Blockchain and its role in content management



PHOTO: Kaley Dykstra | unsplash

In an era of rapid innovation, customers are always wondering what the next big thing will be. They’re weighing how seriously they should take the hype around new technology. Personally, I was wondering if my next car should be an electric model. When US automaker Ford announced an investment of over $ 10 billion in electric vehicle production, I’m listening – it tells me the technology is understood, stable, and ready for mainstream production.

Blockchain has captured the imagination of business strategists as a revolution in business operations – a new way to ensure the secure and transparent movement of transactions and records. Will blockchain replace content management systems? Should this be in our technology roadmap?

When we deepen our understanding of what it can realistically do and what it will take to fit it into our business content landscape, then we can make informed decisions about this opportunity.

A quick explanation of blockchain

Blockchain is not well understood. It started as the technology that supports cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Unlike a bank which centralizes the control of funds and transactions, the blockchain is a distributed system of private computers around the world (“nodes”), where each step of the transaction journey receives a traceable and encrypted label. Each node has a copy of the “ledger” file, a digital history of each transaction. It’s the same old ledger you find in any accountant’s office except it’s a bunch of them in the blockchain database. No one person or system controls them and, in theory, they are inviolable.

The block is like a page in the ledger, building on the block before it, forming a chain. Each block contains data describing the transactions. You decide what data comes in when you create the blockchain. It can collect any number of records in the block, and then you can add a new block that has another collection of “receipts”. As modifications are made, new blocks are added. Each block contains:

  • Data: Recording of what happened in the transaction
  • Chop: A unique digital signature that identifies the block and its content
  • Hash of the previous block: Information about the previous block in the chain allowing you to go back in the chain to see what has changed.

If you were to interfere with a block, the hash would change, making all subsequent blocks invalid. To be added to the chain, the block must be able to answer a complex math problem.

All nodes communicate with each other and when transactions or changes occur, they all receive the message. Since no system or holder controls the general ledger, the multiple copies of the general ledger serve as benchmarks for inbound changes – if the transaction does not match the blockchain signatures of others i.e. ‘it is not validated by the other nodes, so it is rejected.

Together, hashes and the distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) network ensure that users can trust every block.

Related Article: Blockchain Will Stagnate Until It Finds Its Killer Application

Blockchain is documentation technology

While the blockchain can track financial transactions, it can also track the flow of other important assets, such as contracts and medical records. At the DLM Forum in 2017, the Deputy Director of the National Archives of the Republic of Estonia said it was time for archivists to “get acquainted with this technology and assess its potential to solve the problem of preservation at long term of electronic documents ”, after having already accumulated experience in the use of blockchain for e-health and wills. They see blockchain as an additional layer of security over traditional electronic signatures and hashes.

InterPARES Trust’s international research into the use of blockchain in document management and archiving concluded that blockchain is a document management technology, aimed at solving documentation issues, such as authenticity. But more collaboration is needed between document management and blockchain communities to better develop and standardize blockchain technology for practical applications.

Related article: 10 Obstacles To The Adoption Of Blockchain In Business

Blockchain is not a content management solution

We do not yet store our content on the blockchain. We can use blockchain technology to solve some of the content management issues – to authenticate records and provide an audit trail of authorized interactions.

Research still needs to be done on the ability of blockchain to provide a long-term solution for document control, such as archiving important documents for more than 10 years. So far, there are successful uses for short-term management.

While blockchain is not a replacement for your content management solution, it can work with it to build confidence in sharing important information or with any system that needs to track valuable assets. And as a tool for authenticating activities or information, blockchain is being studied for its potential to validate and build trust in online news and prevent hackers or propagandists from turning it into a dangerous one. disinformation.

Related article: How Emerging Tech Providers Are Tackling Blockchain

How it works for content managers

Content managers and creators request a transaction using the blockchain app. The transaction can be cryptocurrency, records, or other valuable assets. (The recording is not uploaded to the blockchain.)

The block contains information about the transaction, for example, sender, recipient, which record is reviewed, and other metadata for context and tracking.

The transaction is broadcast to the peer-to-peer network made up of distributed nodes. The nodes validate the transaction using algorithms.

Once the transaction is completed, the new block is added to the blockchain.

There are public and private blockchains. The private blockchain is within an organization, only allowing certain people to verify and add blocks. Anyone on the internet can still see the blockchain. Public blockchains are visible to everyone on the internet and allow anyone to check and add blocks.

While the majority of blockchain activity takes place in financial services, other industries are exploring its potential to help them optimize their operations and manage assets more securely. For example, the United Nations is exploring the use of blockchain to ensure the security and transparency of their humanitarian aid programs. Governments can apply the concept to voting.

Content managers are used to adding processes in the content flow to authenticate critical business documents, such as digital signature. Blockchain is an additional layer of assurance on top of this flow. It’s also a revolution in the way we tell the story of our assets.

Andrea Malick is Research Director in the Data and Analytics Practice at Info-Tech, focused on acquiring knowledge on best practices in the field of enterprise information management, with corporate leadership and content management (ECM) and governance consulting.

Andrea has been pioneering and leading information management and governance practices for 15 years, in multinational organizations and mid-sized companies.


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