Ten blockchain project pitfalls - and how to avoid them!


This blog post is based on my work on IBM blockchain customer projects over the past two years.  I have kept each section short, and risk management oriented, but I hope this will give some practical suggestions to anyone starting embarking on an exciting blockchain journey!

[1] Know your blockchain from your bitcoin?   Risk – confusion arising from familiarity with bitcoin and non-permissioned ledger then not fully understanding permissioned blockchain for business networks.

Mitigation – self-educate (this recent blog post is excellent) then don’t skip the early awareness steps and /or important education.  I warmy recommend this Blockchain Essentials course!

[2] Project, or technology sand box?  Risk – project is (only) sponsored by technologists and is lacking in a clear business transformation goal.

Mitigation – clear, passionate business sponsorship and quality input through the Design Thinking workshop and to guide and prioritize solution features across agile sprints.

[3] More than can be chewed?  Risk – initial use case is unsuitable either for the emerging nature of the blockchain technology and / or the customer’s level of blockchain awareness

Mitigation – start small by choosing the right starter use case, or “corner” of bigger use case.  Get hands on awareness and experience then grow fast.

[4] Blockchain value, or religion?  Risk – the constant hype can confuse us into thinking blockchain is the solution to all problems (and then some!).

Mitigation – Read the “10 things that blockchain IS NOT” blog then test blockchain fit (Network + Consensus | Immutability | Provenance | Finality) early and continue to test during design thinking process.  

[5] Talk agile, walk waterfall? Risk – many of us have grown up with waterfall development.  It’s in our DNA.  So, we talk about agile sprints, scrums, MVPs and backlog prioritization but are expecting delivery against a fixed list of requirements in a set given timescale.

Mitigation – be open minded if agile is a new experience, be guided by the skilled practitioners, provide clear guidance at the sprint demos and learn as we go!

[6] Shared, business network clarity of purpose? Risk – it’s easy to get carried away by an exciting blockchain first project.  But are all the network members really of the same mind on the transformational goals?  Is the value for all members clear and accepted?

Mitigation – business network members participate in Design Thinking Workshop thoroughly understand the use case and debate their accrued value (being selfish, as needed) until it’s totally clear.  Business network members agree a governance approach for all aspects of network operation.

[7] Easy to discuss cooperation, harder to make transformation.  Risk – business network members discuss details of how they currently work together rather than focusing on the transformational opportunity.

Mitigation – don’t rush things - allow time for discussion but through sensitive facilitation and a clear, proven design thinking approach guide the discussions into persona analysis, current methods of working and opportunities for improvement.

[8] We already know what we want, why waste time with Design Thinking?  Risk – business network members spend time formulating a requirement and describing “to be” customer journeys so reluctant to invest time in a design thinking workshop.

Mitigation – offer a (slightly) accelerated persona-led design thinking session culminating in hill definition to validate and expand on earlier work.  This will give clarity of guidance for development team, and a clear explanation of value to the stakeholders.

[9] Do we really know this business challenge?  Risk – project (especially workshop) participants don’t have a deep enough knowledge of the business problem to guide the development process.

Mitigation – make sure customer participants in the workshop – and ongoing project – are able to describe how the current systems are used, and explain the challenges of using them. 

[10] Who’s project is this anyway?  Risk – vendor subject matter expert speaks for the customer, filling “thought vacuums” with their wise words.  Results in lack of customer ownership of project and likely ultimate demise.

Mitigation – brief all vendor project participants on this danger and ensure they know the importance of allowing the customer time and space to think, explain and ultimately own!

[http://bit.ly/BlockPitfall]

jpalfreyman@me.com | @JohnP261