The Salesforce cloud-based CRM platform is adding a low code, blockchain-powered service that will allow users to share data with third parties in a secure, transparent and auditable way.
Blockchain, the technology that was famously behind the Bitcoin crypto-currency, has been described by its co-founder, Nic Carey, as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”. Blockchain is an open-source, free technology that acts as an incorruptible peer-to-peer network/a kind of ledger that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way.
Salesforce blockchain platform
Salesforce is positioning its blockchain platform as a low-code system that has been customised to fit with Salesforce’s flagship Lightning CRM product. The blockchain platform has been built on the open source technology developed by Hyperledger Sawtooth. Salesforce blockchain is currently only available to select design partners but will have its general release in 2020.
Many businesses and organisations are now finding they need to harness and share large amounts of data with a growing network of partners and third parties. This sharing needs to be accomplished, however, in a way that is secure and incorruptible and transparent with a clear audit trail. There is, of course, also the need to save costs, reduce inefficiencies and make the process of sharing data as fast and easy as possible.
Also, in terms of the broader function of a CRM system, companies and organisations need the most up-to-date and effective way to verify and maintain contracts, send transactions and essentially “automate trust”. Blockchain offers all these benefits.
Salesforce is one of a growing number of tech brands getting in the rapidly growing BaaS market which offers enterprises the chance to deploy distributed ledgers without the cost or risk of deploying it in-house and without needing to find in-house developers.
Tech commentators have noted, for example, that Microsoft and many other big tech companies, including Amazon and Oracle, are now looking to make the most of the growing blockchain as a service (BaaS) market. Microsoft was one of the first software vendors to offer BaaS on its Azure cloud platform as far back as 2015, but the predictions are that from the end of this year onwards, the market (estimated to be worth $7billion) will start to grow rapidly.
Real world examples
Salesforce is already reporting ways that its new nlockchain platform is making a positive difference, such as at S&P Global Ratings which is using the service to reduce the time it takes to review and approve new business bank accounts.
There are now plenty of other examples of how blockchain technology is being used (and is about to be used) in the real business world to add value, increase efficiencies, create opportunities and provide innovative ways of meeting old business challenges. These include:
- Using the data on a blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
- Using an IBM-based blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
- Shipping Company Maersk using a blockchain-based system for tracking consignments, thereby, offering visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
- Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
- Data storage solutions company Seagate Technology (Seagate) and IBM working together and using blockchain and advanced cryptographic product identification technology to reduce disk-drive product counterfeiting.
- Facebook is reported to be developing its own blockchain-based cryptocurrency that will enable its users to have a PayPal-like experience when purchasing advertised products as well as providing authentication and an audit trail.
What does this mean for your business?
For Salesforce customers, particularly the smaller customers, having blockchain-as-a-service as part of their CRM should enable them to solve some of their biggest data-sharing challenges (security, trust and transparency) in a way that doesn’t require lots of code and in a way that doesn’t require the considerable cost or risk of trying to develop and deploy it in-house.
The benefits of blockchain technology are just starting to be realised and exploited by many different companies around the world and the BaaS market looks set to grow rapidly with the big tech companies and brands all looking to compete by offering different blockchain-based services to businesses and organisations of all sizes.
Blockchain has already proven itself to be a technology that can save time and costs, provide fast and secure traceability, visibility and efficiency, and provide a real competitive advantage for companies that are willing to investigate how it could be used to add value to their particular business.
Even governments and cities around the world have realised the benefits and are committing considerable resources to blockchain. For example, Dubai has committed to putting all of its documents on blockchain in the next few years and has founded a public-private initiative called the Global Blockchain Council to foster the development and use of blockchain technology in and between local government teams, local businesses and international start-ups.