A lot has been said and written during 2018 about blockchain technology. Understanding the nature of the technology was made difficult by the different flavours of blockchain, the use of blockchain for cryptocurrency applications, and the popularity of blockchain for ICOs (Initial Coin Offering). Most research focused on smart contracts, private and public blockchains, consensus practices, algorithms, bitcoin miners and so on. Not a lot of effort was directed at how the enterprise was going to use the technology and whether there was a good business case for HR. The goals of blockchain and the promise of blockchain were easy to articulate, but much more difficult to prove.
Numerous Proof of Concept (PoC) studies were launched in 2018, but very few for HR. What was established by the PoCs was that HR blockchain solutions must be built on private/permissioned platforms, governance was a major issue, and data privacy must be guaranteed. The value to HR was quantified around individual data ownership and included verifiable data for qualifications, background checks, process improvement through elimination of data redundancy, ability to help facilitate identity recognition for government services, and many more country specific uses.
Whilst the obvious features mentioned provided a reasonable return on investment the real business value of blockchain was more strategic. It related to reduced cost of technology ownership by the corporation, more reliable data for business intelligence, digital platform capability to adopt new AI and IoT type applications and greater flexibility for functional alignment to the HR business practice.
As we move into 2019 blockchain technology has matured and has been demystified. It is time now to focus on the implementation of enterprise blockchain solutions. However, for blockchain to achieve its’ HR goals it must address three important issues: Standardisation, integration and trust.
Blockchain technology, distributed ledger and networks are part of a global solution. There are thousands of HR software products around the world that store data in different formats and use different data values. In order for HR applications to access common blockchain data there must be data standardisation.
Work started several years ago on an international standard and the ISO/TC 307 Blockchain and electronic distributed ledger technologies was launched. Standards Australia are playing an active role in the development of the standard by managing the Secretariat for the ISO/TC 307. In March 2017 they developed the Roadmap for Blockchain Standards. Further work is expected during 2019 and the development of data standards relevant to HR and person data may form part of the ongoing development of the global standard
To put blockchain in an HR technology perspective, it is just another technology in a cross-platform architecture. If an individuals’ private blockchain data exists in isolation from the other components in the enterprise application architecture, it will not solve any problems: it would only create more.
In early 2018 Competitive Edge Technology (CET) began work on a solution to transition data from back-end HR applications to a blockchain. With the help of expert developers, the two-way integration box is now ticked. We will see further advances during 2019 in the user interface and range of (standardised) data. CET designed their solution around an AWS gateway with transactions writing to an IBM ledger, using the hyperledger fabric framework. The AWS gateway connects, via a series of API (Application Programming Interface), to end points in the ledger for approved transactions.
In 2019 CET is establishing an HR Blockchain Integration Consortium and will open up membership to suppliers of HR legacy systems to gain access to the blockchain. Suppliers will need to re-architect their current systems to go direct to the blockchain end points for person data or integrate with objects in CET’s HR Integration Platform.
With public and private keys, and encryption techniques, the blockchain is considered hack proof. But a further layer of security applies to the Trusted Global Network for HR Data: By introducing an invitation only membership rule, and inviting Membership Authentication Partners to filter applications to join the network, only genuine parties will participate in the network and “fake accounts” will not exist.
To access the their private blockchain CET have set up the Trusted Global Network for HR Data (TGN) and invitations to join will be sent out soon to eligible Australian companies, as the first country invited to participate. The TGN performs the administrative operation of the blockchain network and includes membership registration, certificate authority issuance, consensus and includes the AWS gateway and IAM (Identity Access Management) functions.
The CET roadmap will see companies, meeting the trusted network’s criteria, offered a proprietary transition platform and be invited to take data from their legacy systems, clean and standardise it on the platform, and then move it to the blockchain. Once the data is successfully uploaded to the blockchain individuals will be invited to take ownership of their data and maintain changes through CET’s MyProData blockchain application. When ownership is taken up individuals will be able to determine who gets access to their private data according to a genuine business “need to know”. MyProData is the application that writes transactions to the IBM ledger, via an AWS user interface. Each transaction creates a “block” and that “block” cannot be changed (edited or deleted) once created. Additions to the ledger create new blocks with a “hash” reference to the original “block”. Unlike social media applications MyProData will be the trusted and verified source of personal and professional data for companies. It is immutable (cannot be tampered with), it is on a distributed ledger (no central source for hackers) and contains all the expected encryption features to secure data.
Blockchain technology will become part of mainstream enterprise architecture and drop off the industry Hype Curves, in the same way as Big Data. The technology will become prevalent in our professional lives and become the only way companies access private data.
HR technology architecture, that includes a blockchain component for person data, promises to be a major disruptor.
By the end of 2019 CET expects that members of the international workforce (employees, contractors, freelancers, etc) will be able to go to any company in the world, grant access to their basic and verified professional data and be onboarded within minutes. After passing access credentials to their employer they will not be required to complete paperwork or provide proof of qualifications (education, licenses, work visas, etc.).
We are only just beginning to see what blockchain technology will enable us to do in the HR space and new and innovative features will open up a new frontier for HR practices, supported by technology.
Please contact email@example.com if you want to join us on this exciting journey. You may be:
- A person with blockchain development skills, wishing to expand their knowledge
- A systems administrator, wishing to learn about a new technology platform
- An experienced HR professional, wishing to move into consulting associated with blockchain implementation
- A person who would like to see their company join the Trusted Global Network for HR Data
- A person who would like to see their data on a private blockchain
- A software company owner who wishes to be amongst the first to re-architect their product to include a person data blockchain component, or simply integrate to CET’s Integrated Data Platform
- An investor who sees the potential of enterprise blockchain technology
Also, there is the LinkedIn HR Blockchain Global Network where I will be posting further updates during 2019