down to the simplicity but dependency-on-a-central-party vs. the complexity but lack-of-dependency-on-a-central-party. The complexity (and unfamiliarity) of protocols like Blockchain should not be underestimated. Recently, some very key players in the blockchain ecosystem have come out saying that Blockchain is in big trouble. This is a recent article from one of the original developers of Bitcoinhttps://medium.com/@octskyward/the-resolution-of-the-bitcoin-experiment-dabb30201f7#.iuwuta20kwhich gives reasons why Bitcoin is in big trouble (hint: it has to do with Blockchain). These problems could be solved with a new protocol or various other fixes. But this result is after many years of an uncertain experiment. How much trust will there be the next time around?
So, with all that background I guess I can see Blockchain or a Blockchain-like protocol for BPM having some LIMITED utility where the advantages of non-reliance on a central party outweigh the complexity and uncertainty characteristics of something like Blockchain. What might be examples of this? Unsurprisingly, moving money is the classic use case because of the desire of many to have currency not controlled by any central bank. But does this motivation apply to other sorts of transactions?
In Dr. Samarin's cited article you have examples like contract negotiation. Something like this could easily be accomplished with centralized trust providers like Docusign or TMail21. For these central trust providers you need have the following characteristics
In particular, the central provider does not need to be available after the transaction is completed. For example if the central provider went out of business after your transaction was completed your transaction is still provably valid as it would have been digitally signed by the central provider's private key and the public key is known to all. This removes a huge problem with these central trust systems. It is akin to the real estate example where the title company went out of business after your house buy/sell transaction. There is no doubt about the validity of your real estate transaction.
I honestly admit that I am not up to speed with this technology. Its complexity is way above my head.
That being said, are we ready to give up the trust in a single, visible, relatively transparent central authority (e.g. national banks, states) and lend it to some single, insufficiently explored, central technology solution (e.g. the blockchain protocol)?
Are we overall safer when dealing with individual entities that seek to corrupt individual transactions OR when dealing with global entities with sufficient computing power (emerging rogue states or technology companies wealthy enough to distort markets around them) that may seek to corrupt a single global system of transactions?
Yesterday I attended a Blockchain related training actually... In November last year, Olivier Rikken wrote an interesting article about this subject (see enclosed URL) where he explains that these worlds are actually closer than you might think. Worth to read! Anywhere were workflow logic is used (e.g., smart contracts) you want to have insight in your processes. BPM provides insight, Blockchain is the technology.
The fact that technology leads to different or changed processes is not new of course; in the case of Blockchain however, this might just be a bit more disruptive... The fact that the middle man for example is eliminated does not really change the E2E process IMO.
Agree with Emile and Alexander - and I think the scaleability issues will be resolved - a distributed ledger makes a lot of sense and a real challenge to established BPM concepts which rotate around orchestration. The other size of the process coin is choreography (which is woefuly misunderstood). It becomes about how you choreograph the participants (think ballet rather than shunting rail cars).
Some example blockchain stories worth checking out from the press over the last few days in the attached links:
The blockchain is not useful just for finance. It is an almost incorruptible digital ledger that can be used to record practically anything that can be digitized: birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds and titles of ownership, educational degrees, medical records, contracts, and votes. It has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people who lack bank accounts and access to the legal and administrative infrastructure that we take for granted.
Interesting discussion from which I learn. Sure I have heard of this blockchain but when I researched it seemed linked to the crypto currencies and frankly immediately dismissed!. Fact is the global currencies are about to revert to asset backed from what is called fiat the unsupported printing of money which has left us all in a bit of a mess! So bitcoin was tried but with very mixed results and highly unlikely will be adopted by businesses.
Having said that the concept of the secure "smart contracts" as articulated may make sound sense but the payment mechanisms will have third parties called bankers ......but their way of working will change as the global currency reset is implemented helped by release of historical wealth that will ensure a prosperous future for us all ....not the few!
Excellent question from Dr. Alexander concerning blockchain, and how this technology could be used alongside BPM. (And Dr. Alexander's blog post on blockchain is well worth visiting -- cf. above).
So, what could be the impact of a "distributed, 'incorruptable', low-latency universal ledger"?
In the context of the IoT and business model evolutions we are seeing now, including especially the rise of low-cost payments platforms, blockchain could be a key enabling technology. Among other things, Bitcoin can be considered as just a POC for blockchain, and maybe not even a very good one at that.
Here's an interesting discussion of the intersection of blockchain, technology, business and economics, from April 2015, by Vitalik Buterin, wunderkind founder of Canadian blockchain startup Ethereum: