Enspir(ation) Blog

Regular updates from the team

Blockchain and Its Effect to the World

Once information is updated on the blockchain, no one can attempt to alter or forge the records.

Blockchain is a disruption that will have the greatest impact to the financial industry. Big banks and some governments are already using the blockchain to revolutionize the way data is stored and transactions are processed. Representing the second generation of the Internet, it holds a huge potential to transform the industry and the world extremely. Whether we like it or not, we simply have to embrace the technology.

As a distributed ledger, the blockchain aims to increase security, lower costs, and eliminate errors and failures. It enables a reconciliation of digital records in real time. Unlike the first generation of Internet, it will transform:

  • insurance
  • risk management
  • funding and investing
  • moving value
  • authenticating identity
  • reputation
  • lending and borrowing
  • exchanging value
  • storing value

The technology does not only store and move information securely, but also money, titles, equities and other values.

It is already known that the blockchain keeps a permanent record of all transactions over the network. It can be used to verify transactions and cryptographic keys. It does not only allow us to store information but also gives us complete control over it. It also helps us verify the timestamp, validity and status of entries on the register. Furthermore, it makes it impossible for anyone to make changes to any information in the blockchain without explicit permission from the entry or the creator.

Through the blockchain, trust is established with clever code and mass collaboration. It is a platform of transparency with regards to structured recorded information.  It is an open source code, which everyone can download for free and develop new tools to manage transactions online. In a word, it holds the potential to unleash numerous new applications and unrealized capabilities to transform many things.

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Do Zombies eat blood oranges?

by Michael Grabert, CTO and co-founder, Enspir Solutions

I’m hoping for some feedback on this article. Let me know if I’m not alone.

Given the time of year it’s not too surprising that I would have zombies on my brain. But not the kind of zombies you are likely to think. Over the last several months there have been a number of articles about Zombie Companies in the financial press. A zombie company is an indebted business that, although generating cash, after covering operating costs, they only have enough funds to service the interest on their loans, but not the debt itself. They are dead, but not….

But I keep running into what I believe may be zombie companies, but I am not looking at their financials. Actually, the financials often look OK. I’m looking at their technology based products.

The concept of tech debt isn’t new. Simply defined, tech debt increases as shortcuts are taken in delivering software. I’m talking about something more insidious and pervasive that I call Product Debt. What I have seen is a type of debt that infects the entire Design, Build, Operate lifecycle of a software product. It impacts product management, software development, infrastructure operations, and support.

Stephen King (not that one), HSBC’s senior economic adviser, quoted in a Business Insider article said “Zombie companies preserve inefficiencies and dampen enterprise,”.

I believe there are a lot of companies that aren’t zombies in the financial sense, but are Zombie Product Companies. They can no longer respond efficiently to their customers and the market.

I keep running into these companies and what concerns me is that the mountain of product debt is being ignored. Interestingly, the investors in these companies, so called “adult supervision”, largely ignore this problem as well. I believe it may be because Product Debt is so hard to quantify. Still, in my opinion, product debt cripples or kills more companies than we imagine.

How does Product Debt affect a company?

  • The software stack is 2+ major versions behind the latest stable version so when customer demand a new cool feature you can’t deliver it because it depends on a newer stack, so you develop some horrible UI to implement a bastardized feature to kind of check the box.
  • And when you go to hire the best developers they walk away to go work on something that improves their skills instead of flogging code from ten years ago, so you hire from the ‘B’ team if you are lucky.
  • The development team you have can’t keep up, won’t give you an estimate for the next release, and struggle to fix bugs. They have never gotten around to implementing tools and processes that could make them more productive
  • Support staff spend more time making excuses than resolving issues. They can’t get answers to the problems cause the guy who new that software quit.
  • The hardware is running an older OS to support the software and the Infrastructure team is scrambling to plug security holes that have already been plugged on newer versions and reacting to failures that should have been avoided.

These are just a few examples. I see these symptoms in most companies I interact with. I have gotten hints of these issues in job interviews. In the cases where I have consulted with companies they usually have some or all of these symptoms. A lot of these symptoms can be dismissed as growing pains, and rightly so. In my experience, there are way too many companies that can’t stand to ignore this problem and their products are in fact Zombie Products. They are un-dead, but only for so long.

Most of the people working in these companies are aware that Product Debt is growing and beyond their capability to tame. They are frustrated that the warnings of growing Product Debt are not being heeded.

In companies where a software product is peripheral to their core business, it seems unlikely that they will understand the problem, much less react to it. The app stores are full of abandoned software, zombie products, victims of Product Debt.

If you’ve read this far you probably get it. I have personally seen these issues often enough that I can go in to a company and in a pretty short time get a feel for how deep in Product Debt they are. At least to the level of “pretty good”, “needs attention”, “eeewww” or “wtf!”. But that doesn’t help really get a grip on the bigger problem.

I am contemplating developing an assessment that would help companies get a better grip on how deeply in debt they are. There are technology assessments in various audits, but having been through a number of them, they don’t get to the bottom of it. I imagine a tool that software development and product management could use as needed to gauge their own situation and help quantify for investors and leadership what level of attention the product debt deserves.

If you think this might be valuable, I would appreciate your liking this article, and let me know if you would like to participate in developing a tool to quantify Product Debt. Or if you are aware of some tools that would help let us know. Your feedback and participation will help me get an idea of how valuable this would be.

Blockchain 101: What You Need to Know

Companies need to know what goes on beyond the four walls of their businesses in order to gain greater insight to their full supply chain. They need technology that will enable them to understand the total process that runs their supply chains. Thus, Blockchain becomes a very interesting idea for organizations. It promotes trust among companies by bringing transparency into the supply chains, therefore making it “trustless”.

What is a Blockchain?
First, let us define what a Blockchain is. It is a transaction database that contains a continuously growing list of data shared by all nodes participating in the system. Every block contains a hash of previous blocks, creating a chain of blocks. Each block is guaranteed to come chronologically after the previous block and is computationally impossible to modify as every block after it would have to be regenerated.

Blockchain is the main innovation and technology behind Bitcoin. It is most widely used in the currency’s public ledger of cryptocurrencies. Based on a Bitcoin protocol, it contains every transaction executed in the currency. It contains all information about the addresses and their balances. That is because every computer connected to the Bitcoin system gets a copy of the blockchain. It is automatically downloaded upon signing up to the network.      

A block chain is open but secure. It is auditable and runs without a centralized operator. It is the only place that Bitcoins can exist in the form of unspent outputs of transaction. Unlike traditional payment systems like PayPal, it does not require a centralized database.  Since transactions are made by software applications, the nodes validate the transactions, add them to their copy of the ledger and broadcast them to other nodes.

The blockchain provides transparency a traditional centralized approach cannot. It can allow companies to make informed purchases by increasing visibility. It makes the authenticity and transparency of products and services less difficult by ensuring safe and verifiable transfer of digital property across expansive networks. In a word, blockchains may very well change the game of the complex global supply chains.

Time will tell.  Organizations are conservative, but we are already seeing adoption of the technology across the financial sectors worldwide.   Supply chain professionals should start considering the value of an open public ledger when considering new b2b commerce networks.