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Blockchain: leadership, projects and business opportunities

The disruptive value of blockchain technology in digital processes; the point of view of Pietro Lanza, General Manager – Intesa (IBM Group) and Blockchain Director – IBM Italia.

The Blockchain technology, created in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, turns out to be one of the most discussed topics in recent years for the innovation it is bringing in various industrial sectors. According to a study recently developed by the Everest Group (*), IBM, having first seized the strategic opportunity to invest in these areas and develop its own distinctive offering line, is positioned as a world leader in offering blockchain services.

The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) recently interviewed more than 1,600 managers in eight sectors in the survey “Building your blockchain advantage” and found that over 60% of the companies involved expect to have a blockchain system in production by 2020 (**), demonstrating its reliability and possible source of economic growth for the organizations themselves.

The challenge is to determine in advance whether to create differentiation processes – and probably differentiating – on the blockchain with new business partners or to pursue other strategic choices. In the projects analyzed in the study, we observe three types of emerging networks with different types of value:

  • corporate differentiation: a company and its business partners establish a blockchain platform to improve processes;
  • business utility: the competitors of a sector collaborate to solve problems endemic to the sector, limiting growth and innovation for some time. They do this by optimizing shared processes;
  • new market: a single company and its business partners or a new consortium of companies – sometimes spanning multiple industries – create a new business model to tap into expanding or completely new markets (***)

These assessments are based on the analysis of various case studies of over 25 blockchain networks at various stages of production in multiple sectors and geographical areas. The detailed analysis of each business case, including its incentive models, governance structure, monetization strategy and market approach, was followed by interviews selected to validate the results. (****) In this regard we talked about all this with Pietro Lanza.

What are the challenges and opportunities that a CIO / CTO / Innovation manager faces today in the company to activate an integrated blockchain project? Share the ideas mentioned above.

The strong growth of blockchain project initiatives is more than ever today a reality. While financial services and supply chains remain the areas most affected by this technology, the others are gradually experimenting with them and recognizing the advantages. In fact, blockchain is an important digital enabler that helps transform, improve, optimize and protect operational processes. It supports new business models by defining large-scale interaction networks, mainly from a sector or vertical process point of view, and requires a change of perspective from traditional input / output processes to systemic and dynamic perspectives. The role of regulations in the definition and development of blockchain ecosystems is undoubtedly growing considerably.

As already mentioned, IBM with its blockchain solutions is a globally recognized leader according to various analysts. In addition to being part of the Hyperledger Consortium, IBM is the only provider with a complete offering, which varies from platform to solutions and services. IBM Food Trust for security and transparency in the food chain, Trusted Identity on identity security and management, Tradelens for supply chain optimization and Worldwire for payment settlement and settlement processes are among the most relevant blockchain networks along with many stories of international success. Groups such as ABN Amro, Crédit Mutuel Arkea, Maersk, Carrefour, Ford are working with IBM on major transformation projects.

Technologies supporting blockchain platforms

How does Intesa (IBM Group) support companies for blockchain projects?

Intesa has been present in the market for over thirty years with its solutions for the automation of document exchange in the B2B area, sending and receiving EDI data (Electronic Data Interchange), integration and end-to-end management of business processes, digital services for the logistics and financial supply chain, definition and development of digital customer journeys in the provision of B2C services.

The offering of Intesa presents numerous points of contact with the typical application domains of the blockchain (eg digital identity, logistics, payments, etc.) therefore we expect to make available to our customers a specific expertise within the company, in synergy with the competence center present in the parent company IBM Italia to integrate blockchain technology in some of our digital platforms. IBM and Intesa have created a team of specialists on the topic to support their customers.

Some contacts, such as Massimo Chiriatti, are also part of the team of blockchain experts and distributed registers selected to work together with the MiSE (Ministry of Economic Development) to the national strategies to be sent to the European Commission. The topics that will be dealt with by this working group are related to the role of Italy in the global scenario and focus on private and public sectors, research and experimentation and new skills on blockchain and distributed ledgers.

The mandatory electronic invoicing for all companies from January 1, 2019 induces a profound change in business processes, how should it be tackled within integrated blockchain projects?

The legal requirement in Italy for the management of invoices in electronic format for all B2B companies and for the PA contributes both to a technological modernization and to an efficiency improvement of the paper-based processes and managed mainly by hand. The digital evolution triggered by this regulatory obligation will presumably allow accelerating the experimentation of innovative technologies, such as blockchain, within companies.

Following the IBM announcement of the acquisition of Red Hat, what are the future scenarios resulting from possible integration with blockchain in an as-a-service logic?

The recent announcement of IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat (*****) is redesigning the Cloud and MultiCloud solutions scenario. Possible integrations with blockchain platforms will best exploit Ethereum-based features and tools, designed to create proof of concept (PoC) quickly and cost-effectively, using Red Hat open source solutions for application development and testing. Downstream of the integration, IBM will have a complete coverage of the main technological frameworks. The wide range of the IBM offer consequently also benefits Intesa, which can choose to support the blockchain technology best suited to the various strategic projects launched in the field of digital transformation.


By Chiara Bozzolino – Marketing Campaign Manager, IBM Italy


(*): Everest Group Blockchain Services PEAK MatrixTM 2019

(**): IBM Institute for Business Value analysis based on IBM Blockchain industry series

(***): “Building your blockchain advantage”

(****): “Building your blockchain advantage”

(*****): newsroom.ibm.com

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