03 Jun Blockchain Technology And ERP Integration: The Future Of eCommerce
Nowadays blockchain technology has become a mainstream concept – everyone from finance gurus to business owners can be seen discussing it. Although initially it was developed for Bitcoin, in recent years professionals from different sectors have started to see other spheres for its use and this now exceeds the prevalence of cryptocurrencies world by a long margin.
Banks, logistics companies, smart houses, governmental management, eCommerce management – these are just a handful of examples of industries where blockchain technology is already deployed. Moreover, in the next few years, the technology will expand and substitute even more complex, centralised solutions.
George Gilder in his book “Life after Google” shows how the future of humanity will be transformed into “cryptocosm”, an emerging online world, based on blockchain technology, which will enable individuals to exert control and secure their online data. In the “cryptocosm”, personal data is decentralised and held privately within a network.
Each user has two virtual keys specific to their online account – private and public. If someone wants to send a message to another user, the message itself is encrypted by a public key, but to read it, the recipient of the message has to use the private key to safeguard his personal credentials and identity. This works like a digital signature, easy to prove right to access without revealing any personal data.
What is blockchain technology?
Blockchain is a data structure that contains transactional records and ensures decentralisation, security and transparency. Imagine a chain of blocks with stored records, which are not controlled by any authority. We can see this as a distributed ledger that is fully open to everyone on the network. As soon as information is recorded on a blockchain it is designed to be very difficult to modify with all transactions secured with digital signatures.
This is essentially managed by encryption protocols. Data is recorded digitally and has a common history, available to all network participants. This decreases the possibility of fraudulent activity or transactions duplications, without a third party involved.
Blockchain is decentralised, meaning that no individuals or groups of people have authority over the whole network. But at the same time, everybody in the network has the copy of the distributed ledger with them and no one can change it on their own.
The P2P (peer-to-peer) interactions are easily accomplished without the requirement of a third party. Processed data cannot be changed because, in order to make a change, you need to change the whole blockchain structure following it, since each block stores hash, of its previous block.
Inventory management is one of the most important problems for companies that sell physical goods. As soon as an order is placed, a seller has to prepare the product for shipment, send an invoice and deliver the product. In the same time there are other transactions happening simultaneously (e.g. other parts of products or products arrive from suppliers)
Currently, all these processes are managed through ERP systems. This is often a highly time-consuming process and solutions are needed to simplify this. By comparison, ERP is a centralised solution for data management.
The problem for SMBs working with the full transparency goal is clear, companies just can’t justify sharing their data with everyone in a large network. Although, blockchain can be used perfectly well between companies of the same group or branches of the same company.
The integration of blockchain technology with ERP systems seems very promising for the eCommerce industry. For eCommerce businesses, it will mean they can maintain their own ERP systems whilst benefiting from integration with the one rule-enforced blockchain network.
What are the advantages of blockchain integrations with ERP for eCommerce?
Visibility in all stages of supplying.
Everyone involved in the supply chain can easily monitor products journey from manufacturing premises to the end sellers warehouses and further delivery to clients.
Trust between supply chain participants.
Companies usually have a predefined set of supplying processes and involve people to which they can trust. But if new corporations are being established the lack of trust is always present. Use of blockchain technology can grant trust issues between companies can be easily solved.
Verification and authentication of identities.
Integration of ERP and blockchain technology allows to verify identities of personnel at remote warehouses, authenticate personnel when they have access to sensitive information, or verify the identity of customers when they want to get after sales support or warranty services.
Automatic implementation of smart contracts.
Smart contract help to verify the transactions between companies. For example, you have stable cooperation with the supplier of products and in order to replenish the stock, you can have automation of purchase contract as soon as it is needed.
Risk-free digital financial transactions.
When integrating blockchain technology with ERP you can be confident that B2B financial transactions will be secure, automatic, regulation-compliant and risk-free. As well as you can avoid middlemen (banks or other financial organisations) in financial transactions, as well as decrease the time of payments dramatically.
Data privacy and system security.
Integration of ERP with blockchain prevents data leakage, detects suspicious attempts of unauthorised access, detect other security threats in real time, and not after they happened already and the damage is done.
GDPR Compliance and Secure storing of customers sensitive information.
In eCommerce websites, customers enter their personal sensitive information – full names, contact details, home addresses, payment details, etc. In EU with the new GDPR laws enforced, all owners of eCommerce shops have to be sure that their data is kept protected, and that only limited numbers of people have access with personal responsibility in case data is used inappropriately. Integration of ERP with blockchain technology allows tracking of who exactly has access to customers’ personal data and prevents unwanted actions.
Blockchain technology can have a significant impact on the eCommerce industry, supply chain management, and product manufacturing. Integration of blockchain and ERP can help eCommerce companies pull existing data from the databases whilst simultaneously controlling access from others on the system.
Although blockchain still needs to improve its technology before we can say it is able to replace ERP in eCommerce at the current stage of development, it can be used only as a complement to ERP processes management.
Acumatica is working on the integration of distributed ledger technology with their systems to strengthen the integrity and automation of supply chains, to provide trackable immutable records for shipping manifests, supply chains, equipment maintenance and dispute resolution.